Europäisches Institut für Menschenrechte - Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -
       Europäisches Institut für Menschenrechte- Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -

Reflections on the Military Coup in Gabon and Its Implications for Pan-African Politics: Neo-Colonialism, Controlled Chaos, and the West's Questionable Hegemony

Reflections on the Military Coup in Gabon and Its Implications for Pan-African Politics: Neo-Colonialism, Controlled Chaos, and the West's Questionable Hegemony

Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu

1. Introduction

The recent military coup in Gabon is noteworthy as a component of the ongoing, profound socio-political transformations on the African continent. This article endeavors to scrutinize the historical, ideological, and political contexts of the continent through the lens of the Gabonese case while also examining the West's interplay with these dynamics. Particularly, the policies of the United States and former colonial powers aim to create 'controlled chaos' and consolidate power through local authoritarian figures. A critical analysis of these policies is indispensable for understanding why new governance models are gaining greater legitimacy in Africa.


2. Neo-Colonial Dynamics and the Role of the West

African nations have long been engaged in intricate interactions with their erstwhile colonial masters and the United States. These interactions have spawned ideological and strategic battlegrounds during the Cold War, affording Western powers opportunities to exploit Africa's resources. The inconsistency between this rhetoric and the actual practices has contributed to the construction of a framework that ensures the continuity of Western hegemony in the region.

2.1. Cold War Context

During the Cold War era, Western powers—most notably the United States and former colonial metropoles—conducted vigorous geo-strategic and ideological campaigns on the African continent. Africa was perceived as a frontline in the ideological tug-of-war between the United States and the Soviet Union. In this context, Western powers supported authoritarian regimes to stymie the spread of communism, thereby securing access to natural resources and strategic locations in return.

2.2. Ideology and Realpolitik

Despite the West's advocacy for democracy, human rights, and a free-market economy, it has frequently implemented policies in Africa that are at odds with these principles. For instance, while championing democracy, Western powers have financially backed and armed local authoritarian leaders. This paradoxical situation starkly exposes the inconsistency between the West's rhetoric and actions.

2.3. Economic Exploitation

Africa's abundant natural resources have attracted the attention of Western countries, encouraging a neo-colonial model of exploitation. For example, diamonds, oil, and mineral resources have constituted the focus of Western economic activities in Africa. These resources have often been extracted at low costs and exported to Western countries, but the local economies have rarely benefited from this process.

2.4. Continuity of Power and Power Dynamics

Western powers have ensured the continuity of governance through local leaders, ethnic clans, and elected political figures. Interventions in local elections, military coups, and financial support to governments are all components of these power dynamics. Moreover, Western countries have not shied away from fomenting ethnic or regional conflicts that destabilize African nations.


In conclusion, the historical and current dynamics of Africa provide a framework for understanding Western interactions and interventions. Although the West proclaims its allegiance to democratic values and institutions at the rhetorical level, this stands in stark contrast to its actions on the ground. This inconsistency plainly illuminates the West's objective of maintaining its hegemony on the continent, thus vindicating demands for greater legitimacy and autonomy for African nations.

3. Sahel Crisis and Controlled Chaos

The overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi has enabled radicalized groups to become active in the Sahel region, creating a conducive atmosphere for the West to continue its resource exploitation. Historically, similar strategies by the United States have been observed in countries like Zaire, Somalia, and Liberia. The Arab Spring in 2011, which led to the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, had profound impacts on the Sahel region. Post-Gaddafi, radicalized groups in North Africa, particularly the Sahel, have been increasingly active. A large amount of weapons and ammunition released after the fall of Gaddafi have been seized by these radical groups, creating instability in the Sahel region.

3.1. Controlled Chaos Strategy

The 'controlled chaos' strategy of the United States has historically been applied in countries like Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Somalia, and Liberia. This approach is designed to alter local power dynamics, control resources, and protect geopolitical interests. The aim of this strategy is to further destabilize already weak state structures to continue the exploitation of resources by Western powers.

3.2. Sahel and Resource Exploitation

The Sahel region is rich in natural resources, but the unstable political environment allows Western countries to exploit these resources relatively easily. Particularly, France has been actively involved in military interventions in the region, interfering in internal affairs, and thereby easily gaining control of resources.

3.3. Ethnic and Social Dynamics

Ethnic and social dynamics in the Sahel region are also fueling instability. Western powers occasionally use these ethnic and social conflicts to control chaos in the region. Tactics such as creating competition and conflict between various ethnic groups and local militias are part of this 'controlled chaos' strategy.

3.4. Conclusion and Future Perspective

The Sahel crisis is a result of the West's contradictory and complicated policies. The controlled chaos strategy brings long-term instability in the region for the sake of short-term gains. This situation once again emphasizes the need for an in-depth analysis of the policies pursued by the West in Sahel and the development of alternative strategies.


4. Public Reaction and Local Dynamics

The example of Gabon has resulted in public exhaustion due to the West's consumerist perspective and insensitivity to massive issues, thereby strengthening the despotic rule of local clans. This indicates that the Western model of democracy is incompatible with local dynamics.

