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Ex-President Ali Bongo of Gabon

Coups all over the continent By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Coups and earthquakes!

Foreign journalists from America and Britain who covered Africa back in the day never tired on writing headline stories on coups and earthquakes in Africa.

There is no point to be gained denying the hard news that military coups are making fast and furious comebacks all over Africa.

The impossible death of the military coup in the continent is a clear and present danger that cannot be wished away.

The resurgence of coups across the African continent commands urgent attention.

The small Central African country of Gabon was rocked by a military coup in the wee hours of August 30, 2023.

The Gabon putsch occurred just barely over a month after the July 2023 coup in Niger Republic.

As things stand now, these seven African countries – Gabon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, Mali, and Sudan – are under the charge of military dictatorships.

While the coup in Gabon marked the end of the 55-year-rule of the Bongo family, the Niger coup abruptly ended the civilian regime of the recently elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

In both instances, economic degeneracy and electoral malfeasance were the buoys of the coup leaders.

The streets rose in tumultuous support of the coup-makers much to the chagrin of ill-assorted defenders of democracy.

There were also jubilations on the streets of Conakry in September 2021 when the military ousted President Alpha Conde of Guinea.

The attempts to preach popular democracy in the bid to stop the coup-plotters have been very ineffective.

The order by Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the leader of the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS) that the coup honcho and head of Niger’s Presidential Guard, General Abdoulrahamane Tchiani, should immediately hand back power to the ousted Bazoum was flatly rebuffed.

In Gabon, a video was shown of the overthrown President Ali Bongo urging his people to come out in the streets to “make some noise”, but nobody heeded his call.

Given the open support of the public, the emergent military powers can be said to be interventionist rather than adventurist.

Anti-French colonial policies are quite high in the minds of the peoples of the countries supporting the coups in Francophone Africa.

There have been ten attempted coups in West and Central Africa since 2020.

Burkina Faso, as a standout case, has been ruled by the military for 25 years of its 62 years of independence.

In equal measure, Mali has also in 62 years of independence witnessed 25 years of military dictatorship.

The current Niger imbroglio points to the fact that the country has been under the jackboots of the military for all of 38 years of its 63 years of independence.

In 66 years of independence, Sudan has been ruled by the military for 31 years.

It needs a recall that the first coup in Africa happened on January 13, 1963 when President Sylvanus Olympio of Togo was assassinated.

Ever since, there had been well over 100 successful coups across Africa, with even a greater number being aborted or unsuccessful.

It is galling that 45 of Africa’s 54 countries must have witnessed a military coup plot. Sudan owns the record of having the most coup plots, numbering 17, with six being successful.

It is Burkina Faso that holds the eagle’s feather of nine successful coups with only one abortion!

Nigeria used to rank quite high in the coup business until 1999 when General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over civil power to ex-General Olusegun Obasanjo.

From independence in 1960 to the transition to civil rule in 1999, Nigeria experienced nine successful military coups and three aborted putsches.

It was after the annulment of the June 1993 presidential election and the diabolical coming to power of the iron regime of General Sani Abacha who wanted to transmute to a civilian democratic leader of the country that the majority of Nigerians, with the support of the international community, somewhat avowed: Never Again!

The heart of the matter is that democracy must render dividends to the people for them to defend it.

It is steeped in history that leaders – martial or civil – generally earn acceptance when they can guarantee the wellness of the populace.

Culturally, democracy and the African chief are not the best of friends.

An African chief sees the throne as his forever, and he is therefore alarmed that democracy makes the case for elections and the concomitant change in leadership. Asking the chief to quit power is akin to trying to move a mountain.

This way, holding an election in Africa is a high risk venture as the votes of the people hardly ever count.

Even when an incumbent clearly loses an election, there is no guarantee whatsoever that he would accept the result.

The tragedy is continent-wide.

Lives are lost and whole nations are ruined in post-election conflicts.

The military coup is somewhat hailed as a Deus ex Machina, as in the theatre.

The sit-tight mentality of African leaders has over the years led to multiform riots and bloodletting.

The grinding poverty of the people under the onslaught of sit-tight so-called democracies led the oppressed masses to resort to self-help in supporting the unseating of the uncaring leaders which eventually got the military to exploit the lacunae.

Who could have prophesied that “The Arab Spring” would start so innocuously on December 17, 2010 when a Tunisian man, Mohammed Bouazizi, who was unable to find work and had to make ends meet by selling fruits at a roadside stand set himself on fire when a municipal inspector confiscated his wares?

His death on January 4, 2011 caused the uprising of the people that led to the sacking of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, thus ending his 23 years in power.

If the people are alienated by any government that lays claims to being a democracy, a coup or revolution or mere anarchy supervenes!

No preachment on patriotism can save the day.







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