The anti-French dominos continue to fall in Africa, with Gabon’s military staging a coup last month to oust President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family has ruled the country for 55 years—enriching themselves while using its close ties with Paris to maintain power.
Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema, a cousin and head of the elite Republican Guard, has taken control of the country and promised elections within two years.
“The army has decided to turn the page,” he said.
France calls the current government illegitimate.
The New York Times reported that Bongo’s health was believed to be declining after he suffered from a stroke. He still managed to be reelected for a third term, in a vote that was called fraudulent by critics. Indeed, thousands of people took to the streets in the capital city of Libreville to celebrate the family’s downfall.
Nguema criticized the recent elections as less-than-transparent and said his cousin is not in the physical condition to lead. Besides that, the Financial Times reported that the family seemed to use the country of 2.4 million people as little more than a slush fund. The country produced about 230,000 barrels a day and his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, “spent prodigiously on mansions, cars, and, reputedly, women.”
Indeed, Bongo—who was sent to Paris for his education—was unable to speak his native tongue and spoke French and English.
He told the paper in 2012 that it was natural that he assumed power in the country.
“How many doctor’s sons become doctors? How many lawyers’s sons become a lawyer?”
The coup leaders said he is free to travel abroad.
Bongo’s father died in 2009.
The self-made man served as president for 41 years and fathered at least 50 children, according to the FT. He maintained a close relationship with France and the paper said he even funded the presidential campaigns of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Foreign Policy noted that the father “was placed in office with France’s assistance in 1967 and repeatedly protected by Paris as he grew enormously wealthy in the following years.”
He once summed up the relationship: “Gabon without France is like a car with no driver. France without Gabon is like a car with no fuel.”
TRENDPOST: The Trends Journal has reported extensively on how Africans are overthrowing governments tied to European countries that once ruled over them with iron fists. The coup in Gabon is the ninth on the continent in three years. (See “FRANCE CALLS NIGER COUP LEADERS ILLEGITIMATE, WILL KEEP FORCES IN COUNTRY” 8 Aug 2023, “NIGER COUP: ENOUGH OF THE WEST, MOVING TOWARD RUSSIA. EU/FRANCE WANT ITS URANIUM” 1 Aug 2023, and “MILITARY COUPS IN AFRICA HIT SPIKE. WORST IS YET TO COME” 9 Nov 2021.)
“Military coups are not the solution, but we must not forget that just before this, Gabon held elections full of irregularities,” Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said last week, according to The New York Times. “If I rig elections to take power, that is also an irregular way of getting power.”
France, in the meantime, announced that it will suspend military cooperation with the new regime. Paris has about 400 troops in the country who are there for training purposes, according to RFI. France called for the election result to be respected.
Bongo posted a video calling for “all friends that we have all over the world… to make noise” about his ouster.
Still, Howard W. French, the journalist, wrote that Central Africa is “unusually rich in natural resources,” which has allowed its leaders to accumulate “vast wealth essentially through what economists refer to as rent collection. In doing so, they have not only grown fantastically wealthy, but they have also provided unwavering support to France internationally while taking care to give its companies a large share in a variety of lucrative extraction industries.”