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Gabon coup: politics with weapons in hand

The armed coups now being observed throughout Africa have nothing to do with democracy – only internal politics and opportunism, according to Sky News.

Chad, Sudan, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger… Now Gabon joins the list of rebel countries. Shots were fired in Libreville just after President Ali Bongo, who has been in power for 14 years, announced his successful re-election on Wednesday morning.

Less than a few hours later, the military appeared on state television and, condemning the disputed elections, announced the dissolution of the government. Then the former ruler was shown on TV. Pictured against the backdrop of an opulent domestic interior, he appealed to citizens and called for global intervention.

The Bongo family has ruled Gabon since 1967. The deposed leader was the third president since the country gained independence from France in 1960. Before him, his father, Omar Bongo, was in power. He served as president for 42 years until his death in 2009.

Then came the 2009 elections. Power passed from father to son, and the process itself was full of controversy and accusations of fraud. The 2016 elections raised many doubts, too.

The third victory in a row in the elections ended in a coup. When the insurgent military lifted the Internet shutdown, videos of young people celebrating on the streets of Libreville immediately surfaced online. According to the videos shown, the residents are relieved and happy; they are finally freed from the rule of the Bongo family.

A woman, a resident of Libreville who chose to remain anonymous for her own safety, said that people felt free from years of living with the Bongos when one could see how the rich became richer and the poor were getting poorer.

“Even if you go around Libreville, there are so many people without electricity and water. People are really fed up with the situation and would try to protest, just to say they need water, and the military would stop them right away.”

Now the same military men call themselves fighters for people’s freedom. They are headed by none other than Bongo’s cousin, the head of the Republican Guard of the President of Gabon, Brice Nguema, a man accused of the same articles: corruption and money laundering.

The coups taking place across Africa are about a power struggle between the civilian elite and the military elite amid public discontent and growing poverty.

So it was in Chad; so it happened in Niger recently; so supporters of Omar al-Bashir came to power in Sudan. People’s power is different from military coups; the scenery is different, but the essence remains the same.


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