By Abigail Van Neely
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 31 2023 (IPS)
The United Nations says increased investment in the Sahel region will assist in preventing military coups. This after military officers in Gabon announced a seizure of power from long-time President Ali Bongo Ondimba following the results of a disputed election in Gabon on Wednesday.
The proximity of this event to the military coup in Niger one month prior has renewed pressure on the United Nations to address growing instability in West and Central Africa.
In response, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary-General, encouraged increased investment in the region.
“The best way to deal with these military coups is, in fact, to invest more in preventing them prior,” Dujarric said. “There needs to be investment in developments, in strong institutions. We need to make sure that elections are well organized, that people have the ability to express their will and themselves freely.”
There have been seven successful coups in West and Central Africa since 2020, Reuters reports. The spokesman told journalists that there has not been enough involvement by the international community in the Sahel region, though he cautioned against generalizations between countries.
Secretary-General António Guterres joined various institutions, including the government of France, in condemning the ongoing coup as a means to resolve the post-electoral crisis. Gabon is currently a non-permanent elected member of the Security Council. It remains to be seen how a successful coup will affect the UN body’s work.
New leadership in Gabon could have international economic and environmental impacts. The former French colony is the world’s seventh-largest oil producer. The domination of the Gabonese oil industry by French companies may cease without Bongo, a French ally, in power. Bongo has also been celebrated for his efforts to prevent overfishing and protect the rainforests that cover 90% of Gabon, the New York Times reports. Policy changes could reverse this progress.
Dujarric confirmed that the 776 UN staff members and dependents in Gabon were safe. He expressed a broader concern for the people of Gabon and all people who have experienced violations of their rights as a result of recent military coups.
IPS UN Bureau Report