The upsurge of coups in Africa
On September 5, 2021 the Guinean military overthrew President Alpha Conde in a coup d’etat. The military putsch was the country’s third coup d’état since independence in 1958 and the latest in a string of unconstitutional power grabs in the region. On this note it is relevant to state that similar events had taken place Chad and Niger.
Both the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have issued their stereotypical condemnation of the coup in Guinea and have indeed taken more practical steps by suspending the country’s ruling military government from all AU and ECOWAS activities and decision-making bodies.
However, as good as these steps are, it is high time firmer measures were taken by Africa to practically make coups unattractive in the continent rather than the rhetorics of condemnation often ignored by the coup plotters or even sabotaged by the same countries that issued the condemnation. Meanwhile coup plotters go on to run the affairs in bodies like the AU and ECOWAS
So while we are not making excuses for military juntas, it must however be pointed out that the only remedy for coup in Africa is good governance. Democracy in Africa must be allowed to flourish by those who are elected to serve rather than using power as an instrument of oppression and milking the state dry through looting and all shades of corruption that end up impoverishing the continent. There are numerous instances where elected Presidents in Africa tinker with the constitution to elongate their tenure or even make themselves life President. Such undemocratic practice can only make the continent a fertile ground for coups.
The decision by African regional blocs to sit on the fence and bark at the juntas in Guinea brings to memories how they, African leaders allowed Alpha Conde to remain in power despite exhausting his two terms of fives each as President of Guinea, as provided by the country’s constitution. Rather than respect the constitution, he sought for a way to amend it to suit his selfish goals. President Conde began to suggest that the constitution be updated to bring about the much needed social changes in Guinea. Good as it were, but this was all tailored towards making the president eligible to contest for another two terms of six years each in the elections that that would follow its enactment.
Many questions jostle in one’s mind over these types of behaviour among African regional blocs, some of which are; where were African Union leaders when Alpha Conde was subverting the process, where was the ECOWAS when all these constitutional manoeuvring was taking place? Again when these aberrations occurred in Mali and Chad, what did they do?
Most African leaders are fond of amending constitutions in a self-serving mechanism which ought not to be. Yes, we are right to blame the military, and we should also be bold to call the democratic leaders to order when they try to change the rules of the game. At such junctures continental and subregional leadership need to speak up.
An African adage says, “As one chastises the hawk for preying on chicks, the mother-hen should also be cautioned to shield its chicks’. We are not taking sides with the coup plotters, no, not at all. Rather, we advocate transparency, accountability, faithfulness, integrity and honesty in service.
While we are not making excuses for military juntas, it must however be pointed out that the only remedy for coup in Africa is good governance
Back to leaders of the regional blocs, it is obvious that most time these leaders are reluctant to act simply because they are nursing some selfish interests in their own countries, hence, cannot just come out to condemn their partners in crime. Like the Biblical injunction, one should first remove the beam out of one’s own eye, before one can see clearly to remove the speck from others. Indeed, the issue rampant coup d’etats in Africa cannot be separated from their ulterior motives in governance.
However, the undeniable fact remains that as long as African Union and other regional blocs support and give comfort to coup plotters, it would be hard to make it stop.
Yes, there is no doubt that the principle of non-intervention remains a well-established part of international law. And that the prohibition of intervention is a corollary of every state’s right to sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. Yet as a group (African family), the leaders ought to rise up in one voice and condemn in totality the arbitrary seizure of power by the military. First by ensuring that those voted to rule are abiding by the tenets of democracy. Second by also ensuring that those who come to power through coups should not even be allowed into AU, ECOWAS fora or any other bloc, not to talk of becoming leaders in such a bloc. We are convinced that such ostracization will go a long way to ensure that coups are relegated to the museums of Africa’s political history.