The apparent military coup in Gabon Wednesday is raising concern about the future of countries in the Central African economic bloc CEMAC, which has some of the world's longest serving leaders.
Several dozen youths, a majority of them students from the University of Yaounde, watch attentively as soldiers declare on Gabonese TV that the military, united in a transitional committee, is putting an end to the leadership of President Ali Bongo.
The 64-year-old Bongo has ruled Gabon, an oil-producing nation, since succeeding his father Omar Bongo, who died in 2009 after 42 years in power.
Gabon held elections on August 26 with Ali Bongo running for re-election. But contested results indicate 69-year-old Albert Ondo Ossa, a former minister and university professor, won the poll. Ondo said Ali Bongo wanted to steal his victory.
Anong Jacob, a secondary school teacher in Yaounde, says post-election confusion in Gabon has given the military an opportunity to seize power, claiming that they want freedom for civilians, just like the militaries of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
"It is a shared feeling with those in Niger who are thinking at the moment that the time is now or never. They have all the resources, gold, diamond, timber and all of that, but we don't have any of the industries or factories that can process these materials, all are transported to the West and we have little or nothing to benefit from it," he said.
Gabon is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, CEMAC, an economic bloc that has some of the world’s longest serving leaders.
Eighty-one-year-old President Teodora Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea won elections for a sixth term in 2022. Obiang came to power in a 1979 military coup and is the world's longest-serving head of state.
In the Republic of Congo, 80-year-old Denis Sassou Nguesso has been president for all but five of the last 44 years.
And in Cameroon, 90-year-old Paul Biya has been the president for 41 years, since 1982.
Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera hasn’t been around as long but recently extended the presidential term from five to seven years and did away with the two-term limit for presidents. The C.A.R. opposition says Touadera created a life presidency for himself.
Langeh Ngah Derick, lecturer at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, says these leaders’ desire to hang onto power is causing systematic problems and widespread frustration.
"Something has to be done especially in French tropical Africa, ex-French colonies, particularly where egoistic interest frustrates most of the youths," he said. "You come out from the university, policies do not favor your integration into the system and to help build your nation especially in some of these Francophone African countries."
Ngah said if the opposition in French-speaking central African countries remains fragmented and leaders keep their strong grip on power, the trend of militaries taking power — as happened in Gabon Wednesday — may spread even further.