In order for us to understand the real motives behind the spate of military takeovers in West and Central Africa — eight since 2020 — we are, compelled to read about it in Western media.
And that is a major part of the problem. Simply put, Western media has failed to convey the deeper social and economic contexts behind the political upheaval in various African regions.
In a relatively comprehensive description of Oligue Nguema, the new leader of Gabon, the BBC website offered nothing of substance in terms of familiarising us with the reasons behind the military’s move against the long-time leader of Gabon, Ali Bongo.
Undergoing political transitions
It is difficult and time-consuming to find a cohesive, non-filtered political discourse emanating from Gabon — or Mali, Burkina Faso or the rest of the African countries undergoing political transitions now.
What we find instead is news, information and opinions, almost all filtered through Western news agencies, politicians, academics and ‘experts’. Even those who may appear to speak nonconformist language tend to feed the stereotype, perpetuating the mainstream perception of Africa.
A quick examination of recent articles on West Africa reveals an obvious truth. In an interview, published on August 30 in Le Point, French author and expert in African Studies, Antoine Glaser, blames the French government for failing to see how Africa has ‘gone global’.
The subtle message is this: Africa revolves or should always revolve in France’s orbit. French journalists are now blaming the Macron government for failing to diagnose, let alone remedy, the pan-African disease.
Little attention has been paid to the possibility that perhaps African countries are fed up with the old apparatus, that of Western-supported leaders.
Gabon is a very rich country in terms of energy resources, lumber, manganese and iron. But its tiny population of 2.3 million is very poor.
It would make no sense for Africans to reject democracy, one that is based on true equality, fair distribution of wealth, ample opportunities, freedom of expression and the press, and all the rest.
Resenting military interventions
In truth, many African nations — as demonstrated by the latest popular military takeovers — deeply resent the military interventions, economic exploitation, political meddling and a lingering sense of superiority.
Rarely do we hear such alternative views because we are not meant to. The political discourse emanating from West Africa, although largely inaccessible, speaks of a collective desire for a paradigm shift.
“It is necessary for this fight to go through arms, but also through our values, our behaviour, and the recovery of our economy”, said Ibrahim Traoré, the transitional President of Burkina Faso. In his speech, late last year, he declared that “the fight for total independence has begun.”
A similar sentiment was conveyed by Assimi Goita, President of the Transition in Mali when he spoke about the need to ‘regain’ the nation’s dignity in the context of ‘colonial domination’. The Western ‘experts’ should fundamentally reconsider their understanding of Africa.
They should also diversify their political lexicon, to include ‘dignity’, ‘values’, ‘liberation’ and ‘total independence,’ because, clearly, the language of ‘epidemic of coups’ and other self-serving, convenient phraseology has completely failed.