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Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Gabon….the season of military coups

Hours after the Gabonese Election Center (GEC) announced him as President for a third term on August 30, 2023, a group comprising senior members of the military announced they had overthrown President Ali Bongo and taken over power.

The GEC announced Ali Bongo won the vote with 64.27% while his main opponent, Albert Ondo Ossa, trailed with 30.77% of the votes.

The Bongo family have been ruling Gabon for 56 years now.

The military are reported to have taken over Libreville, Gabon’s capital, and gunfire could be heard on the streets.

Tension was reported out of the nation amid uproar over the lack of international election observers, suspension of some foreign media from covering the election, delays in carrying out the election, instituting of a nationwide curfew and the shutting down of internet services during the electoral process.

The Gabon military officers said they were taking over power and voided all election results from the presidency down to Parliament; and proceeded to shut down the country’s borders.

“In the name of the Gabonese people, we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime. To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled. All the institutions of the republic are dissolved: the government, the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court- until further notice,” said the military officers mere during a live broadcast hours after the results were announced.

Gabon joins a handful of other west African nations in which presidents have been overthrown in military coups within the last three years.

In August 2020, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 78, was overthrown as the president of Mali. He dissolved Parliament and then resigned after coup leaders held detained him at gunpoint. The coup came in the wake of inter-ethnic violence in which thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands more fled their homes.

In 2021, the presidents of Chad and Guinea were also overthrown in military coups. President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad- who was also a military officer- was killed in the frontline as they fought against the offensive, a section of rebel military officers. With the help of France, Chad’s larger military was able to defeat the rebels who are believed to have fought due to ethnic issues with the president and his government. The late Itno was the longest serving president until his death and his son succeeded him.

On September 5, 2021, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde was overthrown when the military and placed under house arrest. The Guinea military cited rampant corruption, disregard for human rights and economic mismanagement under President Conde as their reason for ceasing power.

In 2022, Burkina Faso witnessed two presidential coups within a span of eight months. First, In January President Roch Kabore was overthrown in a military coup and his government and Parliament were dissolved. They also shut down the country’s borders. They cited increased insecurity and Kabore’s failure to unite the nation as some of their reasons for violently taking over.

Military leader Paul Henri Damiba was installed as the country’s leader after the coup, only to be overthrown months later. He was accused of being unable to deal with the worsening uprisings in the country and army Captain Ibrahim Traore took over.

On July 26, 2023, Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum was also overthrown by a military coup. The military, as revealed by Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, cited continued deterioration of the country’s security, bad social and economic management as some of their reasons for carrying out the coup. They shut down the borders and instilled a national curfew.

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