- Niger, Gabon deposed their leaders within one month
- Gabon coupists accused the leaders of corruption, irresponsibility
- Analyst said Africa may slide into military rule if coups persist
In the early hours of Wednesday, August 30, 2023, some army officers appeared on Gabonese national television to announce a change of guard in the political structure of the tiny Central Africa nation.
These military officers announced that they have seized power in the country after President Ali Bongo was announced re-elected to a third term in office.
The leader of the coup plotters, General Brice Oligui Nguema was the head of the Gabonese Presidency’s Republican Guard, the country’s most powerful security unit.
Following this development, the officers said they have nullified the results of August 26, 2023 general election which the opposition had denounced as “fraudulent”.
These officers numbering twelve announced that they were dissolving “all the institutions of the republic”.
According to them, “We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime,” one of the soldiers was quoted as saying on TV channel Gabon 24.
The soldier equally cited “irresponsible, unpredictable governance resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos”.
Nevertheless, introducing themselves as members of the Committee of Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), the soldiers also announced closure of the country’s borders.
The Gabonese Election Centre (CGE) had declared Bongo winner of the election on Wednesday with 64.27% of the votes cast.
Michel Bonda, CGE head, said Bongo’s main challenger, Albert Ossa, had polled second with 30.77%.
Bongo’s team have rejected Ossa’s allegations of electoral fraud and irregularities.
Before the military interregnum sizzling tensions have been running in Gabon with fears of unrest, following the presidential and parliamentary elections.
However, with the military coup d’etat, Gabon has wittingly joined other African countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sudan whose military have toppled the civilian administration.
Like the Niger coup d’etat which occurred in July, the civilian population was celebrating the ouster of the Gabonese President, Ali Bongo Ondimba whose family has ruled the country for over half a century.
Bongo’s overthrow would end his family’s 53-year hold on power. He became president when his father Omar died in 2009.
Bongo, 64, suffered a stroke in 2018 which sidelined him for almost a year and led to calls for him to step aside.
In 2019, there was a coup attempt on him and the soldiers who led the failed putsch were tried, found guilty and sent to prison.
Coups in Africa in the last decade
WITHIN NIGERIA research showed that the continent has experienced seven coups since August 2020, before the Wednesday, August 30 Gabonese coup.
The latest coup before military take over in Gabon occurred in Niger Republic in July.
Precisely on July 26, 2023, the military announced that they had overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum. General Abdourahamane Tiani becomes the new strongman of the country.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced on August 10 its intention to deploy a regional force to “restore constitutional order”, while continuing to favor the diplomatic route.
The military proposes a transition period of “three years” maximum before returning power to civilians.
In Burkina Faso, there was two putsches within 8 months.
On January 24, 2022, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was ousted from power by the military. Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was inaugurated president in February.
On September 30, Damiba was in turn dismissed from his position by the military. Captain Ibrahim Traoré was invested as transitional president. Presidential election has been scheduled to hold in July 2024.
Sudan also had its own fair share of military interregnum.
On October 25, 2021, soldiers led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane chased out the transitional civilian leaders, who were supposed to lead the country towards democracy after 30 years of alleged dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, himself deposed in 2019.
Since April 15, 2023, a war due to a power struggle between General Burhane and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdane Daglo has killed at least 5,000 people in the country.
It was another history of coup d’etat in Guinea when on September 5, 2021, President Alpha Condé was overthrown by a military coup.
However, on October 1, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya became president.
Though the military has promised to return the country to elected civilians by the end of 2024, there is no much plans in Guinea to convince the citizens of seeing civilian rule in 2024.
Like Burkina Faso, there were two military coups in Mali within nine months.
On August 18, 2020, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown by the military, a transitional government was formed in October.
But on May 24, 2021, the military arrested the president and the Prime Minister. Colonel Assimi Goïta was inaugurated in June as transitional president.
Like in Guinea, the junta has committed to returning the place to civilians after the elections scheduled for February 2024, but it remained to be seen how they will keep to their promise.
Leading sit-tight presidents in Africa
It has been said that many African rulers are the architects of the abject poverty being experienced in the continent.
Experts base their arguments on the economic backwardness being witnessed in the continent despite huge resources it has been endowed with.
Economic policies being formulated and implemented by these leaders impoverishes the citizens.
Many African rulers have literally refused to give up power when their tenure came to end. They have manourvred their way back to the office.
Many of them went as far as even changing the constitution of their country to legalize their unbridled and insatiable power quest.
