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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The bane of coup d’états


Many African countries have for long been beset by coup d’états. It is very common to hear that in a certain African country, the military has overthrown the democratically elected government and installed a council of rulers. When that happens, the first thing they do is suspend the constitution and begin ruling by degrees.

This type of change of government became so common that hardly did a month go by, without hearing of a coup in one country or another. When the population perceives that a certain elected leader is not governing well, and there is rampant corruption and nepotism, a coup is likely to follow.

There is a Ghanaian saying that if a bird stays too long on a tree, it is inviting a stone. This seems to explain at least one reason of the many coups in the continent. On many occasions, if a leader is elected they would intend to stay in power indefinitely.  This causes some discontent in the country and sometimes, the army would step in to purportedly ‘right the wrongs’ of the previous government.

The international community almost always, condemns such change of government and follows it up with sanctions and cutting off of ties and expulsions from international bodies. These measures however hardly have any effects as there is always a big power that sides with the coup leaders.

The measures taken by the international community most of the time hurt the civilian population more than they hurt the military leaders. Perhaps the thinking behind these measures is to nudge the population to rise up and redeem their democracy. However, considering the stark poverty in many of these African countries, it is hard to imagine the population rising against their rulers. The poor citizens are mostly more concerned with where to get the next meal than they are of who is ruling the country.

Admittedly, the number of military takeovers went down in the last two decades or so, but it is unfortunate that the past few years have again seen a rise in that again. For example, a number of military takeovers have been reported in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea Conakry and now Niger. This is obviously a setback especially for the regional bloc, Ecowas who had previously been unable to do anything to stop these coups. Of recent, there seems to be a renewed impetus to do everything to prevent any military overthrowing the democratically elected governments.

Democracy may not be perfect but with its insistence on transparency, accountability and checks and balances, it is one of the surest ways to foster development and prevent coup d’états. African leaders must work harder in strengthening democracies through strong institutions rather than strong men. This is how we can do away with military takeovers.

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