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AU suspends Gabon as Cameroon, Rwanda reorganise army

• New military leader to be sworn in Monday

By Emma Emeozor with agency reports

Irked by refusal of Gabon’s military junta to restore ousted President Ali Bongo to power and withdraw to the barrack to allow due democratic process of electing a new president, the African Union (AU), yesterday, announced “immediate suspension” of Gabon from all activities of the continental body.

The announcement came hours after the junta, in a state television broadcast, said the head of the elite Republican Guard, General Brice Oligui Nguema, will be officially sworn in as transitional president on Monday at the constitutional court.

The new Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) spokesperson, Colonel Ulrich Manfoumba let this out on state television yesterday.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, The African Union Commission’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department it “strongly condemns the military takeover of power” in Gabon and “decides to immediately suspend the participation of Gabon in all activities of the AU, its organs and institutions … until the restoration of constitutional order in the country.”

The meeting was chaired by the AU commissioner for political affairs, Bankole Adeoye of Nigeria, and the current holder of the council’s rotating chair, Willy Nyamitwe of Burundi. Council strongly condemns the military takeover of power in the Republic of #Gabon which ousted President Ali Bongo @PresidentABO on 30 August 2023; Decides to immediately suspend the participation of #Gabon in all activities of the #AU, its organs and institutions..

— African Union Political Affairs Peace and Security (@AUC_PAPS) August 31, 2023

Meanwhile, Central Africa’s political bloc, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), condemned the coup in a statement, saying it planned an “imminent” meeting of heads of state to determine how to respond. It did not give a date.

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  On Wednesday, head of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said he “strongly condemns” what he described as an attempted coup Gabon. Faki had also called on the Gabonese army and security forces “to guarantee the physical integrity” of Bongo, who the coup leaders said had been placed under house arrest.

Manfoumbi also “reassure all donors, development partners and the state’s creditors” that the CTRI will respect all commitments. The country’s coup chief Nguema “wishes to reassure all donors, development partners and the state’s creditors that all measures will be taken to guarantee that our country’s commitments, both external and internal, will be respected”, said Manfoumbi.

It was Nguema who announced on Wednesday the ouster of President Ali Bongo, thereby ending 55-year Bongo dynasty. With this announcement, it is clear that the CTRI has rejected calls by world leaders to jettison the idea of a military rule and follow democratic process of electing a president.

Bongo’s fate remains unclear but the CTRI, which includes the heads of all army corps, said he had been put under house arrest and “placed in retirement”. Manfoumba made the announcement as the African Union was holding a meeting to take decision on the situation in the country. “Now — AU Peace & Security Council meets to consider the situation in Gabon,” the body said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

The country’s main opposition alliance meanwhile has urged the coup leaders to acknowledge it won the August 26 presidential election.  The opposition Alternance 2023 alliance had been silent after the coup but on Thursday “invited the defence and security forces to the discussion so as to work out … the best solution” following the vote. Led by university professor Albert Ondo Ossa, Alternance had earlier accused Bongo of “fraud” and demanded he hand over power “without bloodshed”.

And apparently perceiving possible threat by recalcitrant army officers in their armed forces following the wave of military coups sweeping across the Continent, Cameroon President Paul Biya and Rwanda President Paul Kagame yesterday reshuffled their respective national army.

In Cameroon, Biya effected major changes in the ministry of defence, which affected the delegate to the presidency in charge of defence, air force staff, navy and the police. The new Chief of Staff is Major General Cyrille Atangana, who replaces General Joseph Betti Assomo. Reports say Atangana is a loyal ally of the president and an experienced officer.

And in Rwanda, the Defense Force (RDF) in a statement said Kagame has approved the retirement of twelve generals, eighty-three senior officers, and six junior officers. Also, eighty-six senior non-commissioned officers were retired. About 678 soldiers retired as their contracts concluded, with 160 others medically discharged.

Also, the statement announced the elevation of several young officers to the rank of colonel and designated new generals to lead military divisions.  In June, Kagame appointed Juvenal Marizamunda as the new defense minister, succeeding Albert Murasira, who had held the role since 2018.

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