Gabon Coup: Lessons For African Leaders


The recent military coup d’état in Gabon, led by Brice Olugui Nguema, which ousted erstwhile President Ali Bongo, being the eighth in the West and Central Africa since 2020, underscores the increasing significance of identifying the root causes of the sudden unconstitutional change of government. Also important is the need to analyse the variant of democracy as currently practiced in Africa that has triggered the questions raised by the military coupists….CONTINUE READING

With the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) still battling with the best way out of the coup in Niger, which took place in July, it has become pertinent to shed brighter light on why the military has also seized power in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad.

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As severally reported, the Nguema-led military officers introduced themselves as members of the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions. They announced that the disputed election results, said to have been won by Bongo, 64, for a third-term were cancelled. It was an election marred by fears of violence. Subsequently, all borders have been closed until further notice and state institutions dissolved.

It should be noted that before the recent coup, Bongo’s spell in office was remarkably marked by rancour-filled elections and he was suspected to be suffering from stroke. But he decided to hold on to the reins of political power, at all costs.

So, what important lessons should other African leaders learn from this?

The first factor worthy of note is that the president’s family has held power for nearly 56 years! Was that not a form of monarchy? Certainly, the type of democracy that recycles old politicians and has kept focus on strengthening family ties at the expense of meritocracy is at variance with the dictates of democracy.

The second fundamental flaw that has consistently undermined the enthronement of democratic ethics in parts of Africa is that of questionable, fraudulent elections. Ordinarily, elections, as conducted by the electoral umpire must indeed reflect the wishes and choices of the majority of the electorate. They should be free, fair and credible. But once it is marred with violence, vote-buying and the deployment of tribal sentiments, it would definitely throw up crisis.

The third frustrating factor is that of an economic downturn with the spin-off effect of unemployment, especially that of the youth. But nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15-24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank. And that is despite the fact that Gabon is a member of the OPEC oil cartel, with a production of 181,000 barrels of crude a day, the eighth-largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, with slightly more than two million people. The joblessness reflects self-serving governance that should not be tolerated.

A look at other recent coups is necessary to unveil the causes.

For instance, on 18 August, 2020, members of the military led by Colonel Assimi Goïta and Colonel-Major Ismaël Wagué in Kati, Koulikoro Region began a mutiny. President Keïta and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé were arrested, and shortly after Keïta announced his resignation, saying he did not want to see any bloodshed. Reasons adduced for the military take-over included alleged government corruption and a floundering economy.

Captain Traoré justified his seizure of power on Burkina Faso’s deteriorating security situation. And the July 26, 2023 coup in Niger Republic, General Tchiani, an ex-UN peacekeeper, blamed rising insecurity and a lack of economic growth for the coup d’état.

African leaders, therefore, should learn to re-tool the current dysfunctional governance to a democracy that is pro-people, with their policies, programs and projects driven by the people’s most pressing needs rather than by self-aggrandizement. That is precisely what informed that Athenian democracy that developed around the 6th century BC in the Greek city-state of Athens, when they were fed up with both monarchy and aristocracy….CONTINUE READING

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