Nevertheless, not less than ten African leaders have being in power for over two decades. At least two of them have ruled their countries for more than four decades.
Teodoro Obiang (44 years)
The longest serving president in Africa as of today, he is the current and second president of Equatorial Guinea, a position he has held since August 1979. He is the longest-serving president not just in Africa but of any country ever.
Obiang Teodoro came into power after he ousted his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, in an August 1979 military coup.
Paul Biya (41 years)
Paul Biya has served as the president of Cameroon since 6 November 1982. He is the second-longest-ruling president in Africa and one of the oldest presidents in the world.
His regime is supported by France, one of the former colonial powers in Cameroon, which supplies it with weapons, aids and trains its military forces.
Denis Sassou Nguese (39 years)
The Republic of the Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguess has spent 34 years in office, but not in one go. He first served from 1979 to 1992 and returned in 1997 at the end of a civil war. He is the third longest serving president in Africa.
Yoweri Museveni (37 years)
Yoweri Museveni has been the president of Uganda since 1986 making him the fourth longest serving African president. He took office in January 1986 after winning the war that toppled Ugandan presidents Milton Obote and Idi Amin.
Records indicate that none of the Ugandan elections have been found to be free and transparent since Museveni took over.
King Mswati III (37 years)
Mswati III is the king of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and head of the Swazi royal family.
He was crowned as Mswati III, Ingwenyama and King of Swaziland, on 25 April 1986 at the age of 18, making him the world’s youngest king at the time.
He co-rules the nation with his mother, Ntfombi Tfwala, who is currently Queen Mother (Ndlovukati).
Isaias Afwerki (30 years)
Isaias Afwerki is the first president of Eritrea. The Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki has been in charge since the country got its independence from Ethiopia in April 1993.
He is the sixth longest serving president in Africa.
Letsie III (27 years)
Letsie III is the current King of Lesotho and the 7th longest serving ruler in Africa. He succeeded his father, Moshoeshoe II, after he died in a car crash in 1996. His coronation took place in October 1997 at Setsoto Stadium and was attended by current King Charles of England. As a constitutional monarch, most of King Letsie’s duties as monarch of Lesotho are ceremonial.
Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (24 years)
Ismaïl Omar Guelleh is the current President of Djibouti. He has been in office since 1999, making him the 8th longest-serving ruler in Africa.
Guelleh was first elected as President in 1999 as the handpicked successor to his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had ruled Djibouti since independence in 1977. He was re-elected in 2005, 2011 and again in 2016.
Mohammed VI (24 years)
Mohammed VI is the King of Morocco. He belongs to the ‘Alawi dynasty and ascended to the throne on 23 July 1999, upon the death of his father, King Hassan II.
Mohammed is the 9th longest serving ruler in Africa and is also regarded by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre as the seventh most influential Muslim in the world in 2022.
Paul Kagame (23 years)
Paul Kagame who assumed office in 2000 is the fourth and current president of Rwanda, and the 10th longest serving president in Africa. Kagame had been de facto leader since 1994, but focused more on military, foreign affairs and the country’s security than day-to-day governance. He only went after the top job when the then president Bizimungu resigned. Kagame was sworn in as president in April 2000.
African Union condemns the act
Expectedly, condemnations have continued to trail the Gabon coup d’etat.
Groups and international organizations have continued to rain all sorts of condemnations on the Gabonese military for seizing power in the oil rich central Africa nation.
The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said on Wednesday, August 30 that he “strongly condemns” what he described as an attempted coup in Gabon.
“(Faki) is following with great concern the situation in the Gabonese Republic and strongly condemns the attempted coup d’etat in the country as a way of resolving its current post-electoral crisis,” he said in a statement published on the AU website in French.
He “calls on the national army and security forces to adhere strictly to their republican vocation, to guarantee the physical integrity of the president of the republic, members of his family as well as those of his government”.
The AU commission chief also described Wednesday’s events as a “flagrant violation” of the legal and political instruments of the Addis Ababa-headquartered African Union.
“(Faki) encourages all political, civil and military actors in Gabon to favour peaceful political paths leading to the rapid return to democratic constitutional order in the country.”
United Nations frowns at the coup
The UN Secretary-General on Wednesday firmly condemned the coup in Gabon, while acknowledging that “serious infringements of fundamental freedoms” appear to have taken place during elections at the weekend.
Spokesperson, Stephanie Dujarric said that UN chief António Guterres was following the evolving situation in the capital Libreville “very closely”.
