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Gabon’s Borders Reopen After Coup

— Central African merchants and Gabon’s civilians who were stranded in Kye-Ossi, a southern Cameroon city, are pleased that Gabon’s military is reopening the borders that were sealed after a coup removed Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba from power this week.

On Saturday, Gabon’s military junta said it was reopening the borders, three days after closing them during a military coup in which President Ali Bongo Ondimba was ousted.

Twenty-six-year-old Gabonese truck driver Nguea Rene, who has been stranded in Cameroon, said he is waiting for border troops to respect the military rulers’ instructions and reopen the border so he can be with his family in Gabon’s capital, Libreville.

Nguea said he came to Cameroon to buy spare motor parts but could not return because the border was sealed. Nguea said he wishes the new leadership in Gabon creates jobs for civilians, especially young people who live in misery.

Several Gabon government troops are still stationed on Gabon’s side of the border. Hundreds of vehicles and trucks are stranded on both sides. The traders are from Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic.

Gabon’s leaders said on state TV that land, sea and air borders were opened because the junta wants to preserve the rule of law and maintain good relations with their neighbors and all countries of the world.

Kossock Pierre is a lecturer at the Omar Bongo University in Libreville. He said the border closure and curfew in Gabon were part of security measures taken to protect the country from any potential embarrassing situation after Ali Bongo was ousted. He said Gabon’s government should keep a watch over its borders by allowing troops to decide who comes and goes.

Kossock said it would be wrong to think that Ali Bongo and his father, Omer Bongo, ruled Gabon for more than 56 years and did not have friends who benefited from the oil-producing nation and want the Bongo dynasty to hold on to power.

Kossock said civilians and the military support changes in Gabon’s leadership and the central African state is taking precautions should any attempt be masterminded in a neighboring state to bring back Bongo.

In 2019, Gabon closed border crossings with neighboring Cameroon after rebel troops appeared on state television announcing they had staged a coup against President Ali Bongo to restore democracy. The government of Gabon later said it had regained control and arrested seven rebel soldiers.

Gabon held elections on August 26 with Ali Bongo running for reelection. Contested results indicate 69-year-old Albert Ondo Ossa, a former minister and university professor, won the poll.

But Gabon’s Center for Elections declared Ali Bongo the winner with 64% of the vote. Amid the confusion, Gabon’s military announced it had seized power and placed Ali Bongo under house arrest.

It’s not known how long it will take to clear the backlog of vehicles stranded at the borders once everything is operational and moving again.