Early on Wednesday, a group of Gabonese military officers announced a takeover of power and an annulment of the results of Saturday’s election, which they claim lacked credibility.
The announcement came shortly after the state election body said President Ali Bongo Ondimba had won a third term in office in the disputed elections.
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The son of former president Omar Bongo who ruled Gabon from 1967-2009, Ali Bongo has ruled the country since 2009.
This continued control for decades has led to a “deep resentment” of “dynastic-style politics” in West and Central Africa, said Tara O’Connor, director of Africa Risk Consulting.
“This military intervention should really be seen in the context of perhaps the military intervention in the neighbouring Francophone countries, Mali, Burkina Faso and most recently Niger,” she said.
If successful, Gabon’s coup will be the second coup in Africa this year.
In July 2023, members of Niger’s presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum inside his palace and appeared on national television saying they were seizing power to end the “deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.
How many coups have there been in Africa?
Out of the 486 attempted or successful military coups carried globally since 1950, Africa accounts for the largest number with 214, of which at least 106 have been successful.
Based on data compiled by American researchers Jonathan M Powell and Clayton L Thyne, at least 45 of the 54 nations across the African continent have experienced at least a single coup attempt since 1950.
Successful coups in recent years
Niger: On July 26, 2023, Niger’s Bazoum was overthrown by the military.
Burkina Faso: In January 2022, Burkina Faso’s army removed President Roch Kabore, blaming him for failing to contain violence by Islamist militants. In September of that year, there was a second coup by army Captain Ibrahim Traoré who forcibly deposed Paul Henri-Damiba.
Guinea: In September 2021, special forces commander Colonel Mamady Doumbouya overthrew President Alpha Conde. A year earlier, Conde had changed the constitution to circumvent limits that would have prevented him from standing for a third term, triggering widespread rioting.
Chad: In April 2021, Chad’s army took power after President Idriss Deby was killed on the battlefield while visiting troops fighting rebels in the north.
Mali: In August 2020, a group of Malian colonels removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The coup followed anti-government protests over deteriorating security, contested legislative elections and allegations of corruption. Nine months later, a countercoup happened, with Assimi Goita, who was named vice president after the first one, leading the second and becoming head of state.
Sudan: In October 2021, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan led a military takeover in Khartoum, dissolving a ruling council in which the army and civilians had shared power and throwing the country’s democratic transition into turmoil.