As of August 30th, 2023, the Gabonese capital of Libreville is currently witnessing the latest in a series of coup d’états that have roiled the African continent in recent times. This incident, in which a group of military personnel declared the nullification of the results of the presidential election and the dissolution of institutions, is the most recent addition to a list of such events that have unfolded across various African nations over the past three years.
2020 and 2021: Turmoil in Mali
On August 18th, 2020, a military junta led by Colonel Assimi Goïta successfully ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. This marked the beginning of a transformative period in Mali’s political landscape. The junta established the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) and pledged to hold elections within a three-year timeframe. Amid these changes, former Defense Minister Bah N’Daw was appointed as the transitional president, with Assimi Goïta assuming the role of vice president.
The year 2021 witnessed another coup within the coup. On May 24th, the Malian army arrested President Bah N’Daw, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, and Defense Minister Souleymane Doucouré. This series of events led to the resignation of Bah N’Daw and Moctar Ouane, with Assimi Goïta ultimately ascending to the presidency during the transition period. This transition, marked by negotiations and regional pressure, eventually paved the way for the scheduling of a presidential election, intended to restore constitutional order, for February 2024.
The evolution of this situation has seen calls for the withdrawal of foreign military presence, including French forces (Barkhane) and the multinational European force known as Takuba, both of which have been involved in Mali’s security efforts. Notably, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is also set to depart the nation by the year’s end. Concurrently, the controversial presence of Russian paramilitary group Wagner’s operatives has drawn attention to alleged human rights abuses, despite official denials.
2021: Guinea’s Swift Shift
On September 5, 2021, the Guinean capital of Conakry was gripped by the sound of heavy gunfire. The Groupement des Forces spéciales, a unit within the Guinean army, stormed the presidential palace, capturing President Alpha Condé and subsequently removing him from office. Condé’s presidency, marred by constitutional amendments enabling his controversial third term, came to an abrupt end. While detained, Condé resisted resigning, leading to a complex political atmosphere.
2022: Burkina Faso’s Dual Upheaval
The year 2022 proved tumultuous for Burkina Faso, marked by two coup d’états within a year. The initial coup began with a soldiers’ mutiny on the night of January 23-24 in Ouagadougou and other cities across the nation. President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who had been democratically re-elected for a second term in November 2020, was ousted by the military due to perceived inadequacies in combating jihadist threats.
These events resulted in the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba as the president of the transitional period for three years. However, his tenure proved short-lived. In the subsequent coup on September 30, Captain Ibrahim Traoré led a group of disgruntled soldiers in removing Damiba from power, citing the transitional government’s inability to effectively address jihadist insurgency.
Gabon’s Recent Turmoil
The latest coup, occurring on August 30, 2023, saw a group of military personnel seize control moments after the official announcement of President Ali Bongo’s victory in the general elections. The soldiers declared the election null and void, along with the dissolution of state institutions. President Ali Bongo Ondimba is presently under house arrest, alongside his family and medical team. Notably, one of his sons has been apprehended.
This disturbing trend of coups on the African continent reflects the complexities of governance, security, and socio-political dynamics that persist across the region. The unfolding events serve as a reminder of the challenges faced by African nations as they navigate their paths toward stability, democracy, and progress.