Over 200 coups in Africa: two attempted in the last month

(To Antonino Lombardi)

In less than a year, the African continent has experienced eight coups and attempted coups. But lusts for power and money are not always supported by adequate capacity...

The latest in chronological order is the attempted coup in Gambia. Several soldiers have been arrested and others are wanted for a December 20 coup attempt that sought to overthrow President Adama Barrow's administration. Momodou Sabally, former minister of former leader Yahya Jammeh, is in detention after appearing in a video suggesting the current president would be overthrown before the next local elections.

After the 1994 coup, Yahya Jammeh came to power and confirmed himself as president of the Gambia in the 1996 elections before giving way to Barrow at the end of 2016. In 2017, a year after the elections, eight soldiers had plotted against Barrow in order to restore to power the former dictator Yahya Jammeh, now exiled in Equatorial Guinea after initially rejecting his defeat, provoking a threat of military intervention by the Economic Community of the West African states. A second lieutenant of the Gambian infantry and a captain of the military intelligence and security unit were arrested on Tuesday 27 December but other soldiers are wanted. At the moment seven soldiers have been arrested.

Ebrima Sankareh, government spokeswoman, said that “some Gambian army soldiers were plotting to overthrow the democratically elected government” but after their arrest "the situation is under full control and there is no need to panic."1

Barrow has, for many, favored the democratic turnaround in the country but, today, the population is not happy with his government for failing to address the inexorable rampant poverty and the constant increase in the cost of living. His popularity plummeted further when he announced he had formed an alliance with Jammeh's old party, in what was seen as an attempt to boost his chances of securing a second term.

In Gambia there have been six coups and an attempt in 2020 in addition to the one a few days ago which led the government to set up an investigative group made up of 11 members belonging to the Ministry of Justice, the armed forces, the police , the Secret Service and the National Security Office.

Another coup attempt occurred on November 24 in the island state of Sao Tome and Principe.

Il coup attempt it provoked a firefight, which lasted from just after midnight to six in the morning, between regime loyalists and would-be putschists at an army base, eventually leading to the death of four conspirators. The former Portuguese colony remained relatively stable after an attempted military coup against the government of President Fradique de Menezes in 2003. Those arrested include Arlecio Costa (later deceased) and the former president of the National Assembly Delphin Neves. The first was a mercenary soldier and was one of the main organizers of the coup that ousted the government of the small island state in the Gulf of Guinea for a week in August 2003 and convicted again in 2009 of conspiracy against the government. The second, Delfim Neves, had lost the 2021 elections by abandoning his role as president of the National Assembly on November 11, when the new government came to power.

Two weeks after the attempted coup, Jorge Bom Jesus, head of the opposition party and former prime minister, specifically stated that "the coup is an invention" and that it is used to persecute political opponents adding, moreover, that the current executive is transforming São Tomé and Príncipe into a state "autocratic, authoritarian and dictatorial".2

A search for the Council on Foreign Relations of New York concluded that from the 50s to today, they have followed one another on the African continent more than two hundred coup attempts. More than elections. The primacy goes to Sudan where the highest number of such events were registered, 17 in total of which 6 were successful.

The latest coups in Mali (photo) and Burkina Faso were preceded and followed by anti-French demonstrations: will they be indicators of new future developments on that continent?

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Photo: VOA