A military coup is under way in Gabon, following the presidential election that was criticised as illegitimate.
Voting took place on August 26. The electoral commission reported President Ali Bongo had won 64.27% of the vote – although opposition figures disputed this.
Soldiers appeared on television this morning broadcasting that they were “putting an end to the regime”. The Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), as they call themselves, said the general elections had not met the required standards.
The president appeared in a video circulating on social media this afternoon. He called for friends of Gabon to “make noise”, saying his son and wife were elsewhere. “I don’t know what’s going on, I’m calling you to make noise, make noise.”
— Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala (@StanysBujakera) August 30, 2023
In the streets of Libreville, there are signs that Gabonese citizens have welcomed the change of government.
— Larry Madowo (@LarryMadowo) August 30, 2023
The vote was not “transparent, credible and inclusive”, they said. The government has acted irresponsibly and unpredictably. It undermined social cohesion and “risked leading the country into chaos”.
The CTRI has cancelled the election results and closed the borders until further notice. The soldiers called for calm, from the Gabonese citizens and from Gabon’s neighbours.
It has also dissolved the government, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional Court, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) and the electoral commission.
Minister of Forests, Oceans, Environment and Climate Change Lee White commented yesterday that he had returned to Libreville. The government had cut the internet, Lee said, in response to “some provocative statements by opposition politicians”.
This morning, following the coup, the authorities partially restored the internet connection.
Gabon produces around 210,000 barrels per day of oil.
The impact on companies operating in Gabon was not immediately clear. Reports have suggested France’s Eramet mining company has halted operations.
A TotalEnergies official said the company was “mobilised to ensure the safety of its employees and operations, which is its main priority”. The French company has reduced operations in Gabon over recent years and now produces only 17,000 bpd, as of 2022.
Maurel et Prom has reported all its employees are safe and that the situation is calm in Port Gentil, where the company offices are.
“The current situation does not affect our sites of activity where operations are taking place normally, without impact on production,” Maurel told Energy Voice.
The French embassy has advised people to “stay at home, keep informed of the situation and respect the security instructions given by the embassy”.
Maurel is in the process of acquiring Assala Energy. An Assala representative said safety and security of its people was the first priority, followed by business continuation.
“As a responsible operator, we have contingency plans in place and had prepared for this eventuality,” the official said.
“As such we can confirm that all our personnel are safe, our operations continue as usual and our production is not affected. We are closely monitoring the situation and will adapt accordingly.”
Tullow Oil also reported that production was unchanged. “Our operations in Gabon are currently unaffected by the ongoing political activity and production continues as normal. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will work with the operators of our fields as necessary.”
Bongo had ruled since 2009, inheriting the position from his father. Omar Bongo took power in 1967.
Some local reports have named Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi of involvement in the CTRI.
There has been a suggestion that General Oligui Nguema, the head of the Republican Guard, is involved.
Bongo has faced a coup before. In 2019, when he was recovering from a stroke, the military launched an attempt to topple him. The president was said to have been working to secure the transition of the presidency to his son, which increased the chances for a power struggle.
Updated at 1:59 pm with comments from Assala and Maurel.
Updated at 2:33 pm with footage of President Bongo in his house calling for support.
Updated at 4:48 pm with Tullow comment.