News Analysis: Did America have foreknowledge of Gabon coup?

Did the United States have a foreknowledge of today’s coup in Gabon as it happened days after President Donald Trump said in a letter to the US Congress that he deployed 80 military personnel to the country.

Trump said the deployment was in response to reported violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where an election took place 30 December.

In his letter, Trump said further troops may be deployed “if necessary” until the “security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.”

President trump said the deployment was in furtherance of US national security, foreign policy interest and the protection of US citizens.

Geographically Libreville is 1,162 km from Kinshasa, capital of Congo DR. The air distance is 830km.

Besides, the United States had asked embassy non-emergency personnel and families to depart Kinshasa in mid-Dec, after terror threats made the embassy to close for work.

The puzzle: Why the deployment to Gabon when there was no threat to US citizens in Gabon itself?

It is logical to deduce that the soldiers deployed to Gabon were meant for Gabon, where the United States has interest in the oil industry.

There are approximately 10 American companies (three producers and the others are service companies) currently active in Gabon’s petroleum industry, which is concentrated in Port Gentil, according to export.gov

In August 2014 Gabon’s Ministry of Petroleum and Hydrocarbons announced that Gabon signed seven contracts with six oil companies – including U.S.-based firms Marathon Oil and Noble Energy – to develop blocks in its deep- and ultra-deep offshore.

At dawn on Monday, soldiers took over the state radio and called on the people to “rise up” as they announced that a “national restoration council” would be formed to run the country in place of the ailing President Ali Bongo.

The stroke-hit leader is out of the country.

According to AFP, shots were heard in the around state television headquarters in the centre of the capital at about the same time as the message was read at 6:30 am (0530 GMT).

Military vehicles blocked access to the boulevard where the offices are located, an AFP correspondent said.

The message was read on state radio by Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang who identified himself as the deputy commander of the Republican Guard and head of a group called the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces.

Three soldiers wearing the green beret of the Republican Guard were visible on a video of the speech circulating on social media and authenticated by AFP.

The movement “calls on all young people from forces for the defence and security and Gabonese young people to join us,” the officer said, announcing that a “national restoration council” would be formed.

“We cannot abandon our homeland,” he said.

“The eagerly awaited day has arrived when the army has decided to put itself on the side of the people in order to save Gabon from chaos.

“If you are eating, stop; if you are having a drink, stop; if you are sleeping, wake up. Wake up your neighbours… rise up as one and take control of the street,” he said on the radio.

He called on people to occupy public buildings and airports throughout the country.

The developments came as Bongo is recovering at a private residence in the Moroccan capital Rabat.

The 59-year-old leader has not been back to Gabon since he fell ill in Saudi Arabia on October 24.

It was revealed last month that he had suffered a stroke.

On December 31, he addressed the country for the first time since falling ill, saying in a recorded speech from Morocco that he had “been through a difficult period.”

The Bongo family has governed the oil-rich equatorial African nation for five decades.

Ali Bongo was elected head of state after his father’s death in 2009.

He was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.

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