Mutinous soldiers claim to have seized power in Gabon and put the president under house arrest, hours after he was declared the winner in an election that would have extended his family’s 55-year rule in the oil-rich Central African nation.
In a video apparently from detention at his residence, President Ali Bongo Ondimba called on people to “make noise” to support him. But crowds instead took to the streets of the capital and sang the national anthem.
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They are celebrating a coup attempt against a dynasty accused of getting rich on the country’s resource wealth while many of its citizens struggle to scrape by.
Bongo has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years.
Here is how the world reacted to Bongo’s ouster:
“France condemns the military coup that is under way in Gabon and is closely monitoring developments in the country, and France reaffirms its wish that the outcome of the election, once known, be respected,” said French government spokesman Olivier Veran said.
France has maintained close economic, diplomatic and military ties with Gabon, and has 400 soldiers stationed in the country leading a regional military training operation.
“It’s deeply concerning. We are going to watch this closely, and we’re going to continue to do everything we can to support the idea of democratic ideals that are expressed by the African people,” said White House national security spokesman John Kirby.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said the situation in Gabon would be discussed by the bloc’s ministers this week.
“If this is confirmed, it’s another military coup, which increases instability in the whole region,” he said.
The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, condemned the coup attempt and called on security forces to peacefully return to “democratic constitutional order”.
“He calls on the national army and the security forces … to guarantee the personal safety of the president, the members of his family and those of his government,” a spokesperson for Mahamat said.
“China closely follows the development of the situation in Gabon and calls on relevant parties in Gabon to … restore normal order as soon as possible. And also ensure the personal safety of President Bongo, maintain national peace, stability, and overall development,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry.
“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is watching developments in Gabon very closely with deep concern for the country’s socio-political stability and the seeming autocratic contagion apparently spreading across different regions of our beloved continent,” a spokesperson for the president said.
Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland called the coup attempt “an illegal takeover of power”.
“The Commonwealth Charter is clear that member states must uphold the rule of law and the principles of democracy at all times and the Commonwealth Secretariat will be keenly monitoring the situation,” she said.
“Moscow has received with concern reports of a sharp deterioration in the internal situation in the friendly African country. We continue to closely monitor the development of the situation and hope for its speedy stabilisation,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Spain will evaluate peacekeeping missions in Africa after coups in Niger and Gabon, acting Defence Minister Margarita Robles said at a European Union defence ministers’ meeting in Toledo.
Robles added that Spain was monitoring events in Africa’s Sahel region with great concern. Spain has about 140 troops stationed to the northeast of Mali’s capital, Bamako, as part of the EU’s training mission there.
Egypt said it was closely monitoring developments in Gabon.
In a statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry called on all parties “to uphold the national interest in order to preserve the security, stability and safety of the country”.
The ministry called on members of the Egyptian community in Gabon to exercise utmost caution and avoid areas of security tension.
“Egypt aspires to see stability returned to Gabon as soon as possible and preserve the safety of the brotherly Gabonese people,” it added.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the takeover in Gabon, his spokesman said.
Guterres “firmly condemns the ongoing coup attempt as a means to resolve the post-electoral crisis” and reaffirms “his strong opposition to military coups,” said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
The United Kingdom’s foreign ministry said it condemned the “unconstitutional military takeover” of power in Gabon and called for the restoration of constitutional government.
Canada said it was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Gabon. It urged a “quick, peaceful” return to democratic and civilian-led rule.