In the wake of the military coup that recently took place in Gabon, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council has made the decision to suspend the country.
The council, which strongly condemns the military takeover, has chosen to immediately suspend Gabon’s participation in all activities of the AU, its organs, and institutions.
The military coup in Gabon follows disputed elections in which President Ali Bongo Ondimba was declared the winner. The council convened to discuss the situation in Gabon and the implications it has for the region. Chaired by African Union commissioner for political affairs Bankole Adeoye of Nigeria and the current holder of the council’s rotating chair, Burundi’s Willy Nyamitwe, the meeting resulted in the decision to suspend Gabon.
This military takeover brings an end to the Bongo family’s almost six decades in power, presenting a new challenge for a region that has already grappled with numerous coups in recent years. This situation has raised concerns among leaders in the region, who fear that this coup could set a dangerous precedent and inspire other countries to follow suit.
Nigeria’s recently elected president, Bola Tinubu, who also chairs West Africa’s main regional body, ECOWAS, voiced his concerns about the spread of autocracy. He called the military takeover in Gabon a “contagion of autocracy” and expressed fears that it could encourage other countries to take similar actions. Tinubu stressed the importance of stopping this trend before it gains further momentum.
Amidst the political turmoil, the general responsible for overthrowing the Bongo dynasty is set to be sworn in as transitional president on Monday, according to the army. However, the opposition in Gabon is demanding that their candidate be recognized as the true winner of the weekend’s elections.
The military has reassured donors that they will honour all commitments both domestically and internationally, as they transition to new governing institutions. Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi Manfoumbi, spokesman for the new regime, made these statements on state television. The swearing-in ceremony for General Brice Oligui Nguema, the new leader, will be held at the constitutional court. This provides insight into how the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) will function following Wednesday’s coup.
ECCAS has condemned the coup and announced plans for an upcoming meeting of heads of state to determine a response. However, no date has been given for this meeting.
In Gabon, senior officers staged a coup in the early hours of Wednesday following an election in which President Bongo was declared the winner of a third term. Later that day, a video emerged showing Bongo being detained in his residence and calling on international allies for assistance while seemingly unaware of the events unfolding around him. The officers also announced that Nguema, former head of the presidential guard, had been selected as the new head of state.
Working to contain ‘contagion of autocracy’: ECOWAS
Tinubu, speaking in a professional capacity, shared on Wednesday that he is actively collaborating with other African leaders in order to address what he refers to as a “spreading contagion of autocracy” throughout Africa.
In response to the coup in Niger on July 26, ECOWAS threatened military intervention and implemented sanctions. However, the military government has remained defiant and unyielding. Similar instances have occurred in other countries such as Mali, where military leaders have resisted international pressure and managed to maintain their hold on power while even gaining support from certain segments of the population.
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which represents the political bloc in Central Africa, released a statement condemning the coup. They have also announced plans for an upcoming meeting of heads of state to discuss how best to respond. However, no specific date has been given at this time.
There has been somewhat limited reaction from the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) based in Dakar, Senegal. This could be due to concerns within the region regarding a potential contagion of coups among countries sharing similar governmental systems as seen with the Bongo dynasty.
For instance, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has held power in Equatorial Guinea since 1979. Similarly, President Paul Biya of Cameroon has been elected repeatedly since 1982 amid allegations by critics of fraudulent practices during these presidential elections, both situations contributing to unease within the region.
These recent events shed light on the recurring issue of coups within Africa over the past four years. Countries such as Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger have all experienced military takeovers which highlight the challenges faced by African powers attempting to exert influence once control is seized by the military forces.