By Samsudeen Sarr
The current political impasse or crisis in Venezuela, Algeria and Sudan emerging from popular civil resistance to unseat the political establishments of all three countries should be of special interest to global heads of state, military commanders, political leaders, continental and regional organizations, journalists and of course concerned political polymaths.
In the seventies, eighties and nineties, political changes were primarily effected by military coup de tats mainly sponsored by superpowers such as the Soviet Union, the USA, France, England and the like. It was one of their most potent foreign policy of imposing and consolidating political and economic dominance on weaker nations although they had in the process used ideological justification to create, support and control puppet regimes where ever attainable.
In Africa for example, time had proven to us how western nations in pursuit of their clandestine economic objectives of controlling the natural resources of independent nations had systematically propagated the adoption of so-called capitalist economic systems against socialism that at the time was the dearest practical system of the Eastern nations. As young men we had indeed emotionally fallen for these alien ideologies with the dogmatic belief in what their founding fathers had prophesied; that in the case of socialism, the future economic system of the world was ultimately going to evolve into communism in its perfected manifestation. Young people with spirited minds in search of true meaning of life after school had easily fallen for these fashionable ideas giving me and some of my colleagues our first political awareness. For instance, we were effectively convinced that Senegal’s President Leopold Sedar Senghore, Gambia’s President Sir Dawda Jawara and Ivory Coast’s President Félix Houphouët-Boigny were retrogressive puppets for allying with the capitalist west while Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah, Guinea’s President Saikou Touray and Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere became our progressive independent-minded leaders for embracing socialism of the eastern block.
In retrospect, one could in fact argue that military coups were introduced and for a long time reinforced by foreign powers in newly independent weaker nations irrespective of how brutal or costly the means to do it.
In the case of Portugal as a colonial power, Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique had to wage years of guerrilla warfare to finally attain their independence.
In Ghana, the Congo, Ethiopia, Angola, and Egypt to name a few African hot spots affected by foreign-sponsored military coups , these countries had suffered immensely from decades of ideological wars fiercely contested by America and the Soviet Union in their quest to control strategic landmarks for wider dominance of the world economy.
Then over time, like slavery, sponsored coups became less profitable especially after the collapse of the Soviet Empire in the early nineties giving way to more sophisticated means of scrambling for the resources of African nations in particular. America, the European nations, Russia and China are no longer interested in coups but are still aggressively competing over whose hegemony draws weaker nations closer to them.
Creating wars to sell arms may still be profitable but from its unintended consequences of orchestrating uncontrollable wave of migrants threatening their luxuries built over the centuries, wars for arms sales is gradually proving too dumb to sustain as an economic strategy. They have of course regretted the destruction of Libya under late Colonel Ghadafi a country that had before served as an effective buffer zone for illegal migration to Europe.
Without doubt, the unpredictability and unprofitability of the outcome of investing too much resources on military campaigns or coups for future profits has been frustrated by failures in countries like Iraq and Libya where I don’t need to elaborate on the disastrous consequence of the costly wars still being fought there.
And thanks to Russia’s decision to stand up and say enough was enough, that Syria was not also another statistics among the nations they had helped in destroying its government and left to the hands of warlords and jihadists.
It was never about introducing democracy for better governance but simply about destroying unfavorable nations not serving their interest while sparing the favorable ones working for them.
Iraq and Libya were essentially unfavorable nations and therefore had to be destroyed on the ostensible reason of offering their people the “god-given right to enjoy western democracy and civilization;” whereas, favorable nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are fine and must be spared any kind of criticism in their choice of political system no matter how undemocratic or uncivilized they were by western standards.
Egypt’s inexplicable massacre of hundreds of civilians in August 2013 who were peacefully protesting over their political right to challenge the illegal removal of President Mohamed Morsi from power was clearly endorsed by the whole world. International organizations such as the United Nation and the African Union have been deafeningly silent over the lawlessness of that mass slaughter because Egypt enjoys a favorable spot in the global political spectacle.
Anyway this is where the classic catch 22 gets us. Realistically, if the Egyptian security forces had not resorted to that magnitude of lethal force the Muslim Brotherhood supported by radical elements would have indefinitely rendered the country ungovernable which in the end would have equally been catastrophic to the nation’s welfare than otherwise. I am therefore saying that the security forces had to act.
What a thrill to watch lead counsel Mr. Essa Faal of the Gambia TRRC in an Egyptian TRRC meticulously questioning President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s security commanders on the “suggestion” that they had lied for refusing to accept carrying out illegal orders at Rabaa that night. Just a for a laugh!
Egypt has since been celebrated as a tranquil, well-behaved and prosperous nation in the middle east regardless of what the world may conclude on the ascension to power of another military strong man after Mubarak. .
The question now is how will the world react to a similar military crackdown in Venezuela, Algeria or Sudan if a strong military figure in those countries in an effort to restore orderliness, resort to the same method of violently dispersing the civilians in the streets bent on bringing those governments down no matter what?
