Bongo, who was seeking a third term in office, came to power following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, in 2009, after more than four decades in power. Both men were key allies of the oil-rich country’s former colonial power, France, and the family is believed to have amassed significant wealth — which is the subject of a judicial investigation in France.
Gabon is generally considered more stable than other countries that have experienced unrest in recent years, but it now appears set to join a growing list of junta-led states — including Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan — that create a geographical belt of turmoil across sub-Saharan Africa.
Rebel soldiers in Niger deposed the country’s Western-allied president, Mohamed Bazoum, on July 26 amid political upheaval, a rise in Islamist extremism and growing Russian influence across the region.
Britain, France, Germany and the European Union announced the end of aid to Niger after the ouster, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States could follow suit. So far, President Biden has not labeled the situation a coup.
A key regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said in August that it was prepared for military intervention and had decided on a “D-Day” for intervention — though it did not give a date and said diplomacy was still possible.
Why a bloc of West African countries is threatening to invade Niger
Coup supporters in Niger’s capital, Niamey, as well as in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, have been spotted waving Russian flags, and experts say uncertainty around the coup leaders’ motivation may hamper Western attempts to restore Bazoum through diplomacy.
The coup has also thrust the fate of Niger’s uranium to center stage as experts say European countries may have to grapple with the effects on the nuclear industry — especially in France, which evacuated European nationals from the country but has resisted an ultimatum from the coup leaders for its ambassador to leave.
Niger has been a key ally of the United States, which has deployed about 800 troops at a time to the country and operates drones out of a military base in Agadez. Shortly after Bazoum’s removal, Blinken confirmed communication with him and the Niger government and said that officials “condemn any efforts to seize power by force.”
U.S. laws prohibit military aid to junta regimes, and it is unclear what repercussions the ongoing events will have on U.S. military activity in the country.
Two coups occurred in the country within about eight months in 2022, beginning with Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba’s overthrow of President Roch Kaboré that January. Damiba promised to restore the country’s security after a rise in attacks by Islamist extremists.
The current leader, Capt. Ibrahim Traoré, ousted Damiba in September after a mutinous group of military leaders saw no improvement in quelling the violence.
The Pentagon has stationed U.S. Green Berets in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, and the State Department pays contractors to train the country’s forces, the Wall Street Journal reported, in the hope of countering a growing Islamist militant threat and the Russian mercenary Wagner Group’s influence in the region.
Led by Assimi Goïta, a group of Malian military leaders overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on Aug. 18, 2020, after anti-government protests over corruption, pandemic management, the country’s poor economy and ongoing security threats.
International leaders and the U.N. Security Council condemned the coup, and the United States ended military assistance to Mali three days later.
In early January 2021, the junta backed out of a September 2020 agreement to transition the country back to civilian elections after Bah N’daw was installed as interim president. In May 2021, Goïta staged another coup and remains in power today.
Recent U.S. sanctions have targeted key junta leaders for their connections to the Wagner Group, which is believed to have 1,000 fighters in the country and has been accused of human rights violations against Malian civilians.
Col. Mamady Doumbouya, the U.S.-trained commander of Guinea’s special forces, ousted the country’s first democratically elected president, Alpha Condé, in September 2021 after years of protests against Condé for altering the constitution to allow himself a third term and imprisoning opposition candidates.
The United States condemned the coup and terminated military assistance, which had included sending small teams of U.S. Special Forces to train Guinean special forces.
Amid criticism and ongoing violent protests, Doumbouya agreed to return the country to civilian rule with a 24-month transition beginning in early 2023.
After President Idriss Déby, who seized control in his own 1990 coup, was killed in a military operation against rebels on Chad’s northern border in April 2021, the speaker of parliament should have ascended to the presidency. Instead, a military council took control and installed Déby’s son, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Déby, as president, leading to deadly protests in the capital.
The elder Déby had been a Western ally against the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, and the United States did not formally impose sanctions on the country after the unconstitutional transition of power.
Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized control of the country in 2021, ending a precarious power-sharing agreement between Sudan’s government and military forces enacted after the military deposed President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019 amid pro-democracy protests.
Tensions have risen this year as Burhan’s government struggles to transition to civilian rule, resulting in some of the worst fighting the country has ever seen between the Sudanese armed forces and paramilitary rebels.
In April, the Pentagon sent two warships to the Port of Sudan, and the United States evacuated hundreds of citizens from the devolving chaos that has resulted in hundreds of deaths and an impending human-rights crisis.