The acceleration of the trend of coups seems unbelievable: African fake democracies are turning one after the other. Who’s next? Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, or Togo?
After Niger, Gabon bites the dust. The military placed Ali Bongo under house arrest, negating his election victory with 64% of the votes- an outcome that emerged despite a strong opposition, and after three days of internet access being shut off.
In proactive measures after Gabon, President Biya of Cameroon, who came to power through a coup in 1982 and whose initial period was marked by human rights violations, hastily reshuffled his Ministry of Defence. In Rwanda, incumbent Kagame, elected in 2000 and legally allowed to stay in power until 2034, also retired 83 of his senior personnel from the Defence Force and promoted others.
Senegal and Ivory Coast are also under pressure.
In Ivory Coast’s 2020 elections, President Outtara was re-elected with 95% of the votes amidst a clampdown on the opposition and after overturning his decision to step down from power. With growing instability across the region, its manipulation of democratic process could come under scrutiny and lead to a disturbance.
In Senegal, incumbent President Sall also announced his decision to step down in 2024 but reflecting on Outtara’s repeal, pessimism persists. Opposing him is Ousmane Sonko, an influential character amongst the country’s youth, who has been jailed for two years on the charge of corruption of a minor and inciting insurrection, subsequently barred from the next Presidential race. In the wake of the opposition party being dissolved, disruptive action inspired from Gabon would not be unexpected.
Coups worsen the cause of democratic stability. Across the coups through the years, perpetrators have succumbed to the thirst for power and the cycle of undermining democracy continues. Why Gabon’s fate should be any different is up for debate, even as people celebrate Bongo’s removal.
ECOWAS has condemned the recent coups, but given the opposition that their governments face domestically, intervention in Niger could call to question their own legitimacy. The African Union was also quick to suspend Gabon, insisting on the removal of the military, and either re-instating Bongo or the opposition.
The episodes have brought President Macron’s foreign policy into question. Despite sturdy relations with Gabon, France never safeguarded its democracy or ensured political fairplay. Niger, too, seems to have cut ties with the French, instructing the Ambassador, consulates, businesses, and troops to be expelled from the country.
As the biggest destination for French exports, Gabon has the potential to dismantle its business interests in Africa, with stocks of companies Orano and Eramet slumping.
With the fall of another French-African ally, the door widens for the likes of China, Russia, and America, and regional middle powers like Morocco, Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkiye to further their alliances and reach for resources in Africa.