US suspends aid to Gabon after military takeover

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended most non-humanitarian aid to Gabon after a military takeover in the country last month that was at least the second this year in an African nation.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a “pause in certain foreign assistance programs” to Gabon. pending a review of the circumstances that led to the ouster of the country’s former leader President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

Blinken said in a statement that the suspension would not affect U.S. government operations in the oil-rich central African nation. The statement did not elaborate on what U.S.-funded programs would be affected or how much money would be placed on hold.

Gabon is the second country to have seen a military takeover following the overthrow of the government in Niger earlier this year. The U.S. also suspended some aid to Niger but has yet to formally determine if what happened was a coup.

“This interim measure is consistent with steps taken by the Economic Community of Central African States, the African Union, and other international partners, and will continue while we review the facts on the ground in Gabon,” Blinken said. “We are continuing U.S. government operational activities in Gabon, including diplomatic and consular operations supporting U.S. citizens.”

Earlier this month, Gabon ’s new military leader was sworn in as the head of state less than a week after ousting the president whose family had ruled the nation for more than five decades.

Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema took the oath in the presidential palace in Libreville. Oligui is a cousin of the ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, served as a bodyguard to his late father and is head of the Republican guard, an elite military unit.

Bongo had served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years, and there was widespread discontent with his family’s reign. Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was quickly overpowered.

The former French colony is a member of OPEC, but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few — and nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank. Its oil export revenue was $6 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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