The African Union on Thursday suspended Gabon’s membership one day after military officers ousted President Ali Bongo, the first regional response to the eighth coup in West and Central Africa since 2020.
The takeover ends the Bongo family dynasty’s almost six decades in power and creates a new conundrum for a region hit with a wave of coups that Nigerian President Bola Tinubu called a “contagion of autocracy”.
Like other juntas who have snatched power in the region, Gabon’s military leaders are seeking to consolidate power despite international condemnation.
General Brice Oligui Nguema, the coup leader and former head of the presidential guard, is due to be sworn in as president on Monday.
“My fear has been confirmed in Gabon that copy cats will start doing the same thing until it is stopped,” Tinubu, who chairs West Africa’s main regional body ECOWAS, said on Thursday.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council made a first move on Thursday by barring Gabon’s participation in all its activities, organs and institutions until constitutional order is restored.
Central Africa’s political bloc, of which Gabon is a member, also condemned the coup in a statement and said it planned an “imminent” meeting of heads of state to determine how to respond. It did not give a date.
Senior officers in Gabon announced their coup before dawn on Wednesday, shortly after an election body declared that Bongo had comfortably won a third term in Saturday’s vote. The junta declared the vote null and void, dissolved state institutions and closed borders.
Later on Wednesday, a video emerged of Bongo detained in his residence, asking international allies for help but apparently unaware of what was happening around him.