A group of senior military officers have announced a coup in Gabon following the country’s presidential election result.
They appeared on the national TV channel Gabon 24 declaring they were seizing power following President Ali Bongo’s victory.
Nearly a dozen soldiers said they represented all security and defence forces in the Central African nation, adding that election results were cancelled, all borders were closed until further notice, and state institutions dissolved.
Sounds of gunfire were also reported in the Gabonese capital Libreville on Wednesday morning.
The officers said: “In the name of the Gabonese people… we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime.”
Mr Bongo’s reappointment for a third term as president would have continued his family’s grip on power of the resource-rich but poverty-hit nation – his father Omar Bongo was its president from 1967 until his death in 2009.
Opposition groups argued the result was fraudulent after it was announced Mr Bongo had won 64% of the vote.
He had faced an opposition coalition led by economics professor and former education minister Albert Ondo Ossa, whose surprise nomination came a week before the vote.
There were concerns about post-election violence, due to deep-seated grievances among the population of some 2.5 million. Nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15-24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank.
Concerns about the transparency of the election have included the suspension of foreign coverage.
Internet access was also curtailed. This was because of the spread of disinformation and calls for violence, the country’s communications minister Rodrigue Bissawou said.
Mr Bissawou also announced a nationwide nightly curfew on state television following the poll.
Every vote held in Gabon since the country’s return to a multi-party system in 1990 has ended in violence.
Clashes between government forces and protesters following the 2016 election killed four people, according to official figures, but opposition groups said the true number killed was higher.
Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in January 2019, while Mr Bongo was in Morocco recovering from a stroke, but that uprising was put down.