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Treason in Gabon, Political Crisis in a Number of African Countries

LIBREVILLE — The democratic government of Gabon was overthrown in a coup led by the police and military. The coup plotters said they wanted to abolish all republic institutions in the country. This is the third coup in Africa in the last six months.

A coup took place on Wednesday (30/8/2023) in the capital city of Libreville just a few minutes after the announcement of the presidential election results. Incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba (64) was declared the winner with 64.27 percent of the vote, soundly defeating his opponent, academic Albert Ondo Ossa.

Afterwards, the sound of gunfire was heard and a force consisting of gendarme (police) and military personnel occupied the election commission office. Ondimba himself is not known to be present and has not released a statement on this incident.

“This election is not transparent, cannot be relied upon, and is not inclusive. Meanwhile, the country is currently experiencing a crisis in social, economic, political, and institutional aspects,” said a spokesperson for the Gabonese junta.

The Gabon elections have garnered international criticism as they always result in riots and violence that have claimed lives.

Ondimba has been the president since 2009. This election marks his third term in office. Prior to 2009, Gabon was ruled for 41 years by Omar Bongo Ondimba, Ali’s late father. This means the Ondimba family has dominated Gabon for 55 years.

In 2019, when Ondimba was undergoing post-stroke treatment in Morocco, the military also launched a coup. However, Ondimba’s supporters managed to put it down and he regained power.

“I am very happy. I have been hoping for this day to come for a long time and it has finally happened,” said Yollande Okomo, one of the residents of Libreville who took to the streets to celebrate the coup. According to the residents, they are fed up with the corrupt and impoverishing rule of the Ondimba clan.”

Gabon is a country with a population of 2 million people and is also a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Its production capacity is 181,000 barrels per day, ranking it eighth in the organization. However, 40 percent of its youthful population is unemployed.

Coup pattern

Coup in Gabon marks the third in six months on the African continent. Previously, coups occurred in Sudan and Niger. Since 2020, out of a total of 55 countries and sovereign territories in Africa, those controlled by the military junta are Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sudan, Niger, and now Gabon.

The African Union in May 2019 issued a statement that the risk of a coup is very high when a country does not have good governance and governance.

This is in line with the findings of two United States (US) academics, namely Jonathan Powell from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Clayton Thyne from the University of Kentucky. Their research was published in 2011 with the title Arrested Dictatorship and continues to monitor the development of global coups to this day.

According to Powell and Thyne cited by VOA News, there have been 486 attempted coups worldwide since 1950, both successful and unsuccessful. In Africa, out of 214 coup attempts, 106 were successful. The pattern of coups generally occurs in poor countries and those experiencing security crises.

According to the World Bank in 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso was less than 20 million US dollars, while Sudan’s GDP was only 21 million US dollars.

These countries generally also face security crises in the form of extremist and terrorist groups. Mali, for example, is facing the terrorist group Boko Haram. Niger is facing extremist groups. In fact, troops from France and the US have been stationed in the country for a long time to assist local military forces in fighting extremists.

To the BBC, Leonard Mbulle-Nziege, an expert for Africa Risk Consulting, explained that for the people, military coups appear as a just queen who overthrows corrupt governments. In reality, junta power actually plunges the country further into poverty. This is because the economy is hampered by the junta’s efforts to maintain power by suppressing human rights.

“A corrupt democratic government may be flawed, but data has shown that these countries have a higher GDP compared to those ruled by a junta,” he said.

This pressure is what drives people to decide to leave the country and migrate, resulting in a migrant and refugee crisis in developed countries.

Laraswati Ariadne Anwar for Kompas

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