The botched coup in Gabon – The Sun

We congratulate the people and government of the Republic of Gabon for the prompt foiling of the attempt by a small military clique to overthrow their elected constitutional government. The attempt led by a lieutenant who claimed to be the deputy commander of the Republican Guard was stopped in a matter of hours as security guards stormed the nation’s radio building and killed two of the putschists and arrested three others.

The protracted absence from home of President Ali Bongo was tempting. The president was convalescing in a hospital in Morocco after he had suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia.

The officer who announced the seizure of power said the coup was being executed for the “restoration of democracy.” He also introduced himself as the president of the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Forces of the Defence and Security of Gabon – a claim which seems a clue to the existence of some schism in the Gabonese Armed Forces between the young officers and the top brass.

Condemnation and protests against the coup attempt came fast and wide ranging from the African Union to President Muhamadu Buhari who reminded ambitious military officers to quit military service and go into politics. The clear signal from all directions was that any attempt at a violent overthrow of an elected government would not get any support. The attempt itself would have made for a good comic play were the issues not dead serious. The history of Africa is very explicit about these events. Violent military overthrow of African governments never goes well and never ends well. It invariably leads to military dictatorship and to absolute power which unfailingly yields to corruption, oppression and tyranny.

We do not understand the logic of the young officers except their feeling that there is a power vacuum in addition to their having an ax to grind with their superior officers. Their radio appeal to the populace to join their cause seemed to have fa

We congratulate the people and government of the Republic of Gabon for the prompt foiling of the attempt by a small military clique to overthrow their elected constitutional government. The attempt led by a lieutenant who claimed to be the deputy commander of the Republican Guard was stopped in a matter of hours as security guards stormed the nation’s radio building and killed two of the putschists and arrested three others.

The protracted absence from home of President Ali Bongo was tempting. The president was convalescing in a hospital in Morocco after he had suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia.

The officer who announced the seizure of power said the coup was being executed for the “restoration of democracy.” He also introduced himself as the president of the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Forces of the Defence and Security of Gabon – a claim which seems a clue to the existence of some schism in the Gabonese Armed Forces between the young officers and the top brass.

Condemnation and protests against the coup attempt came fast and wide ranging from the African Union to President Muhamadu Buhari who reminded ambitious military officers to quit military service and go into politics. The clear signal from all directions was that any attempt at a violent overthrow of an elected government would not get any support. The attempt itself would have made for a good comic play were the issues not dead serious. The history of Africa is very explicit about these events. Violent military overthrow of African governments never goes well and never ends well. It invariably leads to military dictatorship and to absolute power which unfailingly yields to corruption, oppression and tyranny.

We do not understand the logic of the young officers except their feeling that there is a power vacuum in addition to their having an ax to grind with their superior officers. Their radio appeal to the populace to join their cause seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as no spontaneous grassroots support actually materialised.

In any African country, any day, enough cause for discontent can always be found. In the case of Gabon, one-third of the population lives below the poverty line in a small country with a population of two million. Yet it is a country awash with petrodollars. That level of poverty and the stark contrast between the rich and the poor is a testimony to either poor economic management or “kleptocratic regime” or both of which the Bongo administration has been accused, now and then. Even so, no precedent exists where military rulers reversed the economic fortunes of a beleaguered African economy. On the contrary, our experience has shown that the new rulers tend to descend like locusts, eating up everything and appropriating what cannot be eaten at once.

President Ali Bongo had a stroke on October 24 in Saudi Arabia. He survived. He is human and deserves all the sympathies of an executive on sick bed. He joins a small group of African leaders who spent more than two months abroad for medical reasons. But the issue is bigger because when a head of state seeks treatment abroad he is confessing the inadequacy of the health facilities at home. Medical tourism costs Nigeria at least $2 billion a year.

Critical references have been made of the Bongo family having been the rulers of Gabon for more than 50 years. Yet, it must be realised that Omar Bongo is not Ali Bongo. The former usurped power through a putsch in 1967 and was president for life. He was called by his maker in 2009. Ali Bongo, his son, won a democratic election on the two occasions he ascended the presidency. Indeed, in his first attempt in 2009, he was fond of bragging to audiences that “I won my place; it didn’t fall on my laps.” The Gabonese people testify that he actually campaigned hard through the provinces. But Africa will not easily forget 2016 and the Gabonese election result which occurred in the president’s stronghold in Haute-Ogooue province where President Bongo won 95 per cent of the vote on a turnout of 99.9 per cent.

With this, he eventually won the election with an overall margin of 6,000 votes countrywide. Observers and opposition cried “rigging.” Civil society backed the allegations but the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party denied the charge. Had the January 7 coup succeeded, there are many who would have thought it a just retribution for election-rigging. The moral for Nigeria and, indeed, Africa is that a transparent election can also be a guarantor of democracy and an insurance against violent bids for power.

llen on deaf ears as no spontaneous grassroots support actually materialised.

In any African country, any day, enough cause for discontent can always be found. In the case of Gabon, one-third of the population lives below the poverty line in a small country with a population of two million. Yet it is a country awash with petrodollars. That level of poverty and the stark contrast between the rich and the poor is a testimony to either poor economic management or “kleptocratic regime” or both of which the Bongo administration has been accused, now and then. Even so, no precedent exists where military rulers reversed the economic fortunes of a beleaguered African economy. On the contrary, our experience has shown that the new rulers tend to descend like locusts, eating up everything and appropriating what cannot be eaten at once.

President Ali Bongo had a stroke on October 24 in Saudi Arabia. He survived. He is human and deserves all the sympathies of an executive on sick bed. He joins a small group of African leaders who spent more than two months abroad for medical reasons. But the issue is bigger because when a head of state seeks treatment abroad he is confessing the inadequacy of the health facilities at home. Medical tourism costs Nigeria at least $2 billion a year.

Critical references have been made of the Bongo family having been the rulers of Gabon for more than 50 years. Yet, it must be realised that Omar Bongo is not Ali Bongo. The former usurped power through a putsch in 1967 and was president for life. He was called by his maker in 2009. Ali Bongo, his son, won a democratic election on the two occasions he ascended the presidency. Indeed, in his first attempt in 2009, he was fond of bragging to audiences that “I won my place; it didn’t fall on my laps.” The Gabonese people testify that he actually campaigned hard through the provinces. But Africa will not easily forget 2016 and the Gabonese election result which occurred in the president’s stronghold in Haute-Ogooue province where President Bongo won 95 per cent of the vote on a turnout of 99.9 per cent.

With this, he eventually won the election with an overall margin of 6,000 votes countrywide. Observers and opposition cried “rigging.” Civil society backed the allegations but the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party denied the charge. Had the January 7 coup succeeded, there are many who would have thought it a just retribution for election-rigging. The moral for Nigeria and, indeed, Africa is that a transparent election can also be a guarantor of democracy and an insurance against violent bids for power.

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