Gabon reopens borders three days after military coup

FILE PHOTO: Gabonese military officers announce they have seized power

DAKAR (Reuters) -Gabon reopened its borders on Saturday, an army spokesman said, three days after closing them during a military coup in which President Ali Bongo was ousted.

Military officers led by General Brice Oligui Nguema seized power on Wednesday, placed Bongo under house arrest and installed Nguema as head of state, ending the Bongo family's 56-year hold on power.

The coup - the eighth in West and Central Africa in three years - has raised concerns about a contagion of military takovers across the region that have erased democratic progress made in the last two decades.

Coup leaders have come under international pressure to restore civilian government but said last night that they would not rush to hold elections.

The land, sea and air borders were opened because the junta was "concerned with preserving respect for the rule of law, good relations with our neighbors and all states of the world" and wanted to keep its "international commitments", the army spokesman said on national television.

Bongo was elected in 2009, taking over from his late father Omar, who came to power in 1967. Opponents say the family did little to share Gabon's oil and mining wealth.

The takeover in Gabon follows coups in Guinea, Chad and Niger, plus two each in Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020, worrying international powers with strategic interests at stake.

(Reporting by Jyoti Narayan in Bengaluru and Cooper Inveen in Dakar, Writing by Edward McAllister, Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Angus MacSwan)