Is the Gabon coup really for the interests of Africans? Should we get excited that another African country has been liberated from the shackles of French neo-colonialism?
This story was first published in Newsvoice here: Baya Osborn: The Gabon Coup is Not Aligned With African Interests and Aspirations
Sanctions, military interventions, evacuations, and the cutting off of aid are the responses to African coups. At least that is the norm—a culture to ensure that democracy is protected for the African people. However, The Gabon Military Coup raises a lot of questions. The response we expected to the recent coup in Niger was quite the opposite. The situation seems to be rather calm and only includes observation with little action. There is no risk of violence or a situation that could be dangerous.
On Wednesday morning, August 31, 2023, a coup happened in Gabon, where the military initiated the statement, cancelling the results of the election and dissolving all institutions of the republic. This coup saw the ousting of President Ali Bongo, who is currently under house arrest. The leadership is currently attributed to Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema, the commander-in-chief of the Gabonese Republican Guard, the country’s most powerful security unit, and a cousin to Bongo, who is the ringleader of the attempted coup. However, this leadership currently raises questions about the legitimacy of this coup. Is the recent Gabon coup in the interests of the Gabonese citizens?
The questionable character of Brice Nguema
Nguema is one of the most powerful figures in the country. He came back and took over as head of the presidential guard after being sent on diplomatic missions when Omar Bongo, Ali Bongo’s son, came to power in 2009. Nguema is reported to have invested in real estate by paying in cash in the United States. Oligui-Nguema purchased a $447,000 Maryland property in 2018 without a mortgage. This is according to a 2020 investigation by The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) on the Bongo family’s assets in the United States.
“He bought three properties in middle- and working-class neighbourhoods in the Maryland suburbs of Hyattsville and Silver Spring, just outside the capital, in 2015 and 2018. The homes were purchased with a total of over $1 million in cash,” the OCCRP report said.
However, when reporters asked Nguema about the report, he replied that it was a private affair, stating:
“I think whether in France or the United States, a private life is a private life that [should be] respected.”
The EU is displaying reluctance to condemn the coup
The EU has been very inactive in calling out the coup, unlike what we have seen in other countries such as Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso recently. In a statement given by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, he clearly stated that the EU is not going to evacuate its citizens as no country has expressed concerns. He believes the situation is rather calm and evacuation plans are not important. This is quite strange given that coup events are always intense and require a fast response. It is also concerning that the EU would see fit to stage a military coup in a democratic country like Gabon.
“In Gabon, at the moment, there are no evacuation plans. The situation is calm. We don’t see any risk of violence or a situation that could be dangerous. There are about 10,000 EU citizens in Gabon but no country has expressed concern over their situation. So, no plan for evacuation in Gabon, In Niger however we will evacuate.”
Borrell acknowledges that the country’s polls were flawed, and therefore the military intervened to overthrow the president who won in an unfair election.
“Naturally, military coups are not the solution, but we must not forget that in Gabon there had been elections full of irregularities,” …“There are military and institutional coups, where weapons are not needed. If I cheat in the elections to achieve power, that is also an irregular way to arrive in power.“
However, the statement given by the EU Chief only concludes that there are good and bad coups. The coup in Gabon, which is likely a pro-Western coup, falls into the good category, while the recent coup in Niger, which is against Western neo-colonialism, is bad. This indicates the hypocrisy exhibited by the EU and why the coup in Gabon does not reflect the interests and aspirations of the Gabonese people.
Opposition parties express concern over the military takeover
Gabon’s opposition, led by Ondo Ossa, had called for the military to continue counting the ballots. They stated that upon completion of the counting, it would indicate the opposition’s victory over President Ali Bongo. The military declared the elections null and void and dissolved all institutions. However, questions have been raised about the plan of the military after it was announced that General Brice would be sworn in as President of Transition without a specification of how long the period would last.
There are concerns over the coup leaders and what they intend to do in the transition period. The opposition has accused the military of not handing back power to the civilian government. This means that Gabon would become a military state. Alexandra Pangha, who is the spokeswoman of the coalition, said that it would be absurd to swear in a president before institutions had been dissolved. She believes that Ali Bongo has not left power and that the coup was just to strengthen Western control in the country. She alleges Nguema is being supported by other members of Ali Bongo’s family.
“Up to today we have been waiting for an invitation from the military so that they can talk to us and tell us exactly what’s the plan,”
The events in Gabon make it clear that the recent coup is pro-Western and has been castigated by France and the United States for keeping their rule in check in the country. General Nguema seems to be aligned with European powers and is going to promote the neo-colonialism already going on in the country.