The coup in Gabon 🇬🇦, unlike the one in Niger 🇳🇪, to me could be seen coming long before it occurred. Other than the fact that President Ali Bongo had been in power for 14 years, having succeeded his father, Umar Bongo, who himself had held sway as president of the country for 42 years, making father and son holding power altogether for a cumulative period of 52 years.
President Ali Bongo only two days ago got himself announced as having won a third 7-year term in a highly disputed election held on Saturday last week after having amended the constitution and abolishing term limit. Two elections were held on the same day – those of presidential and parliamentary! However, in that Saturday election, under the new electoral law he signed, Gabonese citizens were prohibited from voting for different parties in the elections. By law, every voter must vote for the same party in both the presidential and parliamentary seats.
The implication of this is that voters must vote for him as president and his party legislators, thus giving him control over the parliament. This was how the elections took place last Saturday in Ģàbon, and so this is how President Ali Bongo killed democracy in his country.
Nobody is therefore surprised that the military intervened; and no one is moved against it in spite of him calling on his countrymen and women, and the international community “to make noise” for him and against the military coup. So far, no one did; and it is highly unlikely anyone would. To all intents and purposes, the act is just as it should be – it serves Bongo and his clientage right! They deserve no sympathy.
Next may be the Central Africane Republic 🇨🇫. Here, Faustin-Archange Touadéra has been President of the Central African Republic since March 2016. He previously was Prime Minister of the republic from January 2008 to January 2013. Early this month, President Touadéra organized a constitutional referendum and abolished term limit. He also at the same time extended the tenure of office of the president from 5 to 7 years. Furthermore, he abolished the senate and replaced it with a Council of Traditional Rulers of whom he had right to pick by himself or vetoe against. In addition, the president replaced the office of Prime Minister which he once held with a Vice President to be personally appointed by him. On the economic side, he took the right to the issuance of mineral mining licence at his absolute discretion.
With these constitutional amendments, naturally democracy is effectively put to an end in these countries even without any military intervention. In all honesty, these leaderships are less democratic than civilian dictatorship. In such situations, and with similar ones in Equatorial Guinea, Togo 🇹🇬, Cameroon 🇨🇲, etc., where and if a military interventions do take place, would we honestly christian such intentions as anti-democracy or pro-democracy? To me I will answer for the latter. It is better to have military dictatorship than civilian dictatorship for the simple reason that military dictatorships usually have short lifespans within which elections are organized and handover are made to democratically elected governments; but civilian dictatorships have no lifespans and leaders remain in power literally forever.
This is the stage to which some of our African leaders have taken our countries. Until this ugly pattern is changed, we will continue to have military interventions in African politics. If Nigeria 🇳🇬 is to really champion the cause of democracy in the subregion and the continent, it is such antics employed by our politicians towards creating civilian dictatorship that Nigerian democratic government and president should devise the means and methods of preventing and resolving.
This is the challenge facing democratic governments in Africa; a challenge that President Bola Tinubu must face and overcome. Until that is done entrenching true democracy in Africa will remain a mirage.