THE GABON COUP: African Democracy under Scrutiny

by Jude Obuseh

The recent military coup in Gabon has ignited a firestorm of debates across the international community, exposing fault lines and raising questions about the nature of power dynamics in Africa. While some leaders around the world have expressed angst at the coup, it’s the response from within the African continent that has drawn significant attention.

Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who also holds the position of Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), took a hard stance against the escalating coup trend. He referred to it as a “contagion of autocracy,” indicating the growing concern over the spread of such undemocratic upheavals. Other ECOWAS leaders, as well as their allies, have expressed their displeasure at the unfolding scenario in Gabon.

The Gabon coup was abrupt, rearing its head shortly after an election body declared President Ali Bongo’s third term win. The coup has marked the end of the Bongo family’s nearly six-decade-long grip on power and further complicated matters in an already tumultuous region that has witnessed no fewer than eight coups since 2020.

There seems to be a sense of urgency in addressing the deeper implications that underlie these political upheavals, as African leaders scramble to articulate a collective position on the Gabon coup. President Tinubu’s call to action, along with condemnations from organizations like the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, underscores the gravity of the situation.

However, amid the chorus of criticism aimed at coups, it’s worth examining whether there are any grounds that could potentially justify the rise of such events in Africa. While coups are undeniably undemocratic, a deeper dive reveals a complex interplay of motivations behind some of these incidents. It is crucial to note that this is not a defense of coups, but rather a nuanced exploration of the discontent that fuels them.

Many African leaders who vigorously oppose coups have themselves come to power through dubious means. This glaring hypocrisy cannot be ignored. What we see today is an attempt by some leaders to deflect attention from their own misdeeds and potential vulnerabilities. This may stem from the fear of retribution for their actions, but history has shown that fate is not easily manipulated.

While not advocating for coups, it is important to recognize that the context of the Gabon coup was distinct. It was not a challenge to a democratically elected government, but rather a response to entrenched politicians who prioritize self-interest over the welfare of their nations. This coup targeted individuals who have systematically undermined democratic principles and exploited their positions for personal gain.

The Gabon coup can be seen as a manifestation of frustration against political manipulation, election rigging, and economic exploitation that has been a scourge across the continent. The sentiment resonates with citizens who have long suffered due to the actions of power-hungry elites.

The current wave of coups should serve as a wake-up call for African leaders. It’s an opportunity for them to reflect on their approaches to power, governance, and accountability. The winds of change are blowing, and leaders who resist reform might find themselves swept away by the currents of transformation that are already shaping the African political landscape.

In the end, the force of truth cannot be stifled forever. It has an undeniable momentum that, once ignited, cannot be extinguished. This force will continue to build until it dismantles the false narratives and dismantles the structures that support them, ultimately paving the way for a more just and accountable political order in Africa.

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