With just ten days of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) government in Gabon, it is already possible to draw several conclusions about the military coup of August 30th.
The first and most evident conclusion is that the situation in Africa is a powder keg, meaning that a spark anywhere can lead to turmoil across the continent. This became clear in the immediate aftermath of the coup with statements from Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who said that if the coup were confirmed, it would “increase instability throughout the region.” And he was right.
On the same day, the President of Cameroon reorganized the armed forces, fearing that the same could happen in his country. Shortly thereafter, Rwanda and Uganda did the same. More recently, the President of Guinea-Bissau made changes to his personal guard.
There is no doubt, therefore, that the coup in Gabon stimulated nationalist sectors in African countries to rebel. It is noteworthy that these precautionary measures went beyond Francophone Africa.
The second conclusion, which helps explain the first, is that African governments are despised dictatorships that only remain in power because of imperialist support. Ali Bongo, the ousted president of Gabon, had fallen into disgrace. Not a single voice came to his defense in Gabon. More than 4.1 billion reais in cash were found in the homes of government members, such was the level of corruption.
The third conclusion is that there is nothing even remotely resembling “democracy” in Africa. Not even the most basic element, which would be holding elections, can be taken seriously. The elections organized by Ali Bongo were all blatantly rigged. In one of the most grotesque cases, the ousted president admitted to losing in seven of the nine provinces but claimed victory in the end because he alleged to have received over 93% of the votes in the two provinces, which in turn had a 98% turnout.
All of this, of course, happened because the electoral system was controlled by the Bongo family themselves. The president of the Constitutional Court, which oversaw the elections, was none other than the mistress of Omar Bongo, Ali Bongo’s father and the longest-serving president of the country.
Opposing military coups in Africa in the name of defending “democracy” is therefore ridiculous.
The fourth important conclusion is that there is no need for a strong anti-French sentiment for military coups to have a nationalist and anti-French content. The coups stem from widespread dissatisfaction with the regimes. However, the rot in these regimes comes precisely from corruption by France. There is no money in Gabon to build roads simply because at one point, 57% of the country’s oil revenue went to France, 25% stayed in the country, and 18% went directly to the Bongo family’s coffers.
Even if the population does not express hostility toward France in the demonstrations supporting the coup, as is the case in Niger, Gabon’s demands can only be met if there is some form of confrontation with French domination. The transitional president, Brice Oligui Nguema, has committed to developing the country, bringing back political exiles, and resuming assistance programs such as student scholarships. One day after taking office, he ordered the release of political prisoners from the regime, including an important union leader. This policy cannot be carried forward if French plunder continues at the same intensity.
Even if the new government and France reach an agreement, the agreement will be worse for France because it will be less favorable than what it had under Ali Bongo’s government. Not only will this weaken the European country economically, but it will also be seen as a sign of weakness.
The fifth conclusion is that one cannot underestimate the popular pressure behind recent military coups. Despite nationalist sectors coming to power through a conspiracy, they are not only supported by the masses but are effectively pushed by them. The inaugural speech by Brice Oligui Nguema was quite enlightening in this regard: “The Gabonese people simply asked for their rights to be guaranteed through institutions. The defense and security forces had only two options: to kill Gabonese people who were legitimately protesting or to put an end to a rigged electoral process.” In other words, if the armed forces did not intervene, it was likely that the masses would have.
Finally, the last important conclusion is that the fuel for all these coups is the demonstrations of weakness by imperialism. Governments like Ali Bongo’s, which still have several counterparts, such as Paul Biya in Cameroon, only remain in power by force. However, when imperialism appears weak, these governments can simply fall overnight.
After being arrested, the all-powerful Ali Bongo, who used to send his opponents to jail, appeared in a video pleading for his “friends” to help him. Nobody helped. Ali Bongo’s message only reinforced the delicate situation of imperialism. Paul Biya and the other imperialist lackeys in Africa are now warned that their “partners” – actually, their bosses – will not save them when the people lose patience.