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Gabon military officers declare coup after presidential election in oil-rich country

This screenshot from national television channel Gabon 24 shows Gabonese military officers declaring a coup on television on Aug. 30, 2023.

A group of rebellious military officers declared a coup in the central African nation of Gabon, minutes after the results of the presidential election showed that President Ali Bongo had won a third term.

Gabonese junta putschists declared their intention on television on Wednesday, saying they have overthrown the government of President Ali Bongo.

"We have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime," one of the military officers in the coupsters’ group said on national television channel Gabon 24, declaring that the election results were null, all state institutions dissolved and all borders closed until further notice.

In the meantime, the sounds of gunshots were heard throughout Gabon’s capital, Libreville, after the television appearance.

President Bongo first took office in 2009, after the death of his father, Omar Bongo who had become president in 1967.

The latest elections were overshadowed by a lack of international observers, raising concerns about transparency.

After the elections the government curtailed internet service and imposed a nightly curfew across the nation, saying it was necessary to prevent the spread of misinformation

An attempted coup, when Bongo was recovering from a stroke, was thwarted in January 2019  after armed military officers took hostages and announced the creation of a “National Restoration Council” to “restore democracy in Gabon.” The mutiny was quickly put down with only a few casualties.

In a related development, the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell expressed concern about the situation in West Africa, saying the current developments in that region were important for European leaders.

Borrell added that the EU defense ministers would discuss the situation in Gabon, and that if it was confirmed that a coup in Gabon had taken place, then this would heap more instability on the region.

“If this is confirmed, it is another military coup which increases instability in the whole region,” said Borrell, speaking at a meeting of EU defense ministers in Toledo, Spain.

Gabon, with a population of 2.3 million, shares borders with Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea. It was a colony of France before gaining independence in 1960.

Last month, another military coup occurred in another former French colony, Niger where the situation remains tense.

The regional ECOWAS bloc, backed by France and the United States, is considering to use military force to reinstate the deposed pro-West president, Mohamed Bazoum.

However, neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso – where their juntas have taken power in recent years – have vowed to stand beside Niger’s new junta government and defend it against foreign military intervention.

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