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UN Pledges Support for Gabon's Civilian Transition

FILE - This video grab obtained by AFPTV from X, formerly Twitter, account @TVGABON24 on September 6, 2023 shows deposed president of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba (C), receiving Abdou Abarry (L), head of the U.N. office for Central Africa, at his residence in Libreville.

LIBREVILLE — A United Nations representative told Gabon's military leader that U.N. institutions stood ready to support the country as it transitions back to constitutional order, following a coup that ended the Bongo family's nearly 56 years of dynastic autocracy.

Abdou Abarry, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Central Africa, met Gen. Brice Nguema in Libreville on Wednesday and told him that the global organization would assist the country as it made a fresh start.

"Once we know the roadmap, the timetable, once a government will have been appointed, our different agencies will make the necessary contacts and continue to support Gabon," he said after the meeting, in remarks broadcast on Gabon 24 TV.

Army officers seized power on Aug. 30, annulling an election minutes after an announcement that President Ali Bongo had won, which they said was not credible. Bongo, in power since 2009, had succeeded his father Omar Bongo, who ruled for 42 years.

The coup was greeted with scenes of jubilation in the capital Libreville and on Sept. 4 General Brice Oligui Nguema was sworn in by judges as interim president, promising free and fair elections, but giving no timetable for organizing them.

The coup in Gabon, an oil-producing country of 2.3 million, was the eighth in three years in West and Central Africa, though it has been playing out very differently from the most recent other army takeover, in Niger.

Unlike Niger, Gabon has not seen an outpouring of anti-French, pro-Russian sentiment, and the generals in charge in Libreville have appeared open to dialog with international organizations which their counterparts in Niamey have shunned.

The Central African regional bloc, ECCAS, suspended Gabon on Monday but sent the president of Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera, as its representative to meet Nguema.

Touadera told reporters he had also met Ali Bongo, with Nguema's permission. He did not disclose any details about Bongo's circumstances or state of mind, saying only that the meeting had been fruitful.

Bongo had been under house arrest after the coup, but the junta said in a statement on Wednesday that he was now free and could travel abroad for medical checks if he so wished.