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Africa’s fate hangs on cliff amid re-emergence of military ‘interventions’

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MILITARY are increasingly recurring in Africa’s polity in the last decade with the ousting of Guinea’s President Conde becoming the latest successful attempt of a country’s armed forces to take over the government and politics of a hitherto democratic nation.

  Since 2010, Africa has experienced about 38 coups and attempts in various countries. 2017 saw the ousting of Zimbabwe’s independence hero and president of over 30 years from power by the country’s military.  In the same vein, Sudanese soldiers, led by the country’s former first Vice President attacked the presidential palace and overthrew President Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Bashir had been in power since 1989. Ethiopia in 2019, also saw a coup attempt to oust Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

  This year 2021, the continent has witnessed four coups with three of the countries located in the West African region and the others in Central Africa; Niger, Mali, Guinea and  Chad. These recent coups rise above the average of coups of the past decade. While Mali has witnessed two consecutive coups despite brokering of peace deals, Chad’s Idriss Deby was killed in a fight against the country’s rebels although it’s claimed that he was killed as a result of a mutiny carried out by soldiers in the country’s military. However, Deby has since been replaced by his son as interim president leading the country’s transitional military council.

  As with most successful coups in the past, the military usually cite or hinge their reasons for intervention on corruption, political strife, gross economic imbalance and instability, amongst others. However, with the recent outcome as seen in Guinea, there’s a paradigm shift in military intervention legitimacy as citizens seem to jubilate about the political development. This novel attitude as against the traditional fears amongst the citizenry put a lot of questions about Africa’s leadership style and governance.

   Following the trajectory of recent coup attempts, there are recurring indices in the countries that have experienced military interventions in the past decade. These indices are mostly overt and they include, sit-tight and long-serving dictatorship government, manipulation of the constitution and electoral process, stifling of oppositions and the media, ethnic restiveness, economic woes, alienation of the citizenry from governance and the involvement of the military as political tool. As Jonathan Powell rightly puts, “African countries have had conditions common for coups, like poverty and poor economic performance. When a country has one coup, that’s often a harbinger of more coups.” Often times, as the era of social media makes it difficult to manage society, demagogues latch on people’s emotions to usurp power, promising to restore political and economic stability.

   However, history has shown that the military boys do not live up to their promise rather; they go lower down the mud engaging in the very activities they kicked against. To claim legitimacy and consolidate power, military governments engage in blackmail, extortion and annihilation of opposition, public opinion and the media.

  With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, this is hugely a bad time for African states to be found in the conundrum of military coup. Already, the pandemic has caused loss of jobs and business closure, which have plunged most families and individuals into poverty as well as taking its toll on various African economies. The presence of military dictatorship will not only scare investors away but a repeat of economic woes and bad governance experienced in the late 20th century might come into play. As with military government, political and economic stability is not guaranteed rather; it would lead to economic hindrance. 

  Despite the many challenges associated with military intervention and its effect on African societies development, it isn’t out of place to anchor the emergence of coups on the loopholes and inefficiency of most elected democratic governments.  Most African governments struggle to deepen and institutionalise the ideal elements of good governance and democracy.  To a large extent, most are caught in the web of abuse of power violation of human rights. In most African countries such as Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda and Guinea, the presidents have used the legislature to extend term-limits. Elections are marred by violence and malpractices. These phenomena are possible because African states have relatively weak institutions.

  It is imperative to note that military intervention in politics is not the best for Africa’s development especially at this 21st century. African societies need to cultivate democratic culture and establish strong institutions which cannot be influenced or manipulated by demagogues. As Winston Churchill rightly put, “democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.”

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