What is happening in these countries are unsustainable and pose existential threats to the peace and stability of the individual nations. Getting rid of the entire old government including the top echelon of the military with none of them being guaranteed a trouble-free life the day after, is unrealistic and unacceptable.
In Sudan some of the protesters are already calling for the handing over of President Omar al-Bashir and his close associates to the ICC where they are wanted on charges of committing war crimes in Darfur. And I strongly support the Sudanese military for rejecting such demand.
We shouldn’t however be surprised if European countries soon start lobbying African puppets to have Mr. Bashir arrested and handed over to the ICC but not the least concerned by the fact that George Bush and Tony Blaire committed worst crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan on reckless wars but wouldn’t allow any ICC prosecutor to even investigate those crimes.
Likewise in Algeria, the civilians don’t want to understand any retention of the old guards for an orderly transfer of power to the civilians when indeed they are irreconcilably divided over which political group should come up with the leadership role and which should not.
Looking at what is happening in Venezuela, it is obvious that a protracted stalemate will simply translate into more economic hardship with the potentiality of pushing the nation into possible civil war while the international community show no effective resolution on the standoff.
America is threatening to militarily force President Nicolas Maduro out, but they know that the Russians and the Chinese will not readily allow that. Beside, America’s greatest ally in waging such destructive wars, England, has enough political mess in its hand-BREXIT- to be idle enough in supporting another reckless and open ended war in Latin America.
These countries are not like Gambia where regional forces could hastily be mobilized to remove an undesirable head of state from power and even retain the troops in the country to smoothly support a transitional government.
And like I said in one of my last articles, politicians are like soldiers without guns while soldiers could rightly be considered as politicians with guns. They have different ideas on who is most suitable to govern a country and how.
I saw sudanese soldiers and civilians on Al-Jazeera TV dancing and jubilating over the welcomed change of government. They are probably from the same ethnic, political or religious group with hopes of having their preferred leader to succeed Mr. Bashir. There could also be four or five such antagonistic groups out there waiting for the system to either work for them or collapse if rival groups attempted to assume the leadership position. I have even seen an old toothless communist party leader claiming his right to the throne.
With Libya in flames, Northern Mali overwhelmed with ethnic and religious conflict, Somalia continuing to harbor hardened Islamist combatants and Boko Haram getting stronger in Northern Nigeria, the danger of the entire North Africa subregion turning into a vicious battlefield is increasingly conceivable.
If that is a farfetched notion, the potentiality of civilians coming out in full force for more politically-inspired resistance with demands for regime change in many more African countries is not. It is the new “coup” effectively removing governments and has so far brought down many in Africa.
I do not envisage the Gambia ever taking that disruptive route, but hey, you never know. These civil uprisings are not necessarily organized by any political body or group but instead erupt spontaneously out of public reaction to perhaps a trivialized incident.
In Burkina Faso, President Blaise Compaore simply wanted to change the constitution in October 2014 to extend his stay in office that triggered the civil resistance culminating to downfall. We all remembered how the Arab spring started in Tunisia when on December 17, 2010 street vendor Mohamed Boua Zizi died from self-immolation in protest to police injustice. In Sudan it started with the sudden increment of the price of bread that eventually brought down Bashir’s 30-year old government.
We can also agree that these uprisings are caused by combination of social, political and economic factors, such as weak-leadership, high rate of youth unemployment, low-income earnings, blatant government corruption, politically-motivated ethnic, religious or sectarian tensions. Not too many African countries, if any, are free of these itemized problems to claim immunity from facing the same challenges. Getting prepared for the day should be a major concern to all leaders and members of their security forces.
Let’s hypothetically say that the Gambia suddenly faces a similar situation in the near or distant future. A situation where the civilians occupy the streets with the same political demands for the whole government to step aside including key figures in the military who must give way to their choices of leaders. What then must we do?
I cannot imagine our security forces in the country ever obeying orders from the executive to use any kind of force in resolving such stalemates, especially where necessary or lethal force has to be applied. With the way the TRRC is unconsciously outlawing such “extreme” actions I am afraid the GAF and the GPF will hesitate or show minimal enthusiasm in acting even where action is necessary.
I have heard about ECOMIG being the first or last resort under such circumstances in the Gambia. But I find that hard to believe. I am not privy to the terms and conditions of the MOU on how and why ECOMIG was deployed in the Gambia, although I still view it rather naive for Gambians especially the elite to nurse the concept that it is within the mandate of these foreign forces to forcefully intervene in these kinds of domestic affairs. ECOMIG is a combat force with no training on how to effectively control civil disobedience and will face a serious backlash if they again attempted to use lethal force in the Gambia against armless civilians, like what happened in Kaninlai in their early days in the country. Where is lead counsel Mr. Faal in that murder case?
The enduring role of the Gambia Armed and Police Forces in ensuring political stability in the country should never be relegated and left to the hands of foreign forces who will leave if things really get out of control or even if the European Union stopped paying their salaries today.
Let the European Union start paying the Gambian Military Forces part of the money budgeted for ECOMIG and see how well behaved and professional they will be in maintaining the peace and progress in their own country.