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Gabon soldiers cancel elections, dissolve institutions on TV

In this video grab made on video footage obtained on YouTube on January 7, 2019, shows Gabon soldiers on state radio. — AFP/File
In this video grab made on video footage obtained on YouTube on January 7, 2019, shows Gabon soldiers on state radio. — AFP/File

At least 12 Gabon soldiers appeared on television in the capital Libreville Wednesday announcing they were taking over, cancelling the results of the country’s recent election and dissolving “all the institutions of the republic” as gunfire was heard in the back, AFP reported.

Speaking on behalf of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, one of the soldiers said on a Gabonese TV channel: “After observing irresponsible, unpredictable governance resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos… we have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime.”

Additionally, the soldiers announced that the country’s borders were closed until further notice, in a statement broadcast on national television.

“The borders are closed until further notice,” said one of the soldiers.

However, there was no immediate comment from the government of the OPEC-member nation.

“In the name of the Gabonese people … we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime,” the officers said.

The coup, if successful, would be the eighth to take place in West and Central Africa since 2020. Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger’s coups, as well as others, have hampered recent democratic advancements, Geo News reported.

Last month, a military coup in Niger sent shockwaves across the Sahel and sucked in global powers with strategic interests at stake.

Tensions in Gabon soared following the presidential, parliamentary, and legislative vote, where President Ali Bongo, who had won a third term, sought to prolong his family’s power, while the opposition sought change. 

The lack of international observers, suspension of foreign broadcasts, and internet service cuts raised concerns about the transparency of the electoral process, leading to nationwide curfews and internet service cuts.

Bongo, 64, contested for president in 2009 against 18 challengers, six of whom supported a joint nominee, Albert Ondo Ossa. His team rejected allegations of fraud.

In 2016, violent street protests led to the parliament building being torched, and the government shutting down internet access for several days.

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