Less than a week after the US deployed troops in Gabon, soldiers in the central African country have appeared on state television, announcing that they have ousted the ailing 59-year-old President Ali Bongo.
According to Agencies, one soldier flanked by two others holding guns read out a statement saying the military had seized control of the government “to restore democracy” to the country.
In a message on state radio, military officers declared their dissatisfaction with Bongo, who is currently recovering from a stroke in Morocco after receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia.
Lt. Kelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon said, a New Year’s Eve address by Bongo “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office.”
The radio message was reportedly broadcast at about 4.30am local time (08:30 EAT), and the TV message shortly afterwards. In videos posted online by locals, gunshots can be heard but a source says that the plotters appeared to be a small group of soldiers.
Gen Jean Philippe Ntumpa Lebani head of the Council of the Restoration announced that the military has dismissed president Bongo from the presidential office. Bongo became president in October 2009 after the death of his father who'd ruled Gabon from 1967 until 2009.
It is unclear if the earlier US troop deployment is related to the coup, but President Donald Trump said Friday that U.S. military personnel had deployed to Gabon in response to possible violent demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a presidential election there.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Trump said the first of about 80 military personnel arrived in Gabon on Wednesday in case they are needed to protect U.S. citizens and diplomatic facilities in Congo’s capital Kinshasa.
He said they “will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.”
Trump said additional forces may deploy to Gabon “if necessary.”
#BreakingNews a coup by the Gabon military is underway! Talking on a National Radio the military confirms it has disposed off the ailing president #Bongo! Stay tuned for more information!!#AfricansRising for the #AfricaWeWant pic.twitter.com/dYjT4C0z2I— Africans Rising (@AfricansRising) January 7, 2019