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Dilemma for African Union as crowds applaud takeover

Will Ross, Africa editor, BBC World Service

It’s become a familiar scene these days in Africa – a few soldiers on state TV announcing that they have taken over.

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This time a fraudulent election was the excuse – Ali Bongo, the incumbent president, had just hours earlier been declared the winner of a highly criticized poll. International observers and journalists had been barred from covering it.

In a patronage system where support is effectively bought, it is hard to gauge genuine support. But in Gabon there is no doubt that having been in power since 1967, many have had enough of the Bongo family dynasty. People were quick to take to the streets, appearing to be genuinely delighted. So far there’s no sign of a pushback.

For the international community, including the African Union, this presents a dilemma. France has rushed out with its usual condemnation. Its influence in Africa has waned significantly in recent years, and a call for yet more years of Ali Bongo is likely to go down in Gabon as well as a hot slap with a wet fish.

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