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Gabon is joining a wave of coups in former French colonies in Africa, sending out old family dictatorships.

Ali Bongo didn’t even have time to celebrate his victory. Minutes after the electoral commission declared him the winner of Gabon’s election with 64.2%, a dozen soldiers announced on television that the results had been annulled and the end of the Bongo dynasty.

Ali Bongo hoped to enjoy a third term. In 2009, he took over after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled the country since 1967. However, his tenure in power has been complicated by opposition in 2016 and a heart attack in 2018. That he feared for his life and that he had been in Saudi Arabia for months. He is now under “house arrest” and is asking “friends all over the world” for help.

In a statement on national television, the military identified itself as the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), but it was not clear who they are or what their intentions are to “end the regime”. You are Jenny Africa He exclusively revealed that they are members of the Presidential Guard led by General Brice Clothier Oligui-Ngema, who is in turn Ali Bongo’s cousin. However, this has not yet been announced.

It is still unknown whether these soldiers represent the entire army and whether they could resist, but due to the development of events and the published images, the coup d’état was successful. Another one that adds to the dominoes in Africa.

A threat to family dictatorship

What happened in Gabon is the ninth successful coup between West and Central Africa since 2020. It joins rebellions in Mali (2), Burkina Faso (2), Sudan, Guinea, Chad and Niger. The latter was just a month ago. The triumph of the military in these countries without an effective response from continental and international institutions serves to encourage a domino of insurgencies, but the reasons are different.

This is the first coup in Central Africa and its characteristics are very different from other countries. First, Gabon is not the epicenter of jihadist violence, like other countries in the Sahel, so insecurity issues are not the reason for the coup. Second, all these countries have had a long history of coups since their independence decades ago. Only Chad resembles Gabon with a family dynasty, but the coup was a self-coup by the army to continue that dynasty by deploying Idris Deby’s son, Mahamat Deby.

Therefore, this is the first time in recent times that the military has decided to rise up to overthrow a family dynasty by force. The military claims the insurgency is caused by “irresponsible and unpredictable governance, which translates into a continued deterioration of social cohesion, with the risk of plunging the country into chaos.”

The reality is that Bongo has ruled for decades with the consent of the military and this rebellion is a signal to other countries that the military no longer fears their superiors to the point where they see themselves as more powerful and can oust them. And they manage the country themselves. The coup d’état in Gabon opens the door to other types of countries. If until now this happened in countries with political instability and jihadist terrorism, such as the Sahel, now they can also happen in family dictatorships.

The fall of the Bongo family is a warning to other neighboring countries with similar family governments, such as Paul Biya in Cameroon, the world’s oldest head of state at 90, in power since 1982; Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who ruled the Republic of Congo from 1979, with a five-year hiatus; The Gnassingbe family of Togo, which has ruled the country since 1967, first Gnassingbe Eyadema and since 2005 his son Fauré; And finally Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, in power for 44 years.

Except for Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, the rest are former French colonies. This is in line with other coup countries in the Sahel and confirms Elisha’s growing loss of influence on the continent.

France, much to lose

The first images coming out of Libreville, the country’s capital, show demonstrations in favor of the coup leaders. In a country where the median age is 21, Bongo ruled for 56 years without interruption and most citizens knew no other power.

Throughout this time, Gabon remained an ally of France, although relations deteriorated after Ali Bongo came to power. Her father, Omar Bongo, approached Elise to consolidate his power.

In 1975, France opened the Camp de Gaulle military base on the outskirts of the capital. In its heyday it had over 900 soldiers from the 6th Infantry Division, but Macron announced troop reductions in Africa in FebruaryIncluding Gabon, where about 350 soldiers are stationed.

The future of the military base is in doubt, but so far there are no signs of pressure from the new military rulers to withdraw French troops. As in Niger and other countries Russian flags were seen at the first demonstrations in favor of the rebellion, this was not the case.

For now, the first result is economic. The French company Eramet has announced that it has suspended work at the Comilog mine. The world’s largest producer of manganeseA vital mineral for steel. More than half of French manganese imports come from Gabon, which together with crude oil constitutes the majority of Gabon’s exports to France.

Now France found itself in a difficult situation. French government spokesman Olivier Verand condemned the coup and called for “respect for the outcome of the election”, but the reality is that he has little room to manoeuvre. From here, showing stronger support means legitimizing rigged elections and a dynastic dictatorship that they themselves have labeled as corrupt. In 2022, French justice indicted Omar Bongo’s five sons for misappropriation of public property, money laundering and “active and passive” corruption, calculating the value of 85 million euros invested in properties in France.

So far, the international reaction is mixed. The EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said the coup “makes the region more unstable” and that they are discussing the wave of coups in Africa with European defense ministers. Meeting in Toledo.

So far, Russia has not made a decision in favor or against, and China has only done so to guarantee Ali Bongo’s safety. “I will not make any general conclusions (on the situation in different African countries), but the situation in Gabon is deeply worrying, we are closely monitoring what is happening there,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The end of the bongos shows French and European weakness on the continent and the failure of policies that relied on dictatorial elites whose external protection is no longer sufficient to maintain power.

Emboldened by the success of others like them in neighboring countries, the military, with the support of the citizens, put an end to the kleptomantic governments. This wave of strikes shows a retreat against democracy, which is no longer considered an option to end dictatorship in favor of military force.

Source: El Diario





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