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Gabon: Africa’s political circus, power, family coup


A midweek drama ensued in the Western African country of Gabon, when a military coup ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba hours after winning a third-term re-election.

This coup, coming weeks after Mohamed Bazoum was ousted in a similar fashion in Niger Republic, comes with a twist of scenery worthy of a sitcom collide.

Bongo, who had been in power since 2009 after taking over from his father Omar Bongo, Gabon’s former president (1967 until his death in 2009) was ousted in a coup spearheaded by his cousin General Brice Oligui Nguema.

Nguema took the whole “family first” thing into riveting political theater, albeit without the popcorn and drinks.

Ali Bongo Ondimba served as Gabon’s president for 14 solid years, That’s almost as long as the lifespan of a snowflake in Gabon, but his cousin Nguema – the commander-in-chief of the Gabonese Republican Guard – the country’s most powerful security unit – decided it was time to end the Bongo reign after the opposition described the election as a ‘fraud orchestrated’ by the ruling party.

The Bongo family has ruled Gabon for about half a century, which is longer than most of us can keep a houseplant alive.

Nguema, who was sent to Morocco and Senegal for diplomatic missions when Aki took power in 2009, took over as the head of the guard a decade later and according to local media reports, Nguema also composed a song that included the line: “I would defend my president with honour and loyalty.”

However, Gabon isn’t the only place on this comedy tour. Over in Togo, they had their own special brand of family tradition.

Gnassingbé Eyadéma ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly four decades. When he finally decided to take a permanent vacation from politics, his son, Faure Gnassingbé, conveniently stepped into the presidential shoes. Talk about keeping it all in the family.

The African military coup series, which many thought to be a thing of the past is sadly resurfacing as the latest trend in the world of power grabs.

Move over, fashion week in Paris, it’s coup season in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger Republic! Who needs designer clothes when you can have a military uniform, right?

According to Reuters, the Gabonese coup will be the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020. The latest one, in Niger Republic, was in July.

Military officers have also seized power in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Chad, erasing democratic gains since the 1990s.