4.1. Public Perception of Exhaustion

Local communities in Gabon have been experiencing a sense of exhaustion for years due to unilateral economic and political interventions by Western powers. The West's tendency to view the country solely in terms of economic gains, and its insensitivity to socio-political issues, have created an atmosphere of distrust and hopelessness among the people.

4.2. Local Clans and Despotic Regimes

This sense of exhaustion is leading to the strengthening of local clans and despotic regimes. The public is turning towards local power structures that are more familiar and accessible, rather than the complex bureaucratic systems brought by the Western model of democracy. This means that local clans and family structures are filling the social and political void created by the Western approach.

4.3. Incompatibility of the Western Model of Democracy

There are significant challenges concerning the applicability of the Western model of democracy in African countries like Gabon. Concepts that are important in Western democracies, such as the free circulation of ideas, general well-being of the society, and equal representation, are proving to be inadequate in Gabon. Local dynamics complicate the implementation of this Western model, and this increases the mistrust in the government.

4.4. The Public's Search for Alternatives

This incompatibility has led the public to be more open to alternative forms of governance and ideologies. The tendency of the new generation of African leaders to turn towards alternative global actors like the BRICS countries or Russia is an indicator of the search for new models and governance philosophies that could fill the void.


Gabon's local dynamics and public reaction clearly illustrate the inadequacy of the Western model of democracy and its incompatibility with local conditions and needs. The sense of exhaustion among the people and the strengthening of local despotic regimes make it imperative to reassess regional and international policies in the future.


5. Alternative Global Actors

African leaders disillusioned with the West's ideological and ethical hegemony are turning towards alternative global actors like the BRICS countries and Russia. This could pave the way for more stable and legitimate forms of governance to replace military coups in the future.

5.1. The Questionable Hegemony of the West

Historically, the African continent has been under the ideological, political, and economic influence of Western powers. However, in recent years, this hegemony has started to be questioned by local leaders and populations. The inconsistencies between the West's rhetoric and actions on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law have created an atmosphere of disillusionment and distrust.

5.2. The Appeal of Alternative Global Actors

This situation has laid the groundwork for African leaders to turn to alternative global actors like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries and Russia. Specifically, China and Russia are increasing their influence in Africa through various means like infrastructure projects, military cooperation, and natural resource agreements. These countries offer African leaders a model of cooperation independent of Western moral and ethical judgments.

5.3. Towards Stable and Legitimate Forms of Governance

The rise of alternative global actors opens new horizons for the political future of Africa. Particularly, BRICS countries are establishing strategic partnerships with African countries on capacity building, infrastructure development, and economic growth. This could pave the way for more stable and legitimate forms of governance to replace factors of instability like military coups and local conflicts.


6. Multipolar World Order and Africa

The rise of BRICS and Russia contributes to the formation of a multipolar world order. African leaders can now pursue more balanced and diversified foreign policies by establishing diplomatic and economic relationships not only with the West but also with different global actors. This creates a promising dynamic for the socio-political and economic transformation of the continent.


The tendency of Africa, especially in recent years, to turn to alternative global actors outside the West, points to a new and potentially more stable path for the continent's future. However, the details and outcomes of relationships with these new actors should be carefully evaluated within the framework of ethics and sustainable development. As the influence of these new global actors increases, how Africa can establish a more ethical and sustainable model of cooperation with them will become an important topic for research and policy development.

7. Conclusion

The military coup in Gabon serves as an important case study for understanding the current and future impacts of Western policies on Africa. The neocolonial dynamics and strategies of controlled chaos employed by Western powers exacerbate feelings of distrust and exhaustion among local populations, encouraging a turn towards alternative global actors. This transformation indicates that Africa may evolve towards more legitimate and stable forms of governance in the future.


As evidenced by the military coup in Gabon, the neocolonial dynamics and "controlled chaos" strategies of the West deeply affect the political and social structures of the African continent. Such events expose the kind of negative impacts that the West's complex and often contradictory policies and strategies have on local communities.


Feelings of distrust and exhaustion among local populations towards the West can be seen as a result of Western powers' complicated political and economic agendas. Coups, civil wars, and political instability deepen local communities' suspicions about the West's "well-intentioned" policies and interventions, revealing that the Western model of democracy and capitalism is incompatible with local dynamics.


In such an environment, the appeal of alternative global actors like BRICS countries and Russia is increasing. Local leaders and populations, disillusioned by the West's ideological and ethical hegemony, are turning towards new actors offering different, perhaps more pragmatic approaches.

This transformation could be promising for African countries. Relationships established with new and alternative global actors indicate that military coups may be replaced by more stable and legitimate forms of governance. However, such a change should occur ethically and sustainably.

In summary, for Africa to balance between the West, BRICS, and other actors, local dynamics need to be understood and respected, and partnerships for sustainable, ethical development need to be established. In this context, coups and crises in countries like Gabon not only question the future of a country or region but also challenge how global actors should respond to such events.


September 4, 2023, Sochi - Сочи


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