U.S. troops deployed to the central African nation of Gabon last week in response to prospective violence in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remain committed to their mission of protecting American diplomatic assets in the region.
Their determination comes despite unrest linked to a reportedly failed coup attempt in the Gabonese capital on Monday.
“At this time there is no change in the status of our forces in Gabon,” John Manley, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), told Stars and Stripes as events in the country unfolded Monday, noting that the American service members are not charged with securing diplomatic assets there.
On Friday, the White House announced it had deployed an estimated 80 combat-ready troops to Gabon amid concerns that issues over the recent elections in nearby DRC would result in violent clashes and potentially pose a threat to U.S. diplomatic assets.
In January 4 letter of notification to congressional leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump declared:
United States Armed Forces personnel have deployed to Libreville, Gabon, to be in [a] position to support the security of United States citizens, personnel, and diplomatic facilities in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. This deployment of approximately 80 personnel is in response to the possibility that violent demonstrations may occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in reaction to the December 30, 2018, elections there.
The president indicated that the U.S. might send more troops to Gabon, the DRC, or the nearby Republic of Congo as needed.
American troops “will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed,” Trump wrote.
American troops began arriving in the DRC on January 2.
The United States and Gabon have a long history of military relations. Currently, the country houses “one of AFRICOM’s cooperative security locations, which function as bare-bones launching pads for quick-reaction troops called upon to secure U.S. diplomatic facilities in the broader region,” Stars and Stripes revealed.
Trump administration officials have urged the country’s election body to release “accurate results” of the December 30 presidential, legislative, and provincial assembly elections expected to mark the first peaceful transition of power since the nation declared independence in 1960.
Last week, the country’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) delayed releasing the results, prompting concerns of fraud in favor of President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
Up to 30 million voters took to the polls across DRC, according to the U.S. Department of State.
On Sunday, CENI postponed releasing the results once again, again triggering concerns among the opposition that the delay could be part of a ploy by the Kabila administration to rig the elections.
“Although President Joseph Kabila could not stand again, having already served his constitutionally mandated two terms and been in power since 2001, his handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, is widely seen as a puppet, there to hold the reins until 2023 when Kabila may run again,” the Guardian explained.
The Catholic Church has reportedly threatened a potential uprising if CENI did not release the results.