The gradual return of military juntas in West Africa
Something unpleasant happened on September 5, 2021, which was the day Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya, formerly, a French legionnaire officer led a group of soldiers to overthrow President Alpha Conde in Guinea.
A country of about 13 million inhabitants with French as its official language, Guinea is reputed as having the world’s largest bauxite reserves, which are a major requirement for producing aluminium. In addition, Guinea also has a sizable amount of gold and diamond deposits, as well as crude oil.
The coup plotters in Guinea were daring by opting for the execution of their sinister moves on that day without having regards for the presence of visitors especially foreign players, CAF and FIFA officials who were there for the 2022 World Cup qualifying match between that country and Morocco. In spite of the presence of personalities who could have landed them in trouble waters, the coup plotters went ahead to overthrow a duly elected president.
Nothing could have given them the courage to do so other than their assessment of the likely backlash from ECOWAS member countries as well as the international community, who in their own assessment could have mounted mild resistance to change of guard in that country. Events unfolding after the coup have confirmed that the coup plotters gauged the regional and international reprimand accurately and are convinced they could weather the storm.
Guinea may be the newest country to get into the fray of military administration; Mali and Chad are the two other West African countries with military juntas. Few months back, Colonel Assimi Goita took over power in Bamako, the capital of Mali when he overthrew former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020. The Malian mutinous soldiers hinged their power grab move on the general dissatisfaction of the people, which caused anti-government protests in that country.
Confirming the general belief that Colonel Goita is ready for a long duel, a few months after the installation of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane under an international arrangement, the civilian leaders were detained and forced to resign. And since May 24, 2021, Colonel Goita remains the head of government in the Republic of Mali. The unfolding developments in that country have cemented the general belief that the military administration in Mali has been tacitly approved by the international community.
Chad Republic roiled in crisis after the death of its leader, General Idriss Deby in N’Djamena, the administrative capital of the country. His son, the 37-year old Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, was supported by foreign countries to stabilise Republic of Chad after his father’s death, and has been in power ever since.
Elsewhere, some ambitious soldiers in Gabon made an attempt at changing the government in that country, particularly, to bring an end to the reign of Ali Bongo’s family. The ill-fated power drunk escapade was thwarted by the ever-vigilant Gabonese military, the adventurists arrested and killed.
African countries, especially those in Sub Saharan Africa, are among the least developed in the world. When ranked in terms of GDP per capita, human development index, patents, innovation, manufactured exports, poverty and malnutrition, political stability, among others, the lower end of the scale is usually occupied by Sub Saharan African countries.
African countries have not fully recovered from the years of military misrule on the continent. Those were the years when Africans were oppressed by their own people; individuals disappeared without trace; mediocrity became the order of the day, while corrupt leaders who looted state resources that could have transformed strategic sectors which would benefit many generations to come were celebrated. Till today, Nigeria still receives in installments recovered loot from what the late General Sanni Abacha stole from Nigerian coffers.
Military regimes are usually characterised by lack of planning because they are spontaneously set up. It is a period no one could boast of what will happen tomorrow because an administrator today could be out of office the next day if there is a cabinet reshuffle. This is in contrast to a civilian administration that works with short, medium and long-term plans for the state. A project may be completed by another regime as long as it is in the state’s development plan.
At this juncture, it should be noted that the worst civilian administration is far better than the best military regime. In this regard, Nigerians should not lose their guard in case some ambitious military personnel want to push their luck too far in this country. Military regimes should be rejected in its entirety by all and sundry.