By Edward McallisterThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
DAKAR, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Seated in an opulent chair, surrounded by lavish furniture and artifacts, Gabon’s deposed President Ali Bongo appealed for support in a video on Wednesday, as a military coup threatens to bring an end to his family’s nearly 60-year reign in power.
However, it’s likely that his plea will go unanswered.
Should the coup in Gabon succeed, it would mark the eighth such event in West and Central Africa within the span of three years. Interestingly, the common thread among the previous seven coups is their resistance to international efforts aimed at overturning them.
Despite widespread criticism and even the prospect of military intervention, the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, and Chad since 2020 have remained entrenched. Sanctions imposed on some of these nations have not only adversely affected ordinary citizens but have also served to deepen opposition to external interference and fostered increased public backing for the various military regimes.
As the international community grapples with a lack of innovative solutions, and with Gabon’s governing structures already dismantled and its borders sealed, security analysts foresee minimal chances of Bongo’s appeals yielding results. This predicament, they suggest, might embolden other aspiring military coup plotters across the region.
Advertisement · Scroll to continue
Maja Bovcon, Senior Africa Analyst at the London-based risk firm Verisk Maplecroft, remarked, “The concern is that these successive coups expose the international community’s incapacity to reinstate democratic governance. I’m not very optimistic that things will unfold differently this time around.”
For Ali Bongo, Wednesday was initially meant to be a day of jubilation.
Just moments before the coup announcement, Gabon’s electoral authority had declared Bongo the resounding winner of the recent election held on Saturday. This victory would have secured him a third term in office and extended the Bongo dynasty, which was initiated when his father, Omar, took control in 1967.
Advertisement · Scroll to continue
Instead, Bongo found himself confined and powerless within his residence.
He conveyed in the video, “Nothing is happening. I don’t know what is going on. I am calling on you to make noise, to make noise, to make noise. I am thanking you.”
The reactions of regional and international powers remain uncertain. The African Union and the United States expressed their vigilance regarding the situation, while France denounced the coup.
Yet, among the numerous high-profile international condemnations, none explicitly called for Bongo’s reinstatement – a marked contrast to the aftermath of the July 26 takeover in Niger, where some voices demanded the restoration of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to power
Within Gabon, long-standing discontent towards Bongo, who was chosen to succeed his father in 2009, had been brewing for a considerable time. The 2016 elections were widely perceived as fraudulent by the international community and sparked deadly clashes.
Critics argue that Gabon’s oil wealth predominantly circulated within the Bongo family and its associates, leaving many citizens in poverty, while corruption ran rampant. The recent elections were followed by internet and international news station shutdowns.
Although the catalysts for the Gabon coup differed from those in the Sahel countries farther north – where insecurity caused by Islamist militants significantly influenced public sentiment – the overall effect is likely similar. It could pave the way for additional coup attempts against longstanding rulers within the region.
In neighboring Cameroon, President Paul Biya has maintained his grip on power for over 40 years, using sham elections and aggressive crackdowns on the opposition
President Denis Sassou Nguesso has ruled the Republic of Congo for a combined 38 years. In 2015, he revised the constitution to extend term limits and secured an 88% vote in his favor during the 2021 election.
Ryan Cummings, Director of Analysis at South Africa-based Signal Risk, highlighted, “When you consider some of the governments that have fallen to coups in Africa, these are autocratic governments with low popularity that employ the military to exert authority. Looking across the region, a few more instances come to mind.”