No rush to elections and ‘the same mistakes’-Gabon Coup

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The leader of a coup that overthrew Gabon’s President Ali Bongo says he wants to avoid rushing into elections that “repeat past mistakes” as pressure mounts to hand back power to a civilian government.

A spokesman for Gabon’s military rulers also said on state TV they “decided with immediate effect to reopen the land, sea and air borders as of this Saturday”.

Military officers led by General Brice Oligui Nguema seized power on Wednesday minutes after an announcement that Bongo had secured a third term in an election.

The officers placed Bongo under house arrest and installed Nguema as head of state, ending the Bongo family’s 56-year hold on power.

The coup – West and Central Africa’s eighth in three years – drew cheering crowds onto the streets of the capital, Libreville, but condemnation from abroad and at home.

“Our aim is to move as quickly as possible, quickly but surely. Moving as quickly as possible doesn’t mean organising elections in a rush where we’ll end up with the same mistakes, where the same people will continue in power, and it all comes back to the same thing,” Nguema said in a televised address on Friday night.

Regional bloc, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), has urged partners led by the United Nations and the African Union to support a rapid return to constitutional order, it said in a statement after an extraordinary meeting on Thursday. It said it would reconvene on Monday.