France has condemned the military coup that took place in Gabon on Wednesday, which could represent another blow to its influence and interests in Africa, where it has seen several of its allies fall in recent years.
The coup, led by General Brice Oligui Nguema, the head of the Republican Guard, came after the electoral authority announced that President Ali Bongo Ondimba had won a third term with 64.27 percent of the vote in Saturday’s disputed election. Bongo and other top officials have been placed under house arrest by the coup plotters, who declared themselves as the National Restoration Council.
Bongo, whose family has ruled the oil-rich former French colony for 55 years, was a close partner of France in the region. France has around 400 soldiers permanently deployed in Gabon for training and military support, as well as extensive economic ties in the mining and oil sectors.
France’s government spokesman Olivier Veran said that France “condemns the military coup that is underway in Gabon” and that it “reiterates its desire to see the results of the election respected”. He also said that France was following the events “with a lot of attention” and that it had reinforced security around its embassy in Libreville, the capital.
However, France’s reaction may not be enough to sway the situation in its favor, as it faces growing challenges and resentment in its former African colonies. In recent years, France has witnessed an “epidemic of coups” in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, where its military presence and political influence have been questioned or rejected by the new regimes.
France’s interventionist policy in Africa, known as “Francafrique”, has been criticized for supporting corrupt and authoritarian leaders at the expense of democracy and human rights. Many Africans also accuse France of exploiting their natural resources and interfering in their internal affairs.
France’s rivals, Russia, have also been expanding their footprint and influence in Africa, offering economic and military assistance without political conditions or criticism. Russia, in particular, has been accused of spreading anti-French propaganda and backing rebel groups in some countries.
The coup in Gabon is another reminder that France’s African strategy is in tatters and that it needs to rethink its role and relations with the continent. As President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday, “we cannot be naive or indifferent to what is happening on our doorstep”.