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African Democracies in Crisis

The 2021 Guinean coup was the second coup Guinea in two years, and destabilized west Africa for future coups in the 2020’s.

On Aug. 30th, a successful coup d’etat was held in Gabon. That coup was the ninth successful coup and the 14th attempted coup in Africa since 2020. After a period of relative peace for 20 years in Africa, what is happening? 

In the past three years, Africa has already had 35 percent of the coups that 2000-2019 had. Most of the countries that have had coups are from the Sahel region in north Africa and the southern Sahara. Many of the countries in this region are very poor and struggle with corruption, foreign terrorism, and domestic terrorism. After the coup in Niger, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) claimed that they would not tolerate another coup, imposing sanctions. However, these sanctions have not stopped coups from happening. One reason for this is the lack of Western interaction with African nations. After Western countries pulled out from Africa, there has been less incentive to not stage coups because ECOWAS and other regional organizations have less restrictive power. 

Another reason that coups are still happening despite sanctions is because of Russia and China. China has supported new regimes in Africa established by coups, but Russia supports these regimes in a much more direct way, using organizations like Wagner to send weapons and supplies to fund wars and coups.

The recent coup in Gabon was not like the coups in the Sahel, though. The coup ousted the Bongo family, members of which have ruled Gabon in a family dictatorship for 56 years. The Bongo family were extremely corrupt, and frequently took the central African nation’s oil funds for themselves. The new leader of Gabon, Brice Oligui Nguema, shut down most of Gabon’s government institutions, but he claimed that the shutdown was temporary and that institutions will be reinstalled once everything is under control. Nguema plans to restore democracy to Gabon, but you never know if he will deliver on his promise. Many Gabonese people are happy with the coup, but that joy might be a feeling of happiness because the Bongos are gone, not because the new government is in.

The coup in Gabon is just another occurrence of coups and wars in a trend that spreads beyond Africa to Ukraine and Israel.

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Theo Arnold
Theo Arnold, Staff Writer

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