Reuters reported that, “LIBREVILLE, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Military officers in oil-producing Gabon said they had seized power on Wednesday (30 August), placing President Ali Bongo under house arrest and naming a new leader after the Central African state’s election body announced Bongo had won a third term. Saying they represented the armed forces, the officers declared on television that the election results were cancelled, borders closed and state institutions dissolved, after a tense vote that was set to extend the Bongo family’s more than half century in power.”
Since 2020, Gabon is the eighth African country to experience a military coup. Earlier, there have been successful military coups in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad and Sudan. All these countries were colonies of France at one time. There is only a difference of one month between the rebellions in Niger and Gabon. That is why many analysts are linking Gabon’s rebellion to that of Niger.
Former president Ali Bongo became the president of Gabon for the first time, since the death of his father, in 2009. The Election Commission also declared him successful in the 2016 and 2023 elections. The elections were controversial. Violent protests broke out in Bongo shortly after the 2023 election was announced, followed by the overthrow of Ali Bongo’s government by a military coup. Before Ali Bongo, his father Omar Bongo ruled Gabon for 41 years. After gaining independence from France in 1960, the Bongo family started ruling Gabon from 1967. Note that Gabon is a Christian majority country and only 10% of its population is Muslim. Omar Bongo converted to Islam after visiting Libya in 1973. He changed his name from Albert Bernard Bongo to Alhaji Omar Bongo. Since then the family has been considered part of a Muslim minority.
Albert Ondo Ossa, the main opposition leader, was an opposition candidate in the 2006 and 2023 elections. In the 2023 election, he was the joint candidate of six parties. He had announced his victory in the presidential race even before the election results. Albert has continuously held government positions in some capacity since 2006. He has previously served as the Minister of Education and Minister of Science and Technology. Apart from this, he was also an advisor to the government in the economic field.
After the military coup, General Brice Oligui Nguema was elected as the head of the country. General Nguema previously served as the Chief of the Presidential Royal Guard. In his first address, he assured the maintenance of the democratic status of Gabon, and promised a clean and transparent election to be held soon. Before announcing the coup, the rebel forces congratulated the people for getting rid of the Bongo family, and called this coup the real progress of Gabon.
A cursory look at the African region makes it clear that the cold war between the colonialist powers in Africa has now intensified. Since 2020, all the countries that have been affected by rebellion have been French colonial colonies in the past. Some of them were under the influence of France before the revolution and some of them had come out of its influence and entered the control of America. The Niger uprising made this American-French conflict even more pronounced. While on the one hand, France seems to be actively trying to end the rebellion and restore the old regime, and on the other hand, the United States, apparently firm, is seen accepting and persuading the rebels at the international level. The tug-of-war is still going on. Now the military government is trying to expel the French ambassador, who used to be the effective viceroy of France, from Niger.
The Gabonese uprising has only been going on for a few days and political commentators are analyzing it. It is too early to say anything conclusive about it. However, some points are worth noting.
- The United States, France and the European Union have all condemned this coup. They have also raised their voices on the non-transparency of the election. The French government has declared the reason for this rebellion to be inspired by the rebellion in Niger. At the same time it has emphasized the importance of restoring the government of Niger.
- About 2,500 French troops are permanently stationed in Gabon, who have not shown any movement yet. While in the case of Niger, France was threatening to attack together with African countries and calling this attack inevitable.
- General Nguema, who came to power in the aftermath of the coup, is a member of the Bongo family, and previously led the presidential royal guard. For this reason, some commentators are interpreting this rebellion as a conflict within the family.
- On the other hand, some observers are comparing it to Niger’s uprising, calling it a sign of France’s weakening grip on the region and the rise of American influence.
- A small number of observers are also linking the incident to Britain because of General Nguema’s British education and his ties to Britain.
Regardless of who is behind this power grab, the real thing that should be discussed is whether all this will make any difference to the people’s situation. Will there be any ease for the public? Will their circumstances change?
A quick look at the current situation in Gabon makes it clear that this is not going to happen. If something even near relief happens, it will be for the time being to please the public, as a temporary token measure. Gabon is an upper middle class country. Its GDP/capita is $17,300 (for comparison, Pakistan’s GDP/capita is $1,543). It is the third largest oil producing country in Africa with a production capacity of over 370,000 barrels per day. Perenco, Shell, and Total Energies control 75 percent of Gabon’s oil production. Gabon has a population of only 2.35 million people.
Despite these abundant resources, according to the report of the African Development Bank, one third of the population of Gabon lives below the poverty line. And 13 percent of them are living in extreme poverty. This difference in distribution of wealth is the cause of exploitation of the people.
All the parties involved in the current conflict and instability, be it Ali Gabon and his family, or General Nguema from the same family, or the joint candidate of the opposition, Albert Ondo Osa, all belong to the same elite who have been in leading this exploitative democracy for decades. They are part and parcel of the capitalist system.
In the same way, the international parties involved in this conflict, whether it is the United States or France, are not interested in the African people and their plight. Whether Gabon is under French or American control, the only difference is that Total Energies will be replaced by an American oil company, and the French agent will be replaced by a similar American agent. The fact is that these international colonial powers impose this ruling elite on the people, make land, oil and mineral deals with them and show themselves as sympathetic to the people, after this exploitation.
This situation is not unique to Gabon, but it is the same across the whole of Africa and the Third World, whether that country is Algeria, Niger, Mali or Pakistan. These Third World countries will remain fields of exploitation for these colonialist powers. They will never be able to stand on their own feet despite the resources. What ensures this occupation exploitation is the capitalist world order imposed by these colonialist countries, whether the local government is in the guise of democracy or in the form of dictatorship.
The system of Khilafah (Caliphate) on the Method of Prophethood is the just system that does not allow man to be the victim of exploitation by another man. The Legislator is the Noble Quran and the Prophetic Sunnah, under whose legislation the Khaleefah must himself submit. The Khilafah that came out of the state of Madinah. When it annexed any region of the world, the same level of development and prosperity in the newly annexed region was ensured as it was in Madinah. Moreover, some regions outgrew the Islamic capital in development and prosperity many times over. The best examples being the Indian Subcontinent and North Africa. That Africa, whose cities and markets used to be visited by European princes and princesses, whose clothing and fashion were imitated in Europe, which was considered the cradle of knowledge and wealth. Many cities and universities in Africa still bear witness to the glorious rule of Islam over Africa.
By the grace and will of Allah (swt), the time is not far when the Khilafah (Caliphate) on the Method of Prophethood, will rid the world of this capitalist horror and bring it under the shade of the mercy of Allah (swt).
[وَقُلْ جَآءَ الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ اِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوْقًا]
“And declare, “The truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Indeed, falsehood is bound to vanish.”” [TMQ Surah Al-Isra’a 17:81]
Engineer Abbas Siddiqui – Wilayah Pakistan