WASHINGTON — The Pentagon sent a contingent of U.S. forces to Gabon to protect U.S. citizens and assets should there be unrest in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Monday, they found themselves with a front-row seat for a coup taking place where they sat and not where they were looking for unrest.
According to news reports, confirmed Monday by Pentagon officials, a contingent from the Gabon military seized the major radio station and announced a coup on Monday. By day’s end, four of the five leaders of the coup had been arrested, according to news reports.
The U.S. forces did not come under fire or were put in danger, Pentagon officials said.
“At this time there is no change in the status of our forces in Gabon,” John Manley, a spokesperson for U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement to the press.
On Friday, the Pentagon announced the deployment of armed U.S. troops, along with aircraft and other assets, to Gabon via an email to Pentagon reporters. The deployment had started on Wednesday, Pentagon officials said Monday.
The troops are on standby to enter Kinshasa, the capital of the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, to safeguard U.S. citizens and the U.S. embassy should there be post-election violence. The DRC held a presidential election in December and results were to begin to be made public on Sunday.
Gabon has a long and close relationship with the U.S. government and military. It is one of several African nations that permit the Pentagon to host one of AFRICOM’s cooperative security locations, which serve as a sparse facility where a quick-reaction force can be dispatched to buttress regional U.S. diplomatic facilities.
Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, is in Morocco being treated for a stroke he suffered while in Saudi Arabia in October.