By Olanrewaju Oyedeji
On the 23rd of January, the media reported a coup in Burkina Faso. The leaders of the coup blamed poor funding to fight against terrorists in the country as a reason for the coup
The plotters of the 2021 coup in Guinea Bissau cited rampant human rights abuses, rampant corruption, and economic mismanagement under its 83-year old then-President Alpha Conde as the reason for their decision to take power.
“I want no blood spilled to keep me in power” Mali’s then President, Ibrahim Boubacar, was quoted as saying in 2020 after soldiers detained him. His subsequent detention was preceded by protests by citizens of the country over what they described as mismanagement and corruption in the Ibrahim-led government.
In 2019 in Sudan, army officials took over the government, the ousted president, Omar al-Bashir, was accused of authoritarianism.
In the past one year alone, four successful and two unsuccessful coups have taken place in Africa. In Guinea alone, two coups happened within one year.
There are concerns that coups, a forceful change in government, are again on the rise in Africa after a decade of stable decline.
Everywhere a coup has occurred, plotters have listed corruption, bad governance, poor management among other things as the motivating factor for their actions.
The prevalence of corruption in Africa is well documented and it has been blamed for the lack of development in African countries. Most of the countries where military takeovers have happened in the last year have ranked high and scored low in the 2021 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International.
For instance, Mali ranked 136 in the 2021 Corruption Perception Index, up from 129 in the 2020 rankings, Guinea’s rank also went from 129 in 2020 to 136 in 2021. Although Burkina Faso scored two points higher than their 2020 score and its rank dropped to 78 from 86, their CPI rank is still low. Sudan also scored higher than their 2020 score but their CPI rank is still at the bottom for sub-Saharan Africa.
Military Take-overs Hardly do what they Promise
Despite the list of wrongs put forward by coup plotters as a reason for their intervention, the military has a history of worsening rights abuses during and after such coups. Corruption does not appear to wane much either.
Just as was done in Burkina Faso in January, military coups typically come with a suspension of the constitution of the country. A suspension of the constitution often means the suspension of rights and the rule of law.
In Sudan, the country’s military was accused of using live ammunition on protesters killing dozens in the process, and in January 2022, the military was also accused of killing at least two persons after a protest rejecting military rule in the country.
During the military regime in Nigeria, the Human Rights Watch noted that there was widespread rights abuses and repression. In Myanmar, the coup shattered the country’s weak rule of law.
In 2009, it was reported that the military in Guinea opened fire on demonstrators in Conakry who were against the candidacy of Mousa Camara, a military coup leader who seized power after the death of the country’s President Lansana Conte in 2008.
These abuses are usually strengthened by the inability of local media to adequately report such instances. Typically the media is often a target during military coups and the military takes over the state media apparatus when they seize power.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, recorded high levels of corruption during the military era. For instance, a sum of $5 billion was reported to have been stolen at the least by its then Military leader, Sani Abacha.
Asides inability to end corruption when in government, many military chiefs in Africa have made the headlines on corruption allegations. A report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies blamed corruption on the continent in part on corruption in the military, putting more light on military corruption issues.
In 2017, Zimbabwe Coup leaders justified their take-over on economic sabotage around the then 93-year old President, Robert Mugabe. However, as of 2017, the corruption perception index stood at 157 for the country and fell to 160 in 2018, a year after the coup.
It was not until 2019 when a civilian administration was in power that the perception index moved up to 158 and up to 157 in 2020.
Transparency International expressed concerns over strengthening corruption under the Egyptian Military leadership that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, making redundant the reason why the military stated that it took over power in 2013.
How Africa can Tackle Military Take-Overs- Experts
Retired Colonel Ademola Lawal, blamed the resurgence of military rule on the continent on the docility of the African Union and Economic Community of West African States.
Speaking to Dataphyte, he noted that Africa should not be allowed to roll back to military rule. Colonel Ademola noted that poor electoral systems, bad governance gives room for coups. He
wondered why bodies such as the African Union do not come out to condemn and take actions on corruption, electoral malpractices on the continent and in countries before they grow into agitations that lead to forceful take-overs.
He noted that while the military coup is the most pronounced one, civilians are also guilty of a coup when they strategize to take-over the Legislative arm and other arms of government for their pecuniary gains.
Colonel Ademola noted that Africa must begin to ensure that democracy is not dead on the continent as a way to discourage violent take-overs. The security expert stated that there must be conscious efforts to ensure that the fabrics that define democracy are allowed to thrive, tasking the African Union and regional bodies with the responsibility of playing significant roles in ensuring that the process of elections is truly democratic.
“When a country starts to clamp-down on opposition and use security forces to clamp down on the opposition, these are key signs and warnings, nobody sanctions them. These issues begin from somewhere. There are early warning mechanisms that must be activated and pursued vigorously. Individuals must not be allowed to capture key arms of government thus weakening the essence of democracy” he noted.
Senator Iroegbu, noted that Africa, especially West Africa, needs to start working on a peer review mechanism that allows the continent to understand government perception, challenges, and growth moving forward. He noted that it is a dangerous trend if coups are allowed to continue.
He also urged that while there is a need to work on corruption and better governance, democracy on the continent must not be left to the military, and as such, the African Union must collaborate with member nations to achieve institutionalizing democracy.
Senator Iroegbu warned that there should be no room for the military rule to spread as a way to ensure that sympathy does not grow for military rule in Africa and West Africa.
Credit | Dataphyte