It should be remembered that against a dictatorship the objective of the grand strategy is not simply to bring down the dictators but to install a democratic system and make the rise of a new dictatorship impossible. To accomplish these objectives, the chosen means of struggle will need to contribute to a change in the distribution of effective power in society. Under the dictatorship, the population and civil institutions of the society have been too weak, and the government too strong. Without a change in the imbalance, a new set of rulers can, if they wish, be just as dictatorial as the old ones. A ‘palace revolution’ or a coup d’état therefore is not welcome – Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy.
The belt of coup d’états:
A 2003 review and a recent (2023) environment scanning by this writer found that the following factors were associated with coups:
Officers’ personal grievances with the establishment and government structure are a major cause of coups in Africa: The military in many cases have complained of being underfunded and marginalised by political leadership when major decisions about the country are being taken.
Politicians most of the time neglect these grievances by the military and the military in return would use their access to the gun bought by the funds of the state to over throw the State. The examples of the Presidential guards complaining is legion across the continent and the latest examples was in Guinea and Niger that eventually forced the departure of the Presidents of the two countries
In July 2023, members of Niger’s presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum inside his palace and appeared on national television saying they were seizing power to end the “deteriorating security situation and bad governance.” The interesting dimension is that the military would not do better as they are not equipped to do the job they have applied for by force. Many times one set of military end up removing another set and the game of Russian Roulette continues while the people languish in poverty.
Back to Niger , days later the junta declared the head of the presidential guard, Abdourahamane Tiani, the new head of state, raising concerns about the security of a region where Niger has been a key ally of Western powers seeking to contain insurgencies by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
In September 2021, Special Forces commander Colonel Mamady Doumbouya ousted President Alpha Conde. A year earlier, Conde had changed the constitution to circumvent limits that would have prevented him from standing for a third term, triggering widespread rioting. It is not right for any politician to use the instrument of the State to subvert the State. The Presidential is not the play ground of only the Bongos or the Gnassingbes .
Doumbouya became interim president and promised a transition to democratic elections within three years. ECOWAS rejected the timeline and imposed sanctions on junta members and their relatives, including freezing their bank accounts.
The military regime later proposed to start the 24-month transition in January 2023, but opposition parties say it has done little to put in place institutions and a roadmap to return to constitutional rule.
Military popularity: The military has gained popularity in many countries because of the lingering security and declining state of the economy. Added to this is the radical posture of the military that paints a departure from the status quo.
Many countries in the CFA Francs zone aren’t doing so good and France is not doing much to stabilize their economy while sucking away their natural resources at give away price , so France is used as a scape goat by the military any there is a putsch in the coup d’états corridor of the continent.
The domino effect from other coups in the region can also not be denied. What is instructive however is the fact that all of political upheaval are raging in Francophone Africa while Anglo phone Africa seems stable. We wonder how long these stability would last . The domino effect is real and frightening.
In January 2022, Burkina Faso’s army ousted President Roch Kabore, blaming him for failing to contain the violence by Islamist militants operating on the fringes of the Sahel.
Coup leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba pledged to restore security, but attacks worsened, eroding morale in the armed forces that led to a second coup in September 2022 when current junta leader Captain Ibrahim Traore seized power.
The Way forward:
West Africa armed forces and the politicians must be re-educated and re-focused for national salvation. Coup d’états have taken place over the last three years in the West African states of Niger, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
Military governments are still in place in each country despite all the ECOWAS threats. One suspect that these military juntas would like to succeed themselves taking a page out of the Captain Yaya Jammeh playbook in the Gambia.
The roots of this coup d’etats wave lie in regional instability, poor governance by elected leaders, and many successful past coups. The people are watching and would only support genuine leaders with transparent and trustworthy intention . Most of the politicians are far from the expectations of the people. They need to work on their craft to stem the wink to the men in military fatigue.
Other West African states offer evidence that future coups are not inevitable and democratic progress is possible. If Governance is down played and equity , transparency and accountability feed to the dogs then the future would be an interesting discuss for all stakeholders.
Michael Umogun is a Chartered Marketer with interest in public policy