Ali Bongo Survives Coup Attempt

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Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:13 am

Gabon's ailing president yesterday survived a coup attempt by junior soldiers that ended with two of the coup plotters being killed and three being arrested. Some analysts have been wondering whether it was a real coup attempt due to the amateurish way in which it was carried. The soldiers didn't seem to have any significant support within the armed forces. They instead took control of the national broadcaster and asked the youth to take to the streets to protest against the government.

President Bongo has been ailing since October 2018 when he suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia. He has been recovering in Morocco and has not been seen publicly for over two months now. Although he made a television address on New Year's Day, Gabonese have been wondering whether he's fit to rule. He has been president of Gabon since 2009 when he took over after his father's death. The Bongos have ruled Gabon for over 50 years. His father ruled Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009.

Despite oil-rich Gabon officially having one of Africa's highest per capita incomes, the average Gabonese still lives in relative squalor. The Bongos have been accused of using oil wealth to only enrich themselves and those close to them. They've also been in good terms with former colonial master France which has worked in their favor. France is known to regularly intervene militarily in its former African colonies whenever their interests are threatened. They supported the senior Bongo throughout his 40-year rule because he allowed French companies to exploit Gabon's oil and other natural resources.

At a time when foreign powers are taking a renewed interest in Africa, it's still unclear whether Gabon's attempted coup was in any way connected to what is being referred to as the second scramble for Africa. The Chinese have been aggressively exploiting African resources and winning multi-billion dollar contracts on the continent.

The west has responded to this perceived threat from China in a largely military way. America has seen a significant rise in the number of its soldiers stationed on African soil. The official reason has been given as training African soldiers so they can better combat the threat of terrorism. Others have pointed at a darker reason. The anti-terror training has been labelled an excuse. It has been called part of a larger plan to effectively re-colonize Africa and secure resources for the west.