Delegates at the 5th mid-year coordination meeting of the African Union in Nairobi, on 16 July 2023. (Photo by SIMON MAINA / AFP)
- Gabon is the sixth country to be suspended from the African Union after coups.
- Chad is the only country under a coup government not suspended from the AU – on the basis that it didn’t have a civilian government to begin with.
- Being locked out of the club means being barred from chances to work with countries beyond the continent.
- A return to civilian democracy is the base requirement for re-admission.
Gabon last week became the sixth African country to be suspended from the African Union (AU), the body formed to help bring unity to the continent, because of the coup that dislodged President Alian Bongo, effectively bringing an end to the 56-year stretch of the Bongo dynasty.
Alian succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, who died in office 14 years ago.
Gabon was suspended in the same month as Niger, also after a coup.
Other countries that have been similarly suspended from the AU are Sudan, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
Chad, which had a coup in 2021, was not placed under sanctions, which has been the AU’s standard practice – because the country has always been under military rule.
So, the AU opted instead to give the Transitional Military Council (TMC) led by General Mahamat Déby, 39, a chance to move the country towards civilian politics. However, this has yet to happen.
There were fears that not taking action against Chad would set a bad precedent, but countries that have had coups since have had their membership suspended.
No meetings – beyond the continent too
Suspension from the AU for countries that have had unconstitutional changes of governance falls under the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC).
The PSC normally activates a fact-finding mission to assess the circumstances arising before making decisions.
In Gabon’s case, the AU decided to suspend the country, which now falls under the leadership of General Brice Nguema.
The suspension means that Gabon will not take part in any AU programmes or gatherings, which has an effect beyond the continent.
The United States is among the global power that takes into consideration the AU’s stance.
In December last year, Mali, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Guinea were barred from the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington because of their frozen AU memberships.
For a country to return to the AU, it has to satisfy the PSC’s assessment of its roadmap to restore democracy and withdraw the military from civilian politics.
In the case of Gabon, it’s up to Nguema to return the country to a democratic path.
However, it’s unknown when that will happen. At his inauguration on Sunday, he said he was not in a hurry to bring back democracy.
The argument was that he didn’t want to make the same mistakes made during the Bongo era.
The opposition wants elections conducted as soon as possible.
What might be sweet music to the AU is that Nguema promised to release all political prisoners jailed during the repressive Bongo era.
Already, Jean Remi Yama, who leads a unified gathering of civil servants has been released.
He was arrested on 2 March last year, at the Leon Mba International Airport going to Senegal.
On Tuesday, West African media reported that Nguema had visited the primary opposition leader, Professor Albert Ondo Ossa, of the “Alternance 2023”, a coalition that challenged Bongo at the polls.
But critics have cautioned that such “deception” should not be taken into consideration when deciding whether to normalise relations.
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
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Publish date : 2023-09-06 09:22:31