Risks of African coups infographic
Graphic shows recent coups and four nations at risk of military takeovers.


Coup contagion in West Africa

By Duncan Mil

September 27, 2023 - The military takeover in Gabon in August is the eighth coup d’état across sub-Saharan Africa in three years. Recent coups have raised alarms over how Western countries have backed authoritarian governments in the name of stability.

U.S.-based geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor warns that heavy-handed tactics to suppress dissent in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and the two Congo states -- previously colonised by European powers, France, Spain and Belgium -- also present a backdrop for military takeovers.

Rampant insecurity, grand-scale corruption, money laundering and factionalism create a permissive environment for opportunistic military commanders to overthrow their leaders.

As long ago as 2019, an investigation by Global Witness alleged that Denis Christel and Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, the son and daughter of the Republic of Congo’s President, embezzled over $70 million from state coffers.

“Funds for this extravagant spending likely came, at least in part, from stolen state funds that should instead have improved the lives of Congolese citizens,” said Mariana Abreu, Campaigner at Global Witness.

Similarly, in Equatorial Guinea, one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producers, the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo enjoys a lavish lifestyle that contrasts starkly with the lives of his fellow citizens.

Stratfor concludes that government failure to address public discontent over insecurity and corruption enables opportunistic military leaders to oust regimes and allows them to raid treasuries themselves.

PUBLISHED: 27/09/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images