ONE WEEK ONE COUP D’ÉTAT
One of my earliest introductions to African writers was One Week One Trouble, a 1972 young adult novel written by Anezi Okoro. The book tells the story of young Wilson Tagbo, a naughty High School student with a knack for troublemaking. One of Tagbo’s escapades includes sniffing around the Chemistry laboratory and inhaling nitrous oxide, i.e., laughing gas, which caused him to pass out.
Like Wilson Tagbo, it seems like it’s one week one trouble in Africa these days. There’s no week that passes without hearing about a military coup in one impoverished African country or the other. The rapidly spreading phenomenon of military putsch has been a long time coming and is considered by many, a welcome development.
Impecunious citizens of Africa’s shithole countries seem to have had enough. For years, they’ve been crushed and clobbered by successive oppressive civilian regimes. Their lands have been persistently raped and ravaged by men and women who take pleasure in their misery. Sick and tired of the suppression and subjugation, they’ve now decided to lash out.
It was late Robert F. Kennedy who once said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Retribution, like a fierce current, is sweeping across the African landscape. A deluge of reckoning is being visited upon the tyrants in civilian clothing who have ran roughshod over the African nations. Pushed to the wall and with nowhere else to go, the tormented people of Africa have decided to strike back against their tormentors.
The mutiny that was first started in Mali back in 2020, like a fast-spreading fire, has reached Chad, Sudan, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Gabon, the latest country to be scorched by the hot flame of people’s wrath, is similar to the rest of other nations. Despite the enormously rich natural resources – Gabon is the fourth largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa – the corrupt rulers of the country have failed to translate the resource wealth into sustainable and inclusive growth.
According to the latest World Bank estimates, 15.6 percent of the Gabonese population is multidimensionally poor while an additional 18.4 percent is classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty. The intensity of deprivations in Gabon, which is the average deprivation score among people living in multidimensional poverty, is 44.7 percent. In simple terms, Gabonese people are languishing in poverty in the midst of abundant natural resources.
Gabon has been ruled and controlled by a single family for the past 60 years. Omar Bongo Ondimba ruled the country for 42 years until his death in 2009. The current President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, who took over after his father’s death, has recently rigged himself to a third seven-year term.
Under the Bongo family’s oligarchy, Gabon is like an oil cartel run as a family business. Ali Bongo, as the head of the cartel, is one of Africa’s richest heads of state. In a typical prebendalism fashion, the Bongo family appropriates state offices, notably elected officials and government workers, and diverts the country’s resources to serve themselves and their cronies as they wish.
Intent on holding on to power until he dies, Ali Bongo silenced the opposition and abolished presidential term limits. Such a repressive scenario makes a military putsch inevitable.
Today, it’s the turn of Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon. Next stop is Paul Biya’s Cameroon, if I were to hazard a guess. From there it could go anywhere. You never know whose turn is next.