Africa’s History of Coups: A Look at Gabon’s Latest Power Grab

Africa’s History of Coups: A Look at Gabon’s Latest Power Grab

In the early hours of Wednesday, a group of military officers in Gabon seized power, declaring the nullification of Saturday’s election results, citing concerns about its credibility.

This announcement came shortly after the state election body declared President Ali Bongo Ondimba the winner of a disputed third term in office. Ali Bongo, the son of former President Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon from 1967 to 2009, has been in control since 2009, contributing to growing resentment toward dynastic-style politics in West and Central Africa, according to Tara O’Connor, director of Africa Risk Consulting.

“This military intervention should be viewed in the context of similar interventions in neighboring Francophone countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and most recently Niger,” she stated.

If successful, this coup in Gabon would mark the second coup in Africa this year. In July 2023, members of Niger’s presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum in his palace, announcing on national television that they were taking power to address the deteriorating security situation and governance issues.

How Many Coups Have Occurred in Africa?

Since 1950, there have been 486 attempted or successful military coups worldwide, with Africa accounting for the highest number at 214, of which at least 106 have succeeded. American researchers Jonathan M. Powell and Clayton L. Thyne have compiled data indicating that at least 45 out of the 54 UN-member nations in Africa have experienced at least one coup attempt since 1950.

Recent Successful Coups in Africa:

Niger: On July 26, 2023, Niger’s President Bazoum was overthrown by the military.

Burkina Faso: In January 2022, Burkina Faso’s army removed President Roch Kabore, citing his failure to contain violence by Islamist militants. In September of the same year, army Captain Ibrahim Traoré carried out a second coup, forcibly deposing Paul Henri-Damiba.

Guinea: In September 2021, special forces commander Colonel Mamady Doumbouya overthrew President Alpha Conde. A year earlier, Conde had amended the constitution to circumvent term limits, sparking widespread protests.

Chad: In April 2021, Chad’s army assumed power after President Idriss Deby was killed while visiting troops in the north during a battle against rebels.

Mali: In August 2020, a group of Malian colonels removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita following anti-government protests, deteriorating security, contested legislative elections, and corruption allegations. Nine months later, a countercoup took place, with Assimi Goita, named vice president after the first coup, leading the second and becoming head of state.

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