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How a Coup in Africa does not Need to be Predicated on an Immediate Security Crisis

On Aug. 29 military officers took over power in Gabon hours after the electoral commission declared Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, re-elected as president for a third term with 64% of the vote. But the fairness of the polls had been under scrutiny by the opposition coalition that alleged malpractice and international groups that pointed to internet restrictions and press gags as signs of an opaque process. People came out in the streets of the capital city Libreville to celebrate the end of the nearly 56-year rule of the Bongo family. In keeping with its cautious approach in the wake of Niger’s putsch — which it is yet to call a coup — the U.S. has stopped short of calling the military action in Gabon a coup. While the Economic Community of Central African States condemned the coup in Gabon, it did not seek to adopt a more assertive tone akin to that taken on by Ecowas in the wake of the putsch in Niger. Yet, none of these statements by global powers have specifically called for Bongo — who is under house arrest and has called for friends of Gabon to “make noise” — to be returned to the presidency. Like China, the AU merely called for the junta to guarantee Bongo’s safety.