This video grab taken from Gabon 24 shows Gabonese soldiers appearing on television on August 30, 2023 announcing they were "putting an end to the current regime" and the cancellation of an election that, according to official results, President Ali Bongo Ondimba won. - During the announcement, AFP journalists heard gunfire ring out in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.
While announcing the cancellation of the results one of the soldiers announced the dissolution of "all the institutions of the republic".
"We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime", one of the soldiers said on TV channel Gabon 24, adding that he was speaking on behalf of the "Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions".
"To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled," he added.
"All the institutions of the republic are dissolved: the government, the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court," he added, announcing the closure of the country's borders "until further notice".
Among the soldiers were members of the Republican Guard as well as soldiers of the regular army and police officers. (Photo by - / Gabon 24 / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / GABON 24" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / GABON 24" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS /
Gabon’s military leaders say they have freed deposed President Ali Bongo from house arrest, where he has been since they seized power last week.
This includes permission to travel abroad for medical check-ups.
He suffered a stroke in 2018 and his health was a major source of concern for many in the build-up to the 2023 presidential election.
The army seized power shortly after he had been declared the winner of that election, disputed by the opposition.
The announcement to free Mr Bongo follows pressure from regional bloc Eccas and neighbouring countries.
In a communique read on state TV on Wednesday evening, military spokesperson Col Ulrich Manfoumbi said the decision to free Mr Bongo was due to “his state of health”. “He may, if he wishes, travel abroad for medical check-ups,” he added.
Mr Bongo had been in power in the oil-rich country since 2009, when he succeeded his father who had ruled the country for 41 years.
The coup has been widely condemned in Africa and the West, including by France, the former colonial power which had close ties to the Bongo family. Gabon has been suspended from the African Union.
However, the removal of the Bongo family after almost 56 years in power was welcomed by many Gabonese.
Since the junta’s announcement that it was freeing Mr Bongo, there have been calls for him to face justice over allegations of corruption.
A seven-year corruption investigation by French police into the Bongo family, which revealed assets including 39 properties in France and nine luxury cars, was dropped in 2017. The family strongly denied all the allegations. “Ali Bongo must face justice,” Bouloungui Mouanda Ulrich told the BBC in the capital, Libreville.
Another resident, Koumbi Anold, said he didn’t have a problem that the ousted president was being freed but agreed he should face justice.
“We are waiting, we are now a free people, we want work,” he said.
Shortly after the coup, several allies of the ousted president were arrested, including Mr Bongo’s 31-year-old son Noureddin Bongo Valentin, who has been accused of high treason and corruption. National TV has shown images of him and other close Bongo allies in front of suitcases of cash it said had been seized from their homes.
They have not commented on the allegations.
It’s unclear where Mr Bongo will go but a likely destination would be Morocco where he had previously received treatment for his stroke.
He enjoys close ties with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and also reportedly owns a villa in the palm grove of Marrakesh.
Coup leader Gen Brice Oligui Nguema was sworn in as transitional president on Monday. He vowed to return the country to civilian rule after free and fair elections but did not give a timetable for the transfer of power.
The junta released other political prisoners, including pro-democracy activist and leader of the most powerful trade union confederation, Jean Rémi Yama, earlier this week.