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In a surprising turn of events, military officers in Gabon announced a coup, declaring that they had…

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In a surprising turn of events, military officers in Gabon announced a coup, declaring that they had seized power from President Ali Bongo.[0] This came just minutes after electoral authorities had declared Bongo as the winner of the disputed election.[1] Opposition leaders had claimed that the election results were fraudulent, and the government had barred international observers and shut down foreign television broadcasts during the voting process.

Ali Bongo had been ruling Gabon since 2009, following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had dominated the country for 42 years.[2] The Bongo family's combined rule of 56 years is among the longest for any family in Africa.[3] Gabon, a country with vast oil resources and a relatively high average income, has seen most of its wealth flow to a small elite, leaving its two million people living in poverty.[3]

Ali Bongo contested the election on the platform of the ruling Parti Démocratique Gabonais (PDG), which his father had founded.[4] The PDG has monopolized power in the oil-rich central African country for over half a century.[4] However, opposition to the ruling party has been growing in recent years, with soldiers launching a failed coup in 2019 and now this successful coup in 2023.

The situation in Gabon is not unique in Africa. The continent has seen a number of military takeovers in recent years. In Burkina Faso, the army removed President Roch Kabore in 2022, blaming him for failing to contain violence by Islamist militants.[5] In Guinea, special forces commander Colonel Mamady Doumbouya overthrew President Alpha Conde in 2021 after he changed the constitution to bypass term limits.[6] Mali experienced a coup in 2020, with a group of colonels removing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and later ousting his successor.[6] Sudan also faced a military takeover in 2021, when General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved a ruling council and restored full military rule.[6]

These coups highlight the fragility of democracy in many African countries, particularly those with long-standing rulers or where power is concentrated in the hands of a select few. They also raise concerns about the lack of accountability and transparency in the electoral processes, as seen in Gabon where international observers were barred and media broadcasts were shut down.

Analysts predict that more military takeovers could occur in French-speaking West and Central African countries in the near future.[7] The discontent among the population, coupled with the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few, creates a volatile environment that can easily be exploited by military leaders. The international community must pay attention to these developments and support efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and ensure free and fair elections in order to prevent further instability and violence in the region.

0. “Ousted Ali Bongo was on track to win Gabon election, polling shows” The Guardian, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/30/ousted-ali-bongo-was-on-track-to-win-gabon-election-polling-shows

1. “Analysis | What's Driving the Coups in Gabon and Across West Africa?” The Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/energy/2023/08/30/what-s-behind-niger-coup-and-others-in-west-africa/ccce08b0-4733-11ee-b76b-0b6e5e92090d_story.html

2. “Business Daily – Gabon's economy: A wealth of resources that fails to trickle down to the population” FRANCE 24 English, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/tv-shows/business-daily/20230830-gabon-s-economy-a-wealth-of-resources-that-fail-to-trickle-down-to-population

3. “Gabon military officers declare coup, seize power after arrest of President Ali Bongo” The Globe and Mail, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-gabon-coup-military-officers-seize-power/

4. “Gabon: how the Bongo family's 56-year rule has hurt the country and divided the opposition” The Conversation, 17 Aug. 2023, https://theconversation.com/gabon-how-the-bongo-familys-56-year-rule-has-hurt-the-country-and-divided-the-opposition-211537

5. “Mapping Africa’s coups d’etat across the years” Al Jazeera English, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/30/mapping-africas-coups-detat-across-the-years

6. “Analysis: Why Gabon's coup differs from recent military interventions in Africa” The Telegraph, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/08/30/gabon-military-coup-ali-bongo-disputed-election/

7. “Gabon: Expect more military takeovers in Africa – Femi Fani Kayode” Punch Newspapers, 30 Aug. 2023, https://punchng.com/gabon-expect-more-military-takeovers-in-africa-femi-fani-kayode/

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