Economic reason why the United States is withdrawing aid from Gabon and not Niger

by MMC
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“With the coup in Gabon, I think the United States wants to show that it is determined to promote the democracy it advocates and to play the game of politics with its new leader, General Brice Oligui Nguema . This announcement will arouse a feeling of caution on the part of investors.

– Ovigwe Eguegu, policy analyst at Development Reimagined.

Recently, the United States announced its plans to suspend certain specific foreign aid programs benefiting the Gabonese government while assessing the unconstitutional intervention of members of the country’s army. “This interim measure is in line with measures taken by the Economic Community of Central African States, the African Union and other international partners, and will continue while we review the facts on the ground in Gabon,” said the US Department of State. said.

The action followed a coup that toppled President Ali Bongo moments after he was declared the winner of an election that the junta and many Gabonese considered unfair. President Bongo succeeded his father, the late President Omar Bongo, in 2009 and has since ruled the oil-rich country, continuing what analysts call a 56-year-old Bongo dynasty. Omar Bongo ruled Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009 (age 42).

The last four years have been marked by serious geopolitical tensions in many African countries, as economic difficulties and corruption trigger social and political movements within governments. Extreme poverty and corruption play a critical role in mobilizing citizens to seek redress for systemic economic problems, demand government accountability, and advocate for policies that promote inclusive growth and raise living standards . But in recent months, Africa has seen a wave of coups in the French-speaking region. This signaled a rise in anti-French sentiments in the democratic processes of most of these countries.

“With the coup in Gabon, it is becoming clear that African countries are facing what is called coup contagion. At some point, key countries and even regional countries and institutions like ECOWAS will have to take a strong stance against these coups. says political analyst Ovigwe Eguegu. “I also think that the United States wants to show that it is determined to promote the democracy it advocates and to play the game of politics with its new leader, General Brice Oligui Nguema. » The leader of the transition is also cousin of the deposed president.

Gabon is a country located along the Atlantic coast of central Africa and has a population of just over 2 million people. THE oil-rich nation has 3.1 billion barrels of proven oil reserves in 2022 with production set at 207,400 b/d (2020). The country also actively exports manganese, timber and palm oil. But despite a wealth of natural resources and high GDP per capita ($8,017 in 2021), social indicators remain poor, with poverty at 33.4% and unemployment at 28.8% in 2021. The latest coup and the latest US announcement would further reduce growth prospects as investors turn away. of the Central African market.

“I think this announcement will generate a feeling of caution on the part of investors. Investors in Europe and around the world will be looking at how the United States treats Gabon. This will create skepticism in terms of investment because the suspension of aid could lead to sanctions, which would be devastating for their investments,” Ovigwe opined.

Between 2019 and 2023, sub-Saharan Africa experienced a wave of political protests, civil crises, eight successful coups and eight failed attempts. This year, Sudan and Sierra Leone have seen failed coup attempts. While Niger and Gabon succeeded in a coup d’état. The problem here is that even though the United States considers the event in Gabon a coup d’état, it has refused to recognize the one in Niger.

In August, The Hill reported Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the fluid situation in Niger meant it was too easy to characterize the unrest as a coup. “We’re not going to get into labels,” Ryder said. “We will continue to focus on using diplomatic tools to try to preserve Niger’s hard-won democracy. » This makes us wonder why the United States takes such a stance towards Gabon and a different stance towards Niger.

An expert speaking to Ventures Africa revealed that Washington has a law or policy that prevents it from engaging with coup plotters. Thus, after the coup in Niger, “the United States was very reluctant to use the word ‘coup’ because if it did so it would mean that it would have to suspend its assistance and cooperation in security in the country, for example by withdrawing their stationed troops. in two bases, in Niamey and Agadez,” explains Ovigwe. As the situation in Niger evolves, the United States remains committed to this situation having recently appointed a new ambassador (Kathleen FitzGibbon) in this West African country.

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