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11 Mar, 2024 15:37

Central African bloc removes sanctions on post-coup nation

Gabon was suspended from the economic union last September to force coup leaders to restore constitutional order
Central African bloc removes sanctions on post-coup nation

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) has decided to lift sanctions imposed on Gabon in response to the ouster of President Ali Bongo in a coup last year, the military authorities announced on Saturday.

The bloc made the decision at a meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, and also agreed to restore Gabon’s membership, according to coup-installed Foreign Minister Regis Onanga Ndiaye.

While ECCAS has not issued an official statement regarding the announcement, Burundi’s Foreign Minister Albert Shingiro, who attended the summit, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that “among the key decisions of the session is the lifting of sanctions against Gabon.”

The former French colony had been suspended from ECCAS and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council after Gabonese soldiers led the coup on August 30, preventing Bongo from serving a third term. The deposed leader had served two terms as president since 2009, following the death of his father Omar Bongo, who had ruled for over 40 years.

Prior to his removal, Bongo had assumed the one-year rotating chairmanship of ECCAS in February, with the bloc’s headquarters in Libreville, Gabon. The regional authority was forced to “temporarily” move the office to Malabo after appointing Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as its chairperson following the coup.

Last September, while imposing punitive measures on Gabon, ECCAS said it had given the General Brice Oligui Nguema-led military government one year to organize elections. The sanction would remain in effect until constitutional order was restored, the regional authority said. However, Nguema, who vowed to “preserve the republican regime” during his inauguration, announced in November that elections would be held in August 2025.

In November, the African Development Bank (AfDB) became the first international institution to lift sanctions on Gabon, allowing the Central African country to continue receiving loans and grants for its projects.

Former colonial power France, which has referred to Niger’s coup leaders as illegitimate authorities and said it would support regional authorities in using force to restore civilian rule, resumed military operations in Gabon just days after suspending them. French officials have claimed the situation in Libreville is incomparable to that in Niamey.

The US has also suspended foreign aid to Gabonese military rulers and removed the country, along with three of its neighbors including Niger, from the African Growth and Opportunity Act trade program, which allows duty-free access to the American market.