Sit-tight syndrome, coups d’état and African woes

Citizen jubilations are popular in the streets of countries where coups have taken place in West Africa, but not without reversing the positive trajectory of the civilian regime, especially in the Sahel region.

In just five months, the seizures of power in Chad, Mali and Guinea plunged countries into political instability, having removed heads of government. And again, the two coup attempts in Niger and Sudan.

Before these coups, almost all of the affected countries were in different political crises, with some protesters calling for the resignation of ousted leaders.

In Guinea Conakry, which is the most recent, protesters and opposition leaders backed the army that toppled Alpha Condé, a human rights professor and law activist, who was elected after decades of military rule in 2010 and became the first freely elected leader of Guinea since independence in 1958.

His victory was seen as ending decades of authoritarian rule by two pioneer Guinean presidents, Sékou Touré and Lansana Conté, who ruled the country for 26 and 24 years respectively.

But after the two constitutional terms, Conde changed the constitution, offering himself a chance to run for the third term, which he won, much to the chagrin of opposition candidates and to the unease of diplomatic circles. Opposition protests followed and dozens of people were killed.

The military said endemic poverty and corruption had driven them to overthrow Condé’s government and promised to install a transitional government, without giving a timeline or an election date mentioned.

In Mali, May 25, 2021 was the second coup in nine months, and since then political stability has continued to elude the country. Like what happened in August 2020, the same army colonel led the coup and used the same military base to detain the president. And what triggered the coup? Cabinet reshuffle!

After the coup, the military repeated the same promise to hand power over to civilians in 2022. However, it’s important to know that armies that have tested power rarely, and when they do, do. It’s only a matter of time before they strike again. .

A question often asked by many is: “Why is Mali stuck in this circle of takeovers?” This could further explain the role played by France, the AU and ECOWAS in the current situation of the West African sub-region.

As many analysts have pointed out, Mali and Sahelian Africa are turning to a circle surrounded by insurgency and instability, making them fertile grounds for military takeovers.

As in Guinea, some Malians believed that the military junta would bring prosperity, they were fed up with the circle of poverty and corruption but other heads of government in the sub-region did not believe it, they wanted partners. trusted civilians in Africa. So the military reluctantly agreed to relinquish power at least on paper.

Now, according to the plan, the interim government will oversee Mali’s transition for 18 months, but the Malian government is full of senior military officers. The coup leader was the vice president and his allies were the heads of the defense and security portfolios.

In Chad, Idriss Deby, a key figure in the fight against terrorism, had been practically “president for life” until he was killed on the front line by the rebels, to be replaced by his son in an extra process. constitutional.

When French President Emmanuel Macron attended his funeral, he said: “France will not allow anyone to jeopardize and will not allow anyone to threaten the stability and integrity of Chad, neither today nor tomorrow” .

Subsequently, a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), acting on the basis of a report drafted by its fact-finding mission in N’djamena, on May 14 effectively approved the plan for the junta, contradicting the bloc’s long-standing tradition of dealing with unconstitutional takeovers.

Suspension is and has been the AU’s standard operating procedure ever since, until Chad did.

“This exposes the African Union’s double standards,” said Obambe Gakosso, a Congolese political analyst.

“But the AU also forced the Malian army to appoint a civilian government in August. It was clear that the military was uncomfortable and that was not going to work, ”Gakosso said.

By taking power, the Chadian army violated article 81 of the country’s constitution, which provides that the head of the National Assembly exercises the functions of interim president in such circumstances and for the keeping of a deadline. from 45 to 90 days in the event of the president’s death, resignation or incapacity.

The military also dissolved the National Assembly and government, and suspended the constitution, despite protests from civil society and the political opposition – crimes serious enough to warrant AU suspension and sanctions.

The major powers have largely ignored or tacitly approved of the takeover, according to Diarrah.

