Gabon: How Ali Bongo dug his own grave — Quao, Mama Africa

When the government of Niger Republic fell into the hands of the military like Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, while the elite including African leaders and international organisations condemned the coup plotters, many people across Africa projected more coups to take place in other African countries.

A good number of people, though not necessarily celebrating coups, described the uprising as a revolution sweeping across Africa for her liberation.

People like former Permanent Representative to the African Union Mission in Washington DC, Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, a Zimbabwean, fondly called Mama Africa, said it was “an ideological realignment of economic, political and social values.” Although Gabon’s copyists reason for removing their president, Ali Bongo, is different from others, the fact remains that Africans seem ready to take their destiny against oppression and sit-tight Presidents. They have been enslaved even by their own people in collaboration with foreign powers.

So, it didn’t come as a surprise when military officers in Gabon told the world on Wednesday that they had taken power and put the president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, under house arrest. With this, Gabon becomes the latest in Africa to suffer a coup, only weeks after the military seized power in the Niger Republic. This makes the coup in Gabon the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020.

The military officers told their audience on state television that the reason they seized power was to overturn the results of their presidential election, thus, ousting Bongo whose family has held power for nearly 56 years. The officers who introduced themselves as members of the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions were quoted as saying, “Today the country is undergoing a severe institutional, political, economic, and social crisis. The 26 August election lacked transparency and credibility. In the name of the Gabonese people … “we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime.”

In a viral video obviously from house arrest, Bongo called on his people to “make noise” to support him but instead, the people stormed the streets in droves, singing their national anthem. They celebrated the coup against a dynasty they accused of enriching itself on the country’s natural resources while its citizens reel under hardship.

The coup plotters in Gabon appear to be selling to other African countries, the idea of ending institutional coups since the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS and the African Union, AU, have remained blind to how institutional coups have undermined Africa.

It is on record that many African Leaders have dubiously remained in office as though it is their birth right. Instances abound; Cameroonian President, Paul Biya was said to have been “fraudulently re-elected” in 2018 for a seventh term and has been in office as president for over three decades. Is he the only being capable of running the affairs of Cameroon?

Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni has reportedly “rigged” many elections and has been in power since 1986. Congo President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been in office as president for over 35 years, was also re-elected recently. And then, the newly ousted Ali Bongo of Gabon and his family have been in power for over 50 years.

This is reason Liberia President, George Weah reportedly said, “We cannot condemn military coups when we do not condemn those who carry out institutional coups.”

Also, Amb Quao stated earlier that ECOWAS and AU need to be reminded about other coups against Africa by her former colonialists. “The question I have for those sitting on the table during those AU Peace and Security meetings, what have you done about those coups against the African citizens in those countries?”

For turning a blind eye to institutional coups, AU and ECOWAS have been condemned seriously for fighting Niger. And Africans look battle-ready to condemn them if they venture to fight any other (West) African countries headed by coup plotters.

It’s high time ECOWAS and AU began addressing these institutional coups rather than waiting for a military takeover before attacking the coupists.

In any case, other African presidents who want to grab power by all means or remain in power forever should learn from what has happened in Gabon.

Recall that while on Arise TV programme, barely two weeks before the military took over in Gabon, Dr Quao had warned that “What’s happening now in Africa is a revolution.” She likened the coups to “a revolution similar to what saw the demise of the mighty Roman Empire and the fall of the mighty British Empire”, noting that “The end is here. This is just the beginning of the African revolution and it is not going to stop.” True to her words, Gabon’s military seized power during the week.

Recall also as earlier noted that she not only refused to see the uprising as coups but as an ideological realignment of economic, political and social values different from previous coups. “I see what’s happening in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea very differently.

If you look at the previous coups, those were orchestrated by Western powers; the majority of course orchestrated by France. They had their own intentions; a few are documented showing that the leaders were trying to do what was ultimately best for their people and those leaders were assassinated. The difference between these coups are coups being led by our people.

The people have spoken. The people truly understand the issues and are standing up to say what has been going on is unfair, and unacceptable.

This is a situation where people are basically desperate; where they know they are rich in natural resources and yet the majority of the people are extremely poor. I would like to call what is happening in these four countries as an ideological realignment of their economic, political social values,” she stated.

The Zimbabwean diplomat further noted that “The children of Africa are now awoken, they can see clearly and simply standing up and saying enough is enough. So yes, we don’t like coups but the last four coups are very different.” And many comfortably say that Dr Quao’s stance is right owing to the people’s reactions each time there’s a coup.

In those days, when there’s coup, civilians usually stayed indoors and in fear, but this time around, they storm the streets rejoicing. The celebration according to her, is because, “The citizens themselves are backing those who led the uprising and it is a warning to the Western powers that the African revolution has begun and those who will align themselves with the people will survive the revolution taking place in Africa.”

While commenting again on the uprising across Africa on Arise TV on Thursday, with particular reference to African leaders clinging to power permanently and building a dynasty as seen in Gabon, Dr Quao said, “That is exactly where president Bongo made a mistake. I disagree totally with that.

His family has run the country for 55 years; that’s unacceptable. Changing the constitution is unacceptable. So that blame should fall squarely on his lap. He dug his own grave, he should not have done it. It got embarrassing that one family, one dynasty could run the country for 55 years. Its wrong, its wrong, it’s wrong.”

Thousands of reactions have also trailed the Gabon coup across the media with many congratulating Gabonese and Africa for standing up for its rights.

With “Viva Gabon” being the trending response to the latest coup, Edward Roberts wrote, “Congratulations to the loving peoples of the great nation of Gabon, we are with you people in the liberation of your country.”

Reacting to Ali Bongo’s call to his people to “make noise”, Ngozi Onyebuchi wrote, enjoy your retirement sir. Congratulations Gabon.” A netizen also wrote “Now, you can see how helpless these thieves are without their military and police collaborators.” “kudos to Gabon Army. African leaders need to rethink seriously,” Auwal Dan wrote.

Hon Cosmos Okoye wrote, “Congratulations Gabon army. Future saved.” Kings Solomon wrote, “Happy Independence Gabon.”

Bello Akeem wrote, Hopefully, we experience this in our dear nation, congrats Gabon.” Akinbolade Akin Blessing wrote, “Congratulations to Nigeria in advance.”