In response to the unsettling rise of military coups across Africa, both Rwanda and Cameroon have opted for pre-emptive measures by restructuring their defense portfolios.
The recent coup in Gabon, where President Ali Bongo was ousted from power and placed under house arrest by the military, has sent shockwaves throughout the continent. This incident prompted President Paul Biya of Cameroon to enact significant changes within the country’s defense ministry.
Among the key posts shuffled in Cameroon were the defense delegate to the presidency, as well as roles within the air force, navy, and police. This strategic move comes as Cameroon’s President Biya faces both praise and criticism for his lengthy presidency, which began through a coup d’état in 1982.
Meanwhile, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame took decisive action, announcing via X, formerly known as Twitter, that he had approved the retirement of 83 high-ranking officers, including James Kabarebe, the senior presidential advisor on security. The reason behind this abrupt retirement remains undisclosed, though it is presumed to be an attempt to curb the mounting trend of military coups across Africa.
President Kagame also sanctioned the promotion and appointment of new officers to fill the vacancies created by the retirements. In a bid to bolster defense cooperation, meetings were held between Rwanda’s Chief of Defence Staff, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Rwanda, and Cameroon’s defense attaché.
These actions have been taken in the backdrop of constitutional changes that enable Kagame to retain the presidency in Rwanda until 2034. Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, remains one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
The timing of Kagame and Biya’s decisions coincided with the seizure of power by soldiers in Gabon. This marked the end of President Ali Bongo’s family’s more than half-century reign. The recent election that saw Bongo secure a third term in office was heavily contested by the opposition, citing allegations of fraud.
As Africa grapples with the resurgence of military coups, the proactive steps taken by Rwanda and Cameroon reveal their determination to maintain stability and ward off potential threats to their political landscapes.