Coup in Gabon; Sudan’s General al-Burhan makes first trip abroad since the outbreak of war; Zimbabwe’s main opposition calls for fresh elections; Rwanda and Cameroon announce changes in security forces; Niger’s junta expels France’s ambassador; Russia vetoed UN Security Council proposal to extend sanctions on Mali; Libya’s Dbeibah rejects prospect of normalising relations with Israel
On Wednesday, military officers in Gabon seized power, placing President Ali Bongo under house arrest and naming a new leader after the Central African state’s election body announced Bongo had won a third term. The officers declared on television that the election results were cancelled, borders closed, and state institutions dissolved. Generals met to discuss who would lead the transition and agreed by unanimous vote to appoint General Brice Oligui Nguema, former head of the presidential guard. Meanwhile, Bongo appealed in a video statement to foreign allies in detention at his residence. Hundreds of people celebrated the military’s intervention in the streets of the Gabonese capital, Libreville, while the United Nations, African Union, and France condemned the coup. The military takeover in Gabon is the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020.
Sudanese military ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with his Egyptian counterpart on Tuesday in his first trip abroad since the April outbreak of war in Sudan. The two discussed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s offer to mediate the conflict during a short meeting in the coastal city of El Alamein, an initiative Burhan said he welcomed. On Monday, Burhan said his regular army would vanquish the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and never sign a deal with them, dashing new hopes of talks to end a war that has plunged Sudan into overlapping humanitarian crises. Burhan is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia, which, along with the United States, held meetings with the two sides that yielded ceasefire pacts that were all violated in short order. In brief comments from El Alamein, Burhan said he wanted to end the war but did not mention the possibility of talks.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), called for fresh elections after its presidential candidate lost to incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa in a vote it criticised as flawed and illegal. The CCC urged the African Union (AU) and Southern Africa’s regional bloc (SADC) to help mediate a solution to the crisis that followed last Wednesday’s vote. Mnangagwa won a second term with 52.6 percent against 44 percent for the CCC’s Nelson Chamisa, according to official results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). International observers said the vote fell short of democratic standards. The opposition said the poll was marred by rigging and voter suppression and claimed victory. Mnangagwa has rebuffed criticism, saying the polling “demonstrated that we are a mature democracy. He challenged those who contested his re-election to go to court.
On Thursday, August 31, the Republic of Benin’s President Patrice Talon began a four-day state visit to China. He arrived in Beijing and was welcomed by the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister. During this visit, he is expected to meet with his counterpart, President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Premier, and China’s top legislator. The Beninese delegation includes the finance minister, the foreign affairs minister, and the minister of industry and commerce. President Talon will attend the global summit for the service trade fair. China’s foreign ministry said that the state visit will further deepen the close ties between the two countries and between China and Africa.
China and Algeria have partnered to construct 6,000 kilometres of railway lines within the North African nation. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has praised the move as pivotal in advancing his country’s socio-economic progress. The ambitious railway project is part of the two countries’ broader cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the massive China-proposed project to boost global trade and commerce by improving infrastructure and connectivity. The project, which will be supported by Chinese technical know-how and construction expertise, will connect all cities and regions in Algeria and pave the way for economic development in several African countries.
More than 50 people died in a fire that engulfed a five-story building in central Johannesburg on Thursday, according to the South African city’s emergency services. Another 43 people were injured in the blaze that broke out in the predawn hours. The death toll is likely to still increase in what has been described as effectively “an informal settlement. Firefighters called to the scene put out the flames, and search and recovery operations are ongoing. At least one child was among the dead. The building, which has been evacuated, is located in a deprived area of what used to be the business district of South Africa’s economic hub and was used as an informal settlement.
Rwanda and Cameroon announced significant changes in their security forces, affecting senior military personnel. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame retired hundreds of soldiers and advanced young soldiers within the nation’s security framework. New generals have also been appointed to lead army divisions across the country. The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) released a statement disclosing Kagame’s approval to retire twelve generals, eighty-three senior officers, and six junior officers. Additionally, eighty-six senior non-commissioned officers and about 678 soldiers will be retired. Prominent figures from Rwanda’s 1994 liberation war are among the retirees. On the same day, Kagame elevated several young officers to colonels and designated new generals to lead military divisions. President Paul Biya also enacted fresh appointments within the Defence Ministry’s central administrative unit in Cameroon.
Niger’s military rulers instructed police to expel France’s ambassador, Sylvain Itte, marking a further downturn in relations. The coup’s leaders have distanced themselves from the region’s former colonial power amid a wave of anti-French sentiment. The visas of Ambassador Itte and his family have been cancelled, and the police have been instructed to expel the envoy. Last Friday, the coup instigators ordered Itte to leave the country within 48 hours in response to France’s actions “contrary to the interests of Niger. These actions included the envoy’s refusal to respond to an invitation to meet Niger’s new foreign minister.
On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council proposal to extend sanctions on Mali, run by a military junta. Thirteen of the council’s 15 members backed the draft resolution led by Mali’s former colonial powers, France and the United Arab Emirates. This means that the regime’s ban on travel and freezing the assets of anyone seen to threaten peace in the fragile country ended on Thursday. Moscow was opposed to keeping sanctions monitors in Mali.
One of Libya’s rival prime ministers, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, rejected the prospect of normalising relations with Israel days after news broke of a secret meeting between the countries’ two foreign ministers. Last Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen publicly announced that he and Libya’s foreign minister had held a private meeting in Rome the previous week. The next day, Dbeibah suspended Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush and launched an investigation into the meeting. Dbeibah said that his government completely rejects “any form of normalisation” with Israel. The meeting ignited angry street protests in several Libyan cities, prompting Mangoush to flee to Turkey for fear of her safety.