On January 5th, the US deployed 80 heavily armed troops to Libreville, Gabon to be in position to assist US citizens, personnel and diplomatic facilities just a few days ahead of the military coup in the country, which took place on the morning of January 7th.
The reason given for the deployment was the fear of violent protests in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Elections in the country took place on December 30th, two years after they were supposed to take place, to elect a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who has assumed the seat for 18 years.
In his letter to the Congress, notifying of the deployment, US President Donald Trump said the following:
“The first of these personnel arrived in Gabon on January 2, 2019, with appropriate combat equipment and supported by military aircraft. Additional forces may deploy to Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the Republic of the Congo, if necessary for these purposes. These deployed personnel will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.”
However, it may appear that the US troops were deployed to Gabon for a completely separate reason. On the morning of January 7th, military officers in the country staged a coup attempt, by seizing the state radio station and declaring their dissatisfaction with President Ali Bongo. The President is currently recovering from a stroke in Morocco.
In the video, Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, who described himself as an officer in the Republican Guard and leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defense and Security Forces of Gabon said that President Bongo, during his New Year’s address “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office.”
Ondo Obiang said the coup was being carried out against “those who, in a cowardly way, assassinated our young compatriots on the night of August 31, 2016,” referencing violence that erupted after Bongo was declared the winner of a disputed election.
Reuters cited an anonymous source close the government, who claimed that there were gunshots around the national television station, but that the plotters appeared to be a small group of soldiers.
The outlet further cited a spokesman for the presidency, who said the President would make a statement shortly.
The deployment of the 80 heavily armed US troops to Gabon 5 days before the military coup attempt more than likely is due to prior knowledge of the upcoming situation, rather than out of security concern regarding DRC.
The situation is developing.