Addressing the symptoms of coups in Africa

The recent military coup in Gabon which ousted and brought to an end the Ali Bongo’s ruling dynasty did not come to many people as a surprise. The Gabon coup which is the eighth in quick succession since 2020 came at a wrong time when Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS, has failed to diplomatically resolve the coup in Niger Republic and reinstate the dethroned democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

There is no gainsaying the fact that baring any change of plan, ECOWAS, which has since inaugurated its Standby-Force, will wage a war to dislodge the junta and restore democracy in the sahelian country. The military coup which is sweeping across African countries like hurricane reveals how representative democracy has failed the black continent.

Military regime has never been an alternative to democracy. In the early 1980s when the khaki men held sway across several African countries, there was neither record of good governance nor socio-economic development. The military regimes were accused of corruption, inequalities, brazen abuse of human rights, embezzlement of public resources resulting in massive poverty and, above all, muzzling of press freedom.

In as much as military regimes had failed the black nations, so have constitutional democracies failed the people. When the Western countries packaged and handed democracy to Africa, they did so believing that the set of rules and regulations governing it would be judiciously implemented.

For instance, in a constitutional democracy, there must be free, fair and periodic elections.The system also sets term limits for elected leaders. However, these set of rules and regulations for the success of the system are not only contravened but also abused with impunity.

African leaders, through constitutional amendments, ensure they bend the rules to elongate their tenures in power. Even the electoral umpires which are statutory empowered to conduct free and fair elections are forced to declare false results under duress by the power that may be.

Consequently, elections in Africa are characterised by violence, voter inducement and systemic rigging. There are many reasons for military incursion into democracy in Africa. Without a doubt, the quality of democracy in Africa is at its lower ebb. This can be seen through an entrenched and wide spread of poverty, disease, insecurity, unemployment, inequalities and corruption.

Besides, the sit tight syndrome whereby some African leaders spend over 50 years in power and refuse to vacate office even when roundly defeated at the polls must have contributed greatly to the ongoing or imminent coups threatening the African continent. With the exception of some West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, where periodic elections are conducted, other African countries witness the reign of civilian dictators who are the alpha and omega.

The power struggle between Africa’s former colonists and new world super powers like Russian and China is another red flag that engineers military coups in Africa. The sahelian African countries hit by military coups are Francophones. The coupists accused their former colonist masters, France, of exploiting their natural resources without socio-economic development of their respective countries. Russian and China which want to take the advantages of the coups are lurking around to strike for natural resources.

Military coups are not the solutions to multi-dimensional problems bedeviling African countries. The solution before the poorly developed continent are: strengthening our constitutional democracies, abolishing the rule by dynasties where few leaders want to rule for eternity, promoting good governance and setting agenda for foreign powers. These measures, if faithfully adopted, would serve as a compass that will help to navigate the continent out of trouble and keep our military in barracks.

Ibrahim Mustapha,
Pambegua, Kaduna state