The military junta in Burkina Faso on Monday, January 24 announced that Roch Kabore, the civilian president has been suspended from Office. It was also announced that other pillars of the democratic order have been dissolved. In taking these decisions the military cited the deterioration of the security situation and what they described as Kabore’s inability to unite the West African nation and effectively respond to challenges, which include an Islamist insurgency.
This comes at the heels of September 5, 2021, when in another West African country, Guinea, the military ousted President Alpha Conde. Colonel Mamady Dounbouya, who led the junta that ousted the civilian government of Guinea, cited autocracy, economic mismanagement, and erosion of democratic norms as reasons for military intervention. Earlier, on May 24, 2021, the military seized power in Mali. Nine months earlier, in August 2020, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was removed from power by a military alliance. Before the Mali coup in May, the military struck in Chad on April 20, 2021, and overthrew the democratic government of President Idriss Deby Itno.
Nepotism, autocracy and self-serving administration are the bane of many West African leaders that give rise to military resurgence
This ugly development leaves the West African region with five military coup d’etats in less than 24 months. It is a worrisome development that leaves one wondering what could be driving this untoward approach to governance across the borders of the West African sub-region. Before the coup in Burkina Faso, hundreds of protesters were seen marching on the streets of Ouagadougou, demanding Kaboré’s resignation.
Militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have upended life in Burkina Faso, a country of about 21 million over the past seven years, rendering it much ungovernable and driving at least 1.4 million people from their homes. Therefore, insecurity, corruption, and misgovernance constitute the main variables in all these coup-prone countries.
The military as was reported had earlier urged the president to hire the services of Wagner Group, a Russian security agency to help curb insecurity in the country. The Burkinabe wanted Russian intervention knowing how the Wagner Group’s presence in the Central African Republic has helped restore security. Besides, they are aware of Russia’s intervention in Mozambique, Libya, and Sudan, among other countries with similar challenges.
In 2020, Mali also had issues with insurgencies. As the country grappled with an intractable insurgency and eight years of instability, anger over the government’s failure to resolve conflict, respect democratic norms, and provide basic services pushed citizens and the military to their boiling point.
The instability in Mali led to destabilization in the Sahel, a region in West Africa with a host of interconnected challenges increasingly exploited by terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Thus and in view of the immediately foregoing, issues, as regards intrusive forces in the region, could also be responsible for the occurrence of coups. Another possible reason for the resurgence of coup d’états in West Africa is corruption.
The coup plotters in Guinea as a matter of fact cited corruption as their reasons for overthrowing the civilian government. Colonel Mamady Doumbouya in his address said what prompted the coup was because the government of Alpha Conde was found guilty of mismanagement.
Nepotism, autocracy, and self-serving administration are the bane of many West African leaders that give rise to military resurgence. On key governance issues, regional organisations have generally remained silent, despite the development of an African Governance Architecture (AGA) in 2011. With only 17 countries having signed and 6 ratifying the 2014 African Charter on the values and principles of decentralisation, local governance, and local development, mere lip-service is paid to core values like responsiveness, transparency, accountability, and civic responsibility.
It is ideal that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and many other nations of the world have condemned the coup d’etat in Burkina Faso, describing it as a step backward. But it must be noted here that more actions are needed to curb this menace. The position of West African regional blocs to sit on the fence and bark at the coupists whenever there is a coup d’etat is not helping issues at all.
Probably, the leaders of the regional blocs are reluctant to act, simply because they are nursing some selfish interests in their various countries, hence, cannot do otherwise. It is obvious that the principle of non-intervention remains a well-established part of international Relations. And that the prohibition of intervention is a corollary of every state’s right to sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence. But despite the immediately foregoing, as a group (West African family), the leaders must rise up with one voice and condemn in totality the arbitrary seizure of power by the military.
This can be done, first by ensuring that those voted to rule are abiding by the tenets of democracy. And that those who come to power through coups should not even be allowed into ECOWAS or any other blocs, not to talk of becoming leaders in such a bloc. We, therefore, join our voice with Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, the Federal House Representatives minority leader, who pointed out that the lesson in the coups ravaging West Africa, is a wake-up call for democratically elected leaders to deliver good governance to their people.
It is a proven fact that bad governance would always lead to frustration and resentment among the citizenry. This allows them to fall into the temptation of supporting undemocratic change of government. This is the time for West African leaders to embrace good and all-inclusive governance. We are waiting, watching, and hoping fervently that the West African sub-region will turn a new leaf in the direction of ensuring that democracy becomes embedded in this troubled region.