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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Rwanda and Cameroon presidents sack military chiefs barely 24 hours after soldiers take over power in Gabon

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame and 90-year-old Cameroonian President Paul Biya have fired their military chiefs barely 24 hours after the military took over power in Gabon.

In Kigali, Kagame sacked nearly 200 military chiefs, including two four-star generals, James Kabarebe and Fred Ibingira, and two three-star generals, Charles Kayonga and Frank Mushyo Kamanzi, Rwandan outlet The New Times reported on Wednesday citing a government statement. 

The Rwandan leader, known for his brutal crackdown on the media and opposition, also retired 83 senior officers, 06 junior officers and 86 senior non-commissioned officers, 678 end-of-contract officers, while 160 were discharged on medical grounds discharges,” the statement said.

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In Cameroon, Mr Biya, who spends most of his time in Switzerland, is also not leaving his grip on the country to chance as he immediately shuffled the officers in the army, air force and marine.

The sweeping changes in Cameroon and Rwanda came barely a day after the coup in Gabon, where President Ali Bongo Ondimba was toppled and placed under house arrest by soldiers. Both leaders did not reference the coups in Niger and Gabon in their respective decisions.


Soldiers who seized power in Niger in late July have also faced sanctions by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), although the measures have so far failed to persuade the junta to return power to the democratically elected leadership.

Biya, in a statement posted on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, said he had issued a decree to terminate some soldiers and move others from the country’s defence department.

Newly appointed senior military chiefs for the army include Ajeagah Njei Felix, Kamdom Lucas, and Nguema Ondo Bertin Bourger, amongst others.

Edou Essono Serge Durel and Moudio Hervé were among the newly designated officers in the Cameroon’s marine.

Biya assumed power in 1982 at the age of 49. He has led the nation ever since. Before he became president, he served as prime minister from 1975 to 1982. His decades-long administration has had no major impact on the Cameroonian economy, critics have said.

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But over the past decade, as his health deteriorates from old age, Mr Biya has been living in his mansion in Switzerland, from where he has been governing his country’s roughly 30 million people.

Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in the last general elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the unconstitutional removal of the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo, by the country’s military officers.

Atiku who was a former vice president of Nigeria during former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, in a statement on Thursday advised the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to engage these soldiers diplomatically, thus convince them to return to the barracks.

He said: “The coup in Gabon stands condemned. Democracy and democratic governance have come to stay as a preferred form of government, and everything should be done to enthrone, nurture, and sustain it.

“As I suggested in the case of the Niger Republic, the ECOWAS and African Union authorities should open a window of diplomatic engagement that will pave the way for the soldiers to return to the barracks.

The latest coup brings the number of military takeovers in Central and West Africa to 8 since 2020. This is worrisome and calls for introspection. We may have to focus on dealing with the disease and not the symptoms that birth coups”.

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