Gabon has closed border crossings with Cameroon since Monday’s attempted coup against President Ali Bongo, halting trade and leaving Gabonese unable to return home. Goods and passengers destined for Gabon are stranded in Cameroon’s border town of Kiossi.
Trucks loaded with plantain, cocoyam, groundnuts, and other vegetables sit idle along with several hundred commuters in the town of Kiossi, on Cameroon’s southern border with Gabon.
Gabonese businessman Luc Eyene says Gabon’s border troops stopped him from
crossing over from Cameroon. The government ordered the closure to protect
civilians, Eyene says they told him, after Monday’s attempted coup against
ailing President Ali Bongo.
He says even though Gabon is in a political crisis that could turn violent
if Bongo does not recover, it is unpardonable for anyone to seal the border. It
is known by everyone that Gabon depends on Cameroon for food, says Eyene. The
poor are already suffering after just 24 hours of the border being closed, he
Traders like Eyene fear their perishable goods will not last until the
Cameroonian businesswoman Caroline Ndifor supplies farm produce to Gabon.
She says she was forced to make arrangements to take her goods to Equatorial
are just suffering because of the control that they are blocking Gabonese.
There are four control (check points), even more than four, so they are
blocking Gabonese. Business is not moving here.”
Handerson Quetong Konge is the highest ranking Cameroonian official along
the border with Gabon. He says they have been discussing re-opening the border
with Gabonese authorities in the town of Bitam, just across the border.
“We are in full discussions with my colleagues in Bitam to see how we
can facilitate transit in these border towns,” said Konge.
Silvanus Mba, a member of Gabon’s main opposition group, The Coalition for
the New Republic, was traveling in Cameroon when the border was closed. He says
his group does not have links with the rebels but added that many Gabonese,
including himself, would have celebrated if the coup had succeeded.
He says Gabon belongs to all the people of Gabon, not an individual whose
family has ruled for over 51 years and is not showing signs of leaving power
even when his health is failing him. Ali Bongo should know that there are very
competent citizens of Gabon who can lead the country out of misery, says Mba.
troops appeared on state television early Monday, announcing the coup was
intended to restore democracy.
But by Monday night the government of Gabon said it had regained control and
arrested seven rebel soldiers. Government forces killed two other soldiers
involved in the coup attempt.
Authorities also cut the internet and imposed a curfew on Gabon’s capital,
Libreville. Tanks and armored vehicles were patrolling the city and airports
were shut down.
Bongo has been in Morocco since October receiving treatment for a stroke. He
acknowledged having health problems in a New Year’s Day message.
Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo as president in 2009 and narrowly won
re-election in a 2016 poll marred by violence and accusations of fraud.
His family has been accused of profiting off the country’s natural resources
while Gabon’s two million citizens struggle to meet their everyday needs.