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Gabon: Another tough strike for France in Africa

September 2, 2023 at 12:05 pm

A screen grab captured from a video shows a group of senior Gabonese army officers appear on national television and announced that they had seized power in Gabon, August 30, 2023 [Gabon National Television – Anadolu Agency]

From West to Central Africa, France has been very quickly losing the backyards of its economy. Recently, it lost Niger in West Africa, one of its uranium reservoirs, and now, Gabon, one of its oil reservoirs.

Only one day after announcing Ali Bongo as the winner of a disputed presidential election in Gabon, the country’s military annulled the election results and unseated Bongo, placing him and his aides under house arrest. The military named General Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema as Gabon’s transitional leader.

On national television, the military declared all borders shut down, many government bodies were dissolved, including both houses of parliament, Bongo was placed under house arrest, surrounded by “family and doctors” and Bongo’s son, Noureddin, was arrested alongside six others for “high treason”.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Monde, the coup leader said: “He [Bongo] had no right to serve a third term; the Constitution was disregarded, and the election method, in itself, was not good. Everyone talks about this, but no one takes responsibility. So the army has decided to turn the page and take its responsibilities.”

OPINION: Africa will not allow France’s exploitation to continue

The United Nations (UN), the African Union and France have condemned the coup, which angered the European Union (EU), France and African friends of France, which is the main loser in this battle as it has faced tough strikes one after another as its allies in the former colonies, but main reservoirs of natural resources, are falling one after another.

Al Jazeera reported France’s Le Figaro writing: “French diplomacy lost its balance due to the coup pandemic in Africa.” Meanwhile, La Croix International wrote that France’s historic foundations in Africa are “staggering” and Le Bon stated that France has not understood Africa’s globalisation throughout the coups.

Now, while it has been wishing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to take action to remove the junta and reinstate its ousted ally, embarrassed France is still thinking of how to react to the coup in Gabon, which is the fourth largest oil exporter among African states.

France knows very well that military intervention is no longer useful in Africa. In the past, France reinstated ousted allies by force. France has orchestrated tens of coups in Africa and used its military to reinstate tens of allies. According to The Times: “In 1990, and again in 2009, when there were uprisings against the dynasty, France dispatched troops to Libreville to restore order.”

READ: Gabon coup another blow to France interests in Africa: Expert

However, it adds: “This time, no such intervention is likely, according to François Hollande, the former French president. ‘It is not up to France to replace Africans to decide their future’.”

Africa reached a point where it believed it could not live without France. “Africa without France is a car without a driver,” late Gabonese President Omar Bongo has expressed,  adding: “France without Africa is a car without petrol.” But today’s situation is completely different than in the past or during Bongo’s rule.

French newspapers, according to Al Jazeera, have consensus that France is currently unable to use its military power to run the continent the way it wishes as its economic influence has been declining at a time when other great powers are stepping in, like China, which has been offering better economic opportunities to Africa.

Meanwhile, France lost its military influence at a time when Russia succeeded in gaining the trust of the military juntas in the former French colonies through its mercenaries. Meanwhile, young African generations got fed up with the French meddling in their affairs and exploiting their natural resources while keeping them the poorest people on earth. Of course, social media helped them reveal what was going on after decades of illiteracy and media blackouts.

In addition, France will not have Washington’s support in any adventure in Africa, which could become a new reservoir of natural resources for the US. This was very clear in the US stance on the coups in Africa.

READ: Egypt closely monitoring developments in Gabon after coup

White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby said: “It’s deeply concerning to us. We will remain a supporter of the people in the region, a supporter of the people of Gabon and their demand for democratic governance. We. are watching this closely.” Kirby stressed that the US would: “Remain focused on promoting democracy on the continent.”

French investigative newspaper Media Part reported that a number of French diplomats holding senior positions have repeatedly asked President Emanuel Macron to close French military bases in Africa due to the hate against France, but Macron refused and instead decided to settle 1,500 French soldiers in Niger and 1,000 in Chad.

Media Part stated that France’s position has become dire since hostility became a “strategic popular weapon” that the military uses to carry out coups. The military juntas feel that raising the slogan of hostility to France is enough to rally people behind them.

Currently, France is struggling to maintain its interests in its former colonies, where feelings of animosity are skyrocketing against it. At the same time, its situation is more difficult as Russia, China, the US, and maybe others, are not waiting for France to repair its ties with Africa but are trying to exploit the situation and immediately fill the void.

Losing Gabon is another strong slap to the face for France.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.