Africa's military coups continuetext_fields
Military coups and political upheavals are a continuing story in the African continent. A few weeks ago, a military coup in the West African state of Niger overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum and he was put in house arrest. The army took control of the administration. Through a similar coup in the Central African nation of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba whose dynasty had been in power through elections for half a century., was ousted by a military coup last Wednesday. Most of the states where these coups and transfer of power took place are former French colonies. It is the eighth African country to experience a putsch in the last three years, Mali, Guinea, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Chad and Sudan being the other countries, who are yet to come out of the woods. With the exception of Sudan, all are former French colonies and still bear French influence, and the stances of France play a role in those situations too. Africa's mineral wealth and natural resources were once the attraction of the colonial forces. In the context of trade and industry built on these resources, giant multinational corporations with their capital power have developed friendly relations with regimes in those countries too. Add to it the crony capitalism that emerges thence in the garb of democracy, and then the picture is almost complete. In all this, the European colonial power, France, cannot wash off its hand of guilt. But last Wednesday when twelve army personnel appeared on television screens in Gabon and declared that they have deposed President Ali Bongo, Paris which condemned the takeover, asked the coup masters to heed the popular verdict in favour of Ali Bongo.
The overthrow occurred immediately after the election results were released in Gabon. Allegations against Ali Bongo's regime were mostly against corruption during his 14-year rule as much as the election irregularities. There were joyous demonstrations in the streets and victory celebration by the soldiers, but it is not certain how long they will last. Bongo is under house arrest and his son in jail. Borders are closed. Parliament is dissolved and the internet is down. General Brice Oligui Enguema, who used to be the bodyguard of Ali Bongo's father and predecessor Omar Bongo, has taken charge as interim president of the new government. The picture of people's jubilation on the streets of capital Libreville can be seen, at least for now, as people's acceptance of the military regime. Their sole demand now seems to be to put an end to the 50-plus year old dynastic rule. Spokespersons of the new regime assure that constitutional courts will soon be restored, domestic flights resumed and transition steps initiated for transfer of power.
Even as the main opposition congratulated the army, they have demanded that counting be completed on the disputes votes to be counted and victory declared for Bongo's main rival. Omar Bongo, Ali Bongo's father, who took power in 1967, seven years after France left the country had ruled for 42 years. On his death in 2009, Ali Bongo came to power. Ali , like his father, ruled with an iron fist making the opposition irrelevant. Although multi-party democracy was established in 1991, the ruling party gave little room for any opposition role. All three of Ali Bongo's three electoral victories were controversial. But the main point of criticism against him are of financial allegations that are aplenty. In an investigation by France's financial police, the Bongo family was found to have owned 39 properties in France, 70 bank accounts and nine luxury cars. Although street protests were held against election results, Ali Bongo survived them all. The outcome of the attempted military coup in 2019 was no different.
The 55-member African Union has condemned military coup and barred the current regime from participating in the proceedings of the Union until democracy is restored. World leaders Including UN Secretary General Guterres and the US administration have also disowned and condemned the coup and the new regime. Gabon is an oil-producing state, though not with an affluent volume of reserve. It has a chequered history of membership in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries- OPEC from which it withdrew once and then rejoined. The wealth of Gabon, in addition to oil, also consisted like that of many African nations, of minerals and metals like iron ore, gold, and rare earths. With a population of just around 25 lakhs, this makes Gabon a country with considerable per capita wealth. In whose hands that wealth will be, and how will popular will be reflected in government, and in what ways rule of law will prevail are questions to be answered in the near future. . All that is now under whose control and the people's ambition is at the level of government. And that will determine the future of the problem nation of Gabon and its people.