African leaders are looking for ways to contain the “contagion of authoritarianism” spreading across the continent.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council said it is holding a meeting today, Thursday, to discuss the situation in Gabon in the wake of the military coup there this week.
Leaders are looking at how to respond to the officers who overthrew President Ali Bongo and installed their own head of state in the latest wave of coups in West and Central Africa that regional powers have failed to reverse.
“Now – the AU Peace and Security Council meets to discuss the situation in Gabon,” the AU panel said in a statement on the formerly known X Twitter post.
She added that the meeting is being chaired by the African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs of Nigeria, Bankoli Adoeye, and the current chairperson of the council, Willy Nyamitwe of Burundi.
The takeover ended nearly six decades of Bongo family rule and created a new dilemma for a region that has struggled to deal with eight coups since 2020.
Nigeria’s recently elected president called it “the infection of tyranny”.
Central Africa’s political bloc, the Economic Community of Central African States, condemned the coup, saying in a statement that it planned to hold an “imminent” meeting of heads of state to determine how to respond. It did not set a date.
Senior officers in Gabon announced their coup before dawn on Wednesday, shortly after the electoral authority announced that Bongo had won a third term following Saturday’s elections.
Later on Wednesday, a video emerged of Bongo being detained at his residence, pleading for help from international allies, but seemingly unaware of what was happening around him. The officers also announced that General Brice Olige Nguema, former head of the Presidential Guard, had been chosen as head of state.
Working to Contain the “Contagion of Tyranny”: Economic Community of West African States
Nigerian President Paula Tinubu, the current chair of the ECOWAS group, said on Wednesday that he is working closely with other African leaders to contain what he called the “contagion of authoritarianism” spreading across Africa.
The Economic Community of West African States threatened military intervention in Niger after the coup that took place there on July 26 and imposed sanctions, but the military government did not back down. Military leaders elsewhere have also resisted international pressure, such as in Mali. They managed to retain power, and some even gained popular support.
The Central African political bloc, the Economic Community of Central African States, condemned the coup in a statement, saying it plans to convene an “imminent” meeting of heads of state to decide how to respond. It did not set a date.
Reporting from Dakar, Senegal, Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque said there had been a “completely muted reaction” from the regional body, CEMAC, the economic body for Central African states, in part due to “fear in the region of ‘coup contagion’ between states”. related to “systems similar to the Bongo dynasty”.
“You have President (Teodoro) Obiang (Nguema Mbasogo) in Equatorial Guinea, who has been in power since 1979. Then in Cameroon, President (Paul) Biya, who has been in power since 1982, has been elected repeatedly during these presidential elections.” Haq said that the elections were marred by fraud, according to its critics.
These events follow coups in the past four years in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, highlighting the limited influence of African powers once the military takes power.