“The French said they were ready to accompany the Chadian regime, but for Mali, there were threats of withdrawal, threats of end of cooperation (Operation Berkhane).”

Sit-tight syndrome triggers coups in Africa

International analyst Dr Lawan Cheri said the AU endorsement of the junta in Chad has encouraged the military to overthrow democratic governments in other West African countries.

“If you look at it, in less than a year we have about five – in Chad, Mali, Guinea and failed attempts in Niger and Sudan,” he said.

He said academics like Powell believed Africa had the highest number of coups in the world with around 200 recorded coups and 4 coups per decade.

“However, there are new forms of cold war between China and the Western world where both seek economic partners, especially those who can provide much needed raw materials and provide strategic military bases.

“France is heavily dependent on its former colonies and China is now the new wife providing infrastructure and loans, attracting a large number of countries.

“Western countries, in particular France and the United States, perceive the danger and the decision-makers are the leaders of the various countries of West Africa. So if a leader fails to dance to their own pace, either party could sponsor a coup, ”he added.

A former Nigerian Ambassador to the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU), Alhaji Usman Baraya, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech would not have been complete without reference to the series of coups that are taking place in the Sahel.

“Chad is affected, Mali, Guinea are affected, and a few attempts here and there. If you look at what is happening in our countries today, the soldiers can come back anytime and apologize and watch how it was celebrated in Guinea.

“Nonetheless, as Awolowo mentioned, the worst democratic government is better than the best military government” because military rule is a dictatorship, either take it or leave it.

He recalled that in one of his last missions as Ambassador to the AU in Ethiopia, it was decided that by 2020, one of the most important goals they aimed to achieve was to “silence the guns”.

“Sadly, in the backyard of the African Union, where the headquarters were located, the crisis in Tigray and Ethiopia erupted last year, 2020, so the vision was cut short.

“But the solution is that no matter how much provocation, the regional bodies of ECOWAS and the AU must stand firm. Let there be no crack!

Citizens only celebrate the coup when the government fails them

Another security analyst, Dennis Macree, said it is especially when citizens are unhappy that the military intervenes in democratic government. “If the government is doing great, the citizens will condemn the coup, but if the government is not doing well, people will celebrate and dance in the streets. “

He said that when coups do occur in Africa it shows the trend is very clear, people are suffering and people in government are doing nothing.

“It is also a warning signal to other governments on the continent to do what is necessary otherwise it could happen to them.

He said that aside from the poor performance of African leaders, the tight sitting syndrome of African leaders is one of the reasons fueling coups on the continent.

“African leaders need to know that democracy is different from monarchy. Africans tend to practice monarchy believing it to be democracy, because democracy is the form of government that is common all over the world now and people tend to believe it.

“If you go back in the history of Africa, we have existed in kingdoms, we have kings and kings still believe that they are in charge and that everyone is their servant. And of course, when you bring democracy, democracy means one man, one voice, and that’s very hard for the king to understand.

“The kings of Africa today are the presidents, so they find it very difficult to understand that their own vote is equal to that of the vulcanizer. This is why you see that in African democracy people tend to impose candidates on society. You hear candidates anointed by the president, governors, party, etc. We are not in a position to suppress the monarchical attitude in us.

“Thus, we practice democracy on the veiled system of the monarchy. You find that when presidents stay in office, first term, second term, they tend to believe that the presidency and the country belong to them.

“We have a history in Africa where the president is richer than the country, and even in Nigeria where some presidents wanted to run for a third term because they did not want to leave their post.

“African leaders are going to change the constitution to give them a third term so that they stay in power to continue what they are doing,” he said.

Regarding the intervention of the Western powers, he said: “Africa must be very careful in their interventions, they do not intervene in our politics because they love us so much, they intervene because of their interests.

“Why do you think France is interested in countries like Chad and Niger? The reason is that they collect natural resources, minerals that are very vital to their own economy. So they do it either for natural resources or for strategic reasons through which they will exert their influence. “

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