Military officers in Gabon on Wednesday overthrew and arrested the country’s president, whose family ruled since 1967. It is the fourth coup in a former French African colony in the past three years as pressure mounts on Paris.
Wild celebrations have broken out on the streets of Gabon’s cities on Wednesday after a military junta announced on television that it had put President Ali Bongo Ondimba under house arrest and had seized power.
The Bongo family had ruled the former French colony since 1967. Ali Bongo was the wealthiest man in Gabon with an estimated $1 billion in assets. The coup took place just after the country’s electoral commission declared that he won a third term.
It is the fifth coup in a West African country once ruled directly by France since August 2020, when Mali fell to military leaders. This was followed by military coups in Burkina Faso in September 2022, in Guinea in September 2021, in Niger last month and in Gabon on Wednesday.
The pressure is growing on Paris as the coups are directed against France’s continuing Neo-colonial rule in West Africa. The push to get France out is being buoyed by a growing confidence of developing countries in the emergence of a multilateral world amid the accelerating death of U.S. unilateralism and the remnants of colonialism.
The African Union and France, which has 350 troops in the country, have condemned the coup. It isn’t clear yet whether these troops will be asked to leave by the new rulers.
The coup government in Mali ordered French troops out of its country by March 18, 2022. France completed its withdrawal on Aug. 15, 2022. On Jan. 26 this year, France agreed to withdraw its forces from Burkina Faso after a request from the government that had seized power there.
In Niger, a similar demand has been made by the junta that took power last month, but French President Emmanuel Macron is so far playing hardball, refusing to move out his forces and supporting a potential military intervention by ECOWAS to restore Niger’s restored leader.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe