It would have been another rupture of the hierarchy in another African country. That is what a coup is all about but this time, it has failed in the Republic of Gabon, the oil-rich central African country which has been ruled by basically one family for 51 years. The notion of ‘a Council of National Restoration’ the coup makers talked about in their early morning broadcast as well as their invitation to civil society and opposition parties as well as a former Republican Guard commander” to come together at the country’s parliament all suggest they were trying to pose something to Ali Bingo, the 59 year old second term president of Gabon who is, however, no ordinary politician. Not only is he educated, he had been Minister of Defence in a government ran by his father. That was before he became president himself in 2009 and managed to win re-election in 2016 only for him to contend with stroke that has seen him out of the country for over three months now. A blood relation to him is the head of the country’s intelligence and there is a tight relationship with France.
Could a coup that appears to have been hurriedly put together by elements with poor roots in the rest of the security formation have succeeded? And if it succeeded, would it have the solutions for taking an oil rich African country out of the resource curse? While it is true that Bongo is contending with a strong opposition leader, Dr. Jean Ping but, as former Chairman of the African Union Commission, (AUC), it is unlikely he would like to support military rule. The AU has condemned the coup as well as France.
What does the apparent ease with which the coup has been crushed tell us about the reasons for its failure? A government spokesperson named as Guy-Bertrand Mapangou in all the media reports on the coup declared the coup makers as mutineers and jokers and that all but one of the five ring leaders had been arrested. Not only that, Mapangou could claim calm as at the time he was announcing the counter move, indicating that the coup makers were just able to hold their grounds for less than four – five hours. He could even say that the gun fire heard early morning was a crowd control process, an attempt at playing down the coup attempt.
The initial announcement had represented the coup attempt as an uprising of junior officers against the seniors whom the announcer implicated in failing to stand up for the country in terms of quality of governance. The coup announcer named as Lt. Kelly Ondo Obiang of the Presidential Guard asked the lower cadre of the armed forces to take charge of strategic positions.
However, it did not take long before the counter announcement was made which dismissed their exertion as a joke, with a government official said to be close to the president’s office telling Radio France International that loyal forces have taken control of sensitive points such as the national radio and the army. But the idea of seeking to resolve the situation without violence attributed to the source suggests that either there is some stand-off or remnants of the coup plotters are yet to be cowed.
The international media that is framing the dynamics of the situation seem to be on one page that normalcy is returning as against internet having been cut and many areas existing without electricity earlier on. It might have been another failed coup and its consequences in one corner of Africa but, broadly, it speaks to the sad condition of resort to violence in handling contradictions on the continent. Too bad!