While condemning military action as “a means to resolve the post electoral crisis”, the Secretary-General said he had noted the announcement by the Central African nation’s electoral body of a win for incumbent president Ali Bongo with “deep concern” given reports of serious irregularities at the polls.
“This announcement of a military takeover in the capital by a group of officers who declared the election results void and the dissolution of State institutions, would mark the eighth coup – if successful – in West and Central Africa since 2020.
“The Secretary-General reaffirms his strong opposition to military coups”, said the UN Spokesperson.
France condemns the coup
The Gabon colonial masters, France equally condemned the toppling of Gabonese President, Ali Bongo.
In a statement on Thursday, France said it “condemns the military coup that is underway in Gabon”, government spokesman Olivier Veran told reporters in Paris after military officers announced on television that they had overturned the government.
Veran said that France was following events “with a lot of attention” and that it “reiterates its desire to see the results of the election respected,” referring to Saturday’s disputed presidential polls in the West African country.
France has around 400 soldiers permanently deployed in the country for training and military support, including at a base in the capital, and has extensive economic ties to the country in the mining and oil sectors.
The political demise of Bongo — who has been placed under house arrest along with other top officials, according to the new military regime — fits a pattern of coups in French-speaking Africa in recent years.
United States of America
The United States of America also joined international organisations and world powers in condemning the military coup that removed President Ali Bongo from power in Gabon, expressing strong disapproval of the unconstitutional change in government in the oil-rich nation.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday night, the U.S. Department Spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said that the U.S is deeply concern about the evolving events in Gabon.
It reads, “The United States is deeply concerned by evolving events in Gabon. We remain strongly opposed to military seizures or unconstitutional transfers of power. We urge those responsible to release and ensure the safety of members of government and their families and to preserve civilian rule.
“In addition, we call on all actors to show restraint and respect for human rights and to address their concerns peacefully through dialogue following the announcement of election results.
“We also note with concern the lack of transparency and reports of irregularities surrounding the election. The United States stands with the people of Gabon.”
Rwanda, Cameroon and Uganda react to the coups
As coups continue to spread across the African continent, some leaders are taking proactive steps to forestalling the ugly situation by reshuffling their defence portfolios.
On Wednesday, shortly after the announcement of the coup, Cameroon President Paul Biya made major changes to the country’s ministry of defence.
WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that among the posts reshuffled were the delegate to the presidency in charge of defence, air force staff, navy, and the police.
Also shortly after the coup, Rwanda’s defence force (RDF) announced on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that President Paul Kagame approved the retirement of 83 senior officers.
According to the RDF, Kagame also approved the promotion and appointment of some officers to replace the previous office holders.
Meetings between Rwanda’s chief of defence staff, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to Rwanda, and the defence attaché of Cameroon were also held to discuss ways “to enhance defence cooperation between their respective countries”.
In 2015, Rwanda’s constitution was changed to allow Kagame to remain president until 2034.
The 65-year-old has been in power since 2000 and is one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents.
The decisions of Kagame and Biya to reshuffle their militaries were not unconnected with the increasing number of coups in the continent.
Earlier before the Gabon coup, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also made major changes in the country’s military formation by appointing and reshuffling 35 senior military officers.
In a chat with our reporter, Enugu-based political analyst, Comrade Chijioke Attah explained that the rising incidence of coups in Africa is a reflection of time.
“The rising incidence of coups in African countries in recent times and is a reflection of times.
“People are becoming more and more aware. People are becoming more and more disenchanted with our own kind of democracy where a few lords it over to a majority.
“Where people ascendency to obtain power as an opportunity to amass wealth to the detriment of the masses. People are now being exposed. I mean we are in internet age and people are exposed to know how things are being done in other climes.”
Explaining further, Comrade Attah, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Nsukka News stressed that “People are getting tired of how things are being done in Africa. It is a warning signal. People are not going to sit back and watch them drag the entire continent on the mud, impoverishing the masses and majority of the people. It is also an indictment on the failure of African leaders.
“The people are left with no other options than to have these coups. And when they strike, you see jubilations that greet these coups.
“This is to tell you that people have been pushed to the wall and since they don’t have any other means of seeking redress because they have been suppressed using state apparatus.
“It is only the military that can come to the rescue of the masses in a situation like this.
“The leaders need to learn a lesson especially those who are yet to experience this. You know this is how the Arab Spring started and engulfed the entire Sahel region.
“The implications of this incessant coup is that if care is not taken, the entire region will go back to the military regime. If the leaders do not see ascendency to power as a call to serve, it is going to be difficult tolerating the kind of democracy we see in Africa.”