According to their own statements, the military seized power a few days after the elections in Gabon. The vote that President Ali Bongo Ondimba had confirmed in office was fake, a group of officers said on Wednesday morning on television in the Central African country on the Atlantic coast.

The election results were annulled and the borders closed. And state institutions are now dissolved, said the group, which calls itself the Committee on Institutional Transition and Restoration (CTRI). It was decided to “put an end to the current regime,” said one of the officers.

According to the putschists, the president was placed under house arrest. Bongo is accused of high treason, the group announced on state television. Other government members and Bongo’s son, Nouredine Bongo, were arrested, it said.

The Bongo family, which has ruled autocratically for more than 50 years, has long been accused of corruption. She is reportedly one of the wealthiest families in the world, owns a private fleet of planes, several luxury cars and is believed to own dozens of residences in France worth millions of euros, according to non-governmental organization Transparency International.

Manipulation is also suspected in previous elections

A few hours before the statement by the military, the electoral authorities had declared the 64-year-old Bongo the winner of the election – with 64.27 percent of the votes. His biggest challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, received 30.77 percent. Bongo’s third term has now begun. He took over the presidency in 2009 from his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled from 1967 until his death. Bongo only won a first re-election in 2016 by a good 5,000 votes. He was also accused of manipulation at the time. Serious riots broke out as a result.

The population of the OPEC member state Gabon, around 2.3 million people, lives largely in poverty despite its oil wealth. The country lies directly on the equator, borders Cameroon in the north and is about three quarters the size of Germany.

There were always scandals about Bongo’s wealth. According to Transparency International, Gabon is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. In 2008, the group sued Bongo for misappropriating government oil revenues through private accounts in France. However, the investigation ended without a result.

People celebrate the end of the Bongo regime

After the coup was announced, shots were heard in the capital Libreville on Wednesday morning, French broadcaster RFI reported. In the western town of Port Gentile, thousands of residents took to the streets to celebrate the end of the Bongo regime, according to eyewitness reports.

The August 26 vote had sparked criticism in the former French colony. During the counting, the government blocked internet access over the weekend, imposed a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and banned several French radio stations from broadcasting. The election was also marked by the absence of international observers. Requests for accreditation from foreign journalists were systematically rejected.

On the fringes of a meeting of EU defense ministers in Toledo, Spain, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed concern about the reports from Gabon. If the information is confirmed, it will be another military coup that will further increase instability in the region, he said.

Just under a month ago, the Presidential Guard in Niger deposed the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum. The military had previously taken power in the Sahel in Mali and Burkina Faso.

A military coup failed in Gabon in 2019. At the time, several armed soldiers had occupied the state radio station and called on the residents to revolt. However, security forces arrested the head of the putschists within a short time and ended the attempt to take power.