Ousted Ali Bongo nodded to establishment of Chinese military base despite concerns of France, U.S.A.

Ousted Ali Bongo nodded to establishment of Chinese military base despite concerns of France, U.S.A.

Gabon’s former President Ali Bongo, before being deposed on August 30, had given China the authorization to establish a military base on Mandji island, in the delta of the Ogooué river, in the Gulf of Guinea, Paris-based media Africa Intelligence and local media Gabon Review report.

African Intelligence notes that Ali Bongo gave the verbal permission to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the strategic project.

The project whose details have not been provided, if it goes ahead, would be China’s first military base in the Atlantic Ocean and the second on the African continent after that of Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden.

The project irked France, the former colonial power and the U.S.A., the media notes. France already has close to 1,000 troops stationed in the central African country. In July 2023, President Emmanuel Macron dispatched Pierre Vandier, the commander of French naval forces to Gabon to convince Bongo to abandon the agreement with China.

One month after, Bongo was deposed by the Chief of his guards Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema on August 30, four days after presidential elections which the country’s independent Electoral body said he won.

France’s ambassador to Gabon Alexis Lamek during a meeting with Nguema reportedly raised the issue and stressed Paris’s opposition to the initiative.

The U.S.A. also hit the ceiling after getting wind of the verbal agreement. Stephen J. Townsend, Commander of the United States Africa Command from 26 July 2019 to 8 August 2022, reportedly warned the U.S. Congress against Chinese military presence in the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean.

Ali Bongo met with Xi in April during a state visit to Beijing. Chinese authorities branded the visit an opportunity to provide new impetus for the comprehensive and deep-ongoing growth of China-Gabon relations, and generate new outcomes in the friendly cooperation between the two countries.

China, since the coup in Gabon, has maintained a low profile. Beijing called on the transitional power to guarantee the safety of the man that Xi qualified during the April visit as an “old friend”.

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