BY GBS REPORTER, Dennis Mugweru Munyi,1 September 2023
Gabon is the latest African country to have undergone a coup d’état shortly after President Ali Bongo Ondimba was re-elected for a third term on August 30. This is the eighth coup in former French colonies in Africa in the past three years.
In what seems to be a mushrooming effect across the African continent, countries have been experiencing unrest due to military coup d’états since 2020.
As of August 30, 2023, a total of 6 countries have experienced coups by military and Gabon is the latest and the seventh.
The five nations include Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Sudan and Niger.
The coups have unfolded within the context of a wider struggle between the West and Russia for influence in Africa, where experts say a rising tide of anger in former French colonies has left the door open for the Russian government to take advantage.
Here are detailed highlights of the timelines starting from the most recent one.
A group of senior Gabonese military officers appeared on national television in the early hours of Wednesday, August, 30, and said they had taken over power after the state election body announced 64-year-old President Ali Bongo had won a third term.
The officers said they represented all security and defence forces in the Central African nation, adding that the election results were cancelled.
They then announced that all borders would remain closed until further notice and state institutions dissolved.
A lack of international observers, the suspension of some foreign broadcasts, the disabling of internet services and imposing a night-time curfew nationwide after the poll had raised concerns about the transparency of the electoral process.
– Niger –
On July 26, 2023, the military announced that they had overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum. General Abdourahamane Tiani became the new strongman of the country. In its fifth military coup since the country gained independence from France in 1960, Niger’s presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and presidential guard commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani proclaimed himself the leader of a new military.
On August 26, Nigerien Foreign Ministry gave the French ambassador in Niamey a 48-hour timeline to leave the country.
The coup was widely condemned by the United States of America and the country’s former colonialist France, as well as by the West African regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who threatened military intervention against the army.
Analysts cite the rising cost of living and perceptions of government incompetence, as well as Bazoum’s plans to replace the head of the presidential guard, General Abdourahmane Tchiani as possible triggers for the coup.
Niger has been a security partner of France and the US, which have used it as a base to fight an Islamist insurgency in West and Central Africa’s wider Sahel region.
The coup, amongst many other effects, poses a threat to Europe’s dependency on uranium mining for its nuclear power plants.
France’s nuclear fuel firm, operates a uranium mine in the north of the country with Niger only accounting for a small percentage of the mineral’s global production.
The coup has attracted condemnation across the globe including President William Ruto who has called for calm in the nation. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced on August 10 its intention to deploy a regional force to “restore constitutional order”, while continuing to favor the diplomatic route.
The military proposed a transition period of “three years” maximum before returning power to civilians.
– Burkina Faso: two in 8 months –
On January 24, 2022, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was ousted from power by the military, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was inaugurated president in February. On January 23, 2022, the nation’s military base was seized by officers under military officer Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba’s command. In the same premise, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was reported to have been detained and the military announced on television that Kaboré had been deposed as president.
What followed after was the dissolution of Parliament, government and Constitution under the military’s command.
Military captain Sidsoré Kader Ouedraogo said in a statement that Kaboré’s rule was being put to an end because of the deteriorating security situation amid the deepening Islamic insurgency yet the crisis was not being managed.
He added that the new military leaders would work to establish a calendar “acceptable to everyone” for holding new elections.
Damiba’s rule was however short-lived as he only served as interim president from January 31 to September 30 when he also failed to tame the Islamist insurgency and Ibrahim Traore took over becoming the world’s youngest ruling president at 34.
Still fighting at the frontlines against the Islamists, Traore has insisted he would not be in charge for long as a national conference will appoint a new interim ruler by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Russia has expressed support for the coup just as regional neighbor’s and Western powers condemned it and has put a further strain on relations with former colonial power France,
– Sudan –
On October 25, 2021, soldiers led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane chased out the transitional civilian leaders, who were supposed to lead the country towards democracy after 30 years of dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, himself deposed in 2019. Al-Burhan was the nation’s leader since the military takeover in 2019 during the Sudanese Revolution when President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown, and the military took over.
– Guinea –
On September 5, 2021, President Alpha Condé was overthrown by a military coup. On October 1, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya became president. In a similar fashion to other nations, the Guinean armed forces abducted 83-year-old President Alpha Condé in September 2021 and special forces commander Mamady Doumbouya released a broadcast announcing the dissolution of the constitution and government.
However, being a transformative leader and the country’s first democratically elected leader, President Condé changed the constitution by referendum to allow himself to secure a third term which sparked protests but still ruled for a third term.
During the term, however, Guinea announced tax hikes, slashed spending on the police and the military, and increased funding for the office of the President and National Assembly which put the country on the edge prompting the military takeover. The military has promised to return the place to elected civilians by the end of 2024.
The proposal is likely to upset West Africa’s political bloc that has called for a swift return to constitutional order.
– Mali: two coups in 9 months –
On August 18, 2020, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown by the military, a transitional government was formed in October. In their first coup, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was removed from power by a group of military officers which was followed by months of unrest over irregularities in the March and April parliamentary elections and outrage against the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cissé.
President Keïta and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé were arrested and later announced his resignation saying he did not want the country to suffer any bloodshed.
The 2021 coup began when the Malian Army led by Vice President Assimi Goïta captured President Bah N’daw, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and Minister of Defence Souleymane Doucouré.
Goïta, the head of the army that led the 2020 Malian coup d’état, announced that N’daw and Ouane were stripped of their powers and that new elections would be held in 2022.
The military takeover was the country’s third coup in 10 years.
So far Mali has been suspended by ECOWAS and the African Union (AU). France has also suspended joint operations with the Malian military, as well as national advisory missions.
Goita still remains the interim president.
The military has committed to return power to the civilians after the elections scheduled for February 2024.
On April 20, 2021, Chadian President Idriss Déby was killed by the Northern Chad offensive, a military rebel group initiated by the Chadian rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), putting an end to his 30-year rule.
Idriss Déby had also taken over the reins of power through a coup in 1990.
His son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, then a young 37-year-old general, became acting President as a special presidential election was expected in 2022.
Itno then promised to hand power to civilians through “free and democratic elections” but reneged on his words in October and his rule was extended for two years.
Meanwhile, clashes are still ongoing in the northern region of the nation as FACT is believed to be under the protection of Libyan military commander and politician Khalifa Haftar.
Even as all these coups are being witnessed in the African countries many questions remain unanswered. But one thing remains common about all these countries, the presence of mineral resources.
The rich Uranium deposits in Niger for example plays a crucial role in the production of nuclear weapons. Gold another valuable mineral mined in regions such as Mali and Burkina Faso contributed significantly to France economic prosperity during the colonial period. It is also interesting that upon successfully acquiring power through these military coups, Russia comes to the aid even when the whole world is against. Russia for example invaded Ukraine despite the whole world being against it same as that the way this west African countries are overthrowing legitimately elected governments through coups. The big questions remain, who is funding these coups? Who is instigating these coups? What’s the role of Russia and French in this? How far has colonialism impacted its African countries? What’s the significance of mineral resources in all these countries.
The 7 th coup in Africa a sign of the waning French influence in Africa as the rulers associated with France in former French colonies are replaced probably with the support of China / Russia This power shift in Africa a growing future market is highly interesting