But shortly after casting his vote, Ondo Ossa went live on social media, calling on Bongo to step down and saying he could “guarantee” his security.
hardly two hours later, Internet Communication was cut off and Communications Minister Rodrigue Mbomba-Bissau appeared on state television to announce an internet shutdown and a nightly curfew from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am from Sunday.
He added that these measures came “to confront the spread of calls for violence… and false information.” In addition, three days’ notice will be required for any meeting or demonstration.
State television also announced that some polling stations would remain open later than scheduled because their opening had been delayed due to delays in the arrival of voting materials.
The Humanitarian Aid Commission accused them of “lack of objectivity and balance” in their coverage of the elections.
Earlier on Saturday, the opposition accused Bongo’s government of deliberately holding a disorderly election.
Hours before the internet was cut off, when Onda Ossa left the polling station after casting his ballot, he appeared on social media to denounce “the fraud orchestrated by Ali Bongo and his supporters”.
“Ultimately, Albert Ondo Osa must be declared the winner,” he said.
He added, appealing to the international community: “It is time for Ali Bongo to go. There will be no negotiations. I am not afraid of him.”
The presidential, legislative and municipal elections were held in Gabon, without the presence of election observers.
Media rights activists in Paris Reporters Without Borders On Friday, Reporters Without Borders denounced the ban on foreign journalists largely covering the elections.
Onda Osa’s team said earlier on Saturday that it was only able to cast its vote after the polling station opened eight hours later than scheduled.
Francois Ndong Obiang, president of the Alternance 2023 party, told AFP that many others had faced similar delays and that ballots bearing Ondo Ossa’s name were missing at some polling stations.
Fake news machines
Bongo, scion of a family that ruled the country for 55 years, is seeking victory over the newly united opposition.
The 64-year-old incumbent took office in 2009, succeeding his father agewho died after more than 41 years in power.
Onda Ossa — a 69-year-old economics professor who served as a minister under Bongo from 2006 to 2009 — was chosen by the main opposition grouping, Alternative 2023, as a joint candidate just eight days before the election.
Earlier Saturday, an AFP journalist saw dozens of people waiting at polling stations in central Libreville, although most streets were unusually empty on a Saturday.
Ondo Osa said in a live video on the Alternance 2023 Facebook page that Bongo had increased “elements of fraud”.
Gabon’s electoral authorities did not comment when contacted by AFP, but a special adviser to the president said on X, formerly on Twitter, that the “fake news machines” were working “at full speed”.
Shortly before the elections, a storm broke out over an alleged conversation between Ondo Ossa and another opposition figure.
The conversation – recorded without the knowledge of the couple and posted on social media – points to different strategies to “create a power struggle” and support from other countries.
Bongo accused the two of treason, saying the remarks reflected a plot to seize power with the help of “foreign powers”.
AfD 2023 strongly denied the “authenticity and validity of this conversation” and accused the government of “shameful manipulation”.
In addition to electing a president on Saturday, Gabon’s 850,000 voters choose candidates for the legislature and local councils.
Ahead of the ballot, opposition parties denounced the last-minute change in voting rules in the legislative race, according to which any vote for a local representative would also automatically go to that representative’s presidential candidate.
Opposition critics objected that this was in the interests of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) because Ondo Ossa did not have the support of any one party.
For years, Bongo struggled in the shadow of his charismatic father.
In 2016, he was narrowly re-elected, just 5,500 votes ahead of his rival, who claimed the election was rigged.
The announcement of the results sparked violence in the capital, Libreville, that left five people dead, according to the government.
The opposition says 30 people were shot dead by security forces.
In October 2018, Bongo suffered a stroke that sidelined him for 10 months, sparking allegations that he was unfit to referee effectively and leading to an attempted coup.
He returned to work after his convalescence determined to project himself as a tough man, eager to root out “traitors” and “benefactors” from his inner circle.