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UN chief ‘firmly condemns’ Gabon coup, notes reports of election abuses

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UN Photo/Cia Pak Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Gabonese Republic, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s 77th session.

The UN Secretary-General on Wednesday firmly condemned the on-going coup attempt in Gabon, while acknowledging that “serious infringements of fundamental freedoms” appear to have taken place during elections at the weekend.

Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that UN chief António Guterres was following the evolving situation in the capital Libreville “very closely”.

While condemning military action as “a means to resolve the post electoral crisis”, the Secretary-General said he had noted the announcement by the Central African nation’s electoral body of a win for incumbent president Ali Bongo with “deep concern” given reports of serious irregularities at the polls.

‘Strong opposition’ to coups

This announcement of a military takeover in the capital by a group of officers who declared the election results void and the dissolution of State institutions, would mark the eighth coup – if successful – in West and Central Africa since 2020.

“The Secretary-General reaffirms his strong opposition to military coups”, said the UN Spokesperson.

According to news reports, the coup leaders have placed President Bongo under house arrest, ending in effect more than half a century of dynastic rule.

The current president’s father, Omar, came to power in 1967, and after violent unrest erupted following his disputed election victory in 2016, there was a foiled coup attempt in 2019.

News reports said the coup leaders calling themselves The Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions, had declared the country to be in a state of institutional, political, economic and social crisis.

So far, there has been no response from the existing Government and the president’s whereabouts are unknown.

The country is currently an elected member of the UN Security Council.

Dialogue and restraint call

“The Secretary-General calls on all actors involved to exercise restraint, engage in an inclusive and meaningful dialogue and ensure that the rule of law and human rights are fully respected”, said the statement issued by his Spokeperson.

“He also calls on the national army and security forces to guarantee the physical integrity of the President of the Republic and his family.”

Standing with the people

Dujarric also stressed that the UN “stands by the people of Gabon.”

Questioned by correspondents at the daily Noon Briefing in New York on the pattern of military coups across the region, he said the best way of dealing with them “is in fact to invest more in preventing them prior, in investing in strong institutions, in ensuring that elections are safe, that people are able to express themselves, that human rights are respected.”

The UN has 81 international staff and 163 national staff working in the country and Dujarric said that latest information suggested that all staff and their families were safe and sound.

“Our broader concern is really for the people of Gabon, and people of countries that have undergone military coups recently which is a clear violation of their rights.”

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