YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) has suspended Gabon’s membership during an extraordinary summit in Djibloho, Equatorial Guinea, and condemned the use of force to resolve political conflicts.
One week after a coup ousted Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo, little has been said about him and he hasn’t been seen since a video in which he was pleading for international help.
Monday’s extraordinary summit was held under the presidency of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Obiang said ECCAS wants Gabon to return to constitutional order so that all the institutions in the country can function. ECCAS said it expects the international and regional communities to help Gabon out of difficult times, but gave no details.
ECCAS said Gabon was suspended from proceedings because of an unconstitutional power change.
Chad’s foreign affairs minister, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, read the summit’s resolutions on Equatorial Guinea’s National Television.
He said ECCAS leaders are asking the military junta in Gabon to guarantee the physical integrity, safety and security of ousted President Bongo and his family. He said Gabon has an obligation under international law to protect all citizens and ensure a quick return to civilian rule.
Annadif said the summit designated Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera to negotiate with Gabon’s military junta to hand over power.
Etienne Ngola, an international affairs lecturer at the Omar Bongo University in Libreville, said via a messaging app that the coup in Gabon was one of the most peaceful in the world with no bloodshed.
He said ECCAS should allow Gabon’s military junta, which has much internal support, enough time to bring back order and prepare civilians for democratic rule before handing over power.
Gabon’s ousted president has not been seen in public since August 30, when a group of Gabon military officers appeared on national television and announced that they had seized power and put Bongo under house arrest.
But an audio extract from a video of Bongo has gone viral on social media platforms. In the video, Bongo cries for help, asking people he calls his friends to come to his rescue.
“I am Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of Gabon, and I want to send a message to all the friends that we have all over the world, to tell them to make noise for the people here have arrested me and my family,” he said on the video.
“My son is somewhere and my wife is in another place and I am at the residence, nothing is happening, I don’t know what is going on so I am calling you to make noise. I am thanking you.”
Shortly after the coup, Bongo’s son, 31-year-old Noureddin Bongo Valentin, was arrested and accused of high treason and corruption.
The ECCAS summit did not make any public statements regarding the arrest of Bongo’s son.
The military junta led by General Brice Oligui Nguema, a former commander of the Republican Guard, who was sworn in on Monday as Gabon’s transitional president, has not commented on his predecessor’s family situation.
During the summit, Niger-born Abdou Abarry, who is the special representative of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa, pleaded for the establishment of rules and strong institutions he said will consolidate Gabon’s democratic foundations at the end of a transition within a reasonable time.
Abarry also expressed hope that ECCAS and the regional office of Central Africa would equip themselves with what he called adequate instruments to deal with the resurgence of unconstitutional changes.
Presidents Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, Joao Lourenco of Angola, Faustin-Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic, as well as Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada and a representative of Cameroonian President Paul Biya were present at the ECCAS summit.
ECCAS also has Chad, Burundi, Gabon, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo and Rwanda as members.
The summit said all member states agreed that more sanctions will be meted out on Gabon should the military junta fail to hand over to civilian rule soonest.
During his swearing-in ceremony on Monday, Nguema said he would hand over civilian rule, but did not say when.