Before coups topple Africa’s democracies…

Lovers of democracy are concerned about the recent development in Niger Republic. The coup d’etat in Niger is sending a wrong signal about Africa especially that military coups are becoming a recurring decimal on the continent.

Guinea, Mali, Chad, Sudan and Burkina Faso have experienced a series of successful and failed military takeovers over the last three years. Apart from the foiled attempt to overthrow Guinea Bissau’s current President, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, on February 1, 2022, Burkina Faso’s coup, in which President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was deposed by (also now deposed) Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba on 24 January 2022, underscores how West African states are the most burdened by military coups in the continent.

This has raised several concerns in the sub-region and questions the relevance of the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with respect to the maintenance of peace and security in the subregion.

The coup d’etat of July 26, 2023, in Niger saw the country’s presidential guard detain President Mohamed Bazoum and presidential guard commander, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, proclaim himself the leader of the junta. The junta closed the country’s borders, suspended state institutions and declared a curfew. This was the fifth military coup d’etat since the country gained independence from France in 1960, and the first since 2010.

Though avoidable, coups have been influenced by a variety of factors, including power struggle, economic instability, ethnic tensions, and dissatisfaction with existing leadership. Coups often lead to political instability as the sudden change in leadership disrupts governance structures.

This instability can result to power struggles factionalism, and a lack of continuity in policies. Again, coups disrupt economic activities, both domestically and internationally. Investment may decrease, trade relations can be strained, and economic growth may slow down due to uncertainty and changes in leadership.

Similarly, coups can lead to rights abuses, as the new regime may resort to repression, censorship, and restrictions on civil liberties to maintain control. Political opponents, activists, and journalists may face harassment and persecution.

Furthermore, coups can strain relationships with neighbouring countries and the international community. Regional organisations and global powers often respond with diplomatic pressure, sanctions, or intervention, depending on their interests and the severity of the coup.

Additionally, coups can disrupt essential services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development, leading to humanitarian crises, especially in vulnerable populations.

Likewise, political instability caused by coups can contribute to internal displacement and migration as people seek safety and stability in other regions or countries.

It is also apt to state that coups can deter foreign investment and lead to a reduction in international aid, affecting development projects and poverty alleviation efforts.

Addressing the challenges posed by coups in Africa requires a multi-faceted approach that involves both domestic and international efforts. Thus, investing in robust democratic institutions, such as independent judiciaries, free media, and transparent electoral systems, can help create a stable and accountable political environment less prone to coups.

Again, encouraging dialogue and negotiation between different political factions can help resolve disputes peacefully. Equally, establishing civilian oversight mechanisms over the military and promoting professionalism within the armed forces can reduce the likelihood of military intervention in politics.

Furthermore, addressing economic disparities, promoting inclusive growth, and reducing poverty can help alleviate some of the socio-economic factors that can contribute to political instability and coups.

But more importantly, there is a need for democratically-elected African leaders to renew their commitments to offering selfless, patriotic and purposeful governance. It is the only way to engender growth and economic advancement of their countries, while also enhancing the living standards of their masses.

The fact that they have not been doing the needful, as far as offering inspiring and exemplary leadership to their people, is not the only reason their countries have remained parlous, but why their tenure in office, also, is often threatened by violent military coups, perpetrated by the men in khaki.

Obamodi Oluwadamilola Faith,
200-level student,
Veritas University, Abuja
[email protected].