Are Coups in Africa Still a Good Thing?
By Tony Ogunlowo
Just as ECOWAS is about to send a military task force to Niger in a bid to uproot coup leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani and his cronies and return the country back to its elected ruler, another coup d’état erupts in Gabon. This brings to eight the number of coups in Africa in the past three years.
This throws a spanner in the works and will force the ECOWAS military command to re-think its strategy: you can’t fight two countries at once.
African leaders haven’t changed over the years: they are still inefficient, corrupt, and couldn’t less about the countries they are sworn to guide and protect, they may practice nepotism whilst ruling in the most non-democratic way known to Man.
Since Africa has embraced ‘democracy’ (- our ‘democracy’ is different to the Democracy they practice in the West!), the only way the average poor person on the street can effect a change in government is to cast their vote in the next elections, whenever that might be. But when their votes are compromised (- stolen, bought or not registered as being cast), they are stuck with a leader who may not have their best interests at heart. Rigging an election to win anywhere in Africa is probably the easiest thing to do if you have the means and power.
So, what can you do?
Nothing! With all the loopholes ‘democracy’ affords, a politician can remain in power, getting up to all sorts indefinitely, with the electorate powerless to stop them or remove them from office.
This is where the military coup plotters come in: they see the suffering of the people and the corruption of the government and decide to step in. In doing so, they break their oath of allegiance to the ruling civilian President, and if it goes wrong, they become guilty of committing treason and face severe consequences.
This is the 21st century, and I, along with many others, believe coups are something that has been consigned to the past: never again should a soldier with a gun be allowed to seize power and rule by force. We elect our leaders now.
But this is a grey area: if a soldier overthrows a corrupt ‘democratically-elected’ government and installs an interim government, is this right or wrong?
It’ll be ‘Right’ if the junta quickly establishes an interim government with a view of returning power to a Democratically-elected government within an agreed time frame. On the other hand, it becomes ‘Wrong’ if the junta decides to stay on indefinitely.
And this is why I call it a grey area: Should we endorse coup-plotters who sack corrupt governments or not? Mugabe, of late to Zimbabwe, was removed from power by the military when he became too old and erratic to run the country. They subsequently handed over to a civilian government as soon as the change was made.
Now back to the proposed ECOWAS military intervention in Niger. Military planners will now have to go back to the drawing board to plan the nearly-simultaneous invasion of two sovereign nations (- Niger and Gabon); you can’t invade one country without the other! Since the powers that be have shot their mouths off threatening to invade Niger, they’ll have to do the same to Gabon. Considering the fact that they have the personnel, equipment and resources (- which they don’t), it’ll be a logistical and planning nightmare: something even Russia or America would never consider. How do you fight two wars against two separate countries at the same time?
Isn’t it time to listen to the voices of people for once? The people of Niger and Gabon seem to be happy to have been liberated from their tyrannical elected leaders, welcoming the change and dancing in the street. Perhaps ECOWAS and the rest of the international community should have a wait-and-see attitude before going all gung-ho, guns blazing on a military expedition that will mostly end in disaster. ECOMOG, the military intervention wing of ECOWAS, has not really had a successful run in its 30-year existence: its intervention has not prevented civil wars and its participation, sometimes, has always been questionable.
A round table discussion between coup leaders and international observers will present to the world their intentions and how they plan to restore the people’s mandate of free and fair elections to elect leaders who are not above the law.
If we are going to practice democracy the African way, there should be provision to remove inept and corrupt leaders the African way.
So, there is no need to wage needless wars.
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