Continental Africa, Pseudo-Democracies and the African Union

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

This article was inspired by the recent goings on in the continent of Africa. The bug of coup making again blew across the Sahara and stung the sparse desert country of Mauritania. If this was a surprise, the incoherent response of the world to this event was more laughable. Not only were most African leaders caught off guard by the coup, the reaction of Mauritanians jubilating on the street on the removal of a wicked and tyrannical government by the perennially ‘crazy’ khaki boys was by any standard a shock to world leaders in Washington and various vistas of European politics.

Indeed, the situation was an impossible. The removal of a dictator practicing pseudo-democracy; putting the citizens of his country in jails all in the name of terrorism and pro-Israel stance that totally jives with the policy of America and the spirit of non-interference deeply entrenched in the African Union is in itself not a first. Perhaps the first was that in the season of untold hatred for military adventurism, opposition parties and ordinary citizens would rejoice at an unconstitutional change in power and yet condemn the coup in another.

If so far my piece appears disjointed and incoherent, you can understand why this situation seems impossible. But the question is simple: What should the international community do when oppressive leaders (that have maintained themselves in power by rigged election, gangsterism, terror and corruption all in the name of democracy and anti-fundamentalism) are removed from power by military force? If you think it is easy to voice concerns over coup making in Mauritania, think about a coup in Harare and Tripoli and what world reaction should be to such moves.

There is no doubt in my mind that coup making is retrogressive. But the response to ‘justified’ coup making as we saw more recently in Mauritania is what I am trying to choreograph (It is very true that there was not foreseeable constitutional change in power in Mauritania in the near future). It was very apparent that even the almighty ‘Nigeria’ could not offer a coherent response to this event; and were at best bluffing when they reacted initially to the news. The absence of any constructive policy towards the coup makers in Mauritania might at first even strengthened the military boys to the detriment of the people they seek to rule over. This article lays out three approaches to this problem.

Primarily, it is important to see every change in political power in terms of the ‘people’. African Union and world leaders need to start seeing support for a country and the leaders of such countries as separate and different. Indeed, most African leaders are disconnected from the people they rule and it would be a mistake to approximate the removal of a leader that won 99% of vote at the ballot box with the negation of the peoples wish. In fact, the support of the people’s wish after any coup should be paramount in the minds of world leaders, not the support of discredited regimes like Ex-President Taya; exactly what many African Union leaders did immediately after last week’s coup and eventually backfired later in the week. It is known fact that African Union is a simply a glorified committee of pseudo-democrats. The numbers of countries practicing a semblance of democracy in this group do not exceed twenty. In this group, you would find Botswana, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, and Ethiopia among many others. Others like Burundi, Congo, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Angola are transitioning from bloody civil wars and can be excused from the burden of democratic governance albeit briefly. However, the likes of Libya, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Uganda and even Tunisia have mastered the art of silencing opposition, rigging elections and maintaining one man in power for a very long time! This does not augur well for the African Union and negates the spirit of the association- socio-economic freedom and ‘truly’ democratic governments are twins and along with the rule of law form the tripod on which any stable society is built.

Secondly, the question of how to deal swiftly with the coup makers arises. Immediately after any coup, it is important that the international community indicate their readiness to dislodge the coup makers from power even with force. It is also important to make it clear to them that their adventure need to short and swift. Perhaps, this approach would convince those pseudo-democrats in AU that they are not indispensable after all. That if a young military chap that sees coup making as the only avenue to dislodge his sit-tight dictator takes power, the international can see short term reason, while being guided by the reality of military gangsters that have under developed the continent over the years.

Lastly, it is important that alternative mechanism to coup making be created in the continent of Africa. Alternatives include punishing pseudo-democrats and making them submit to international election boards to validate their elections or even subjecting them to some Continental court on Human Rights and Justice similar to the European Human Rights Courts. In fact, that can subject their hooliganism to judicial correction, oversight and change; or perhaps make statements on the legality or illegality of government’s actions or the government themselves. This way, coup making would be removed as the only potential way to remove bad leaders and would allow the ‘khaki’ boys to continue their business of protection instead of dabbling in the dirty water of governance and political adventurism.

Conclusively, the situation in the continent of Africa is pitiable. The irony of president Taya going straight to Niger as guest of a President currently in denial of his people’s struggle with hunger show the disconnect between Africans and their ruling elites. I will not be surprised if Niger with a history of instability is next in line for mutiny or coup plotting, given that a hungry person is an angry soldier! Be warned.

Last line:

The true democrat is he who with purely nonviolent means defends his liberty and, therefore, his country and ultimately that of the whole of mankind

Mahatma Gandhi quotes (Indian Philosopher, internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest, 1869-1948)

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adegoke August 19, 2005 - 7:20 am

The writer is just an african and a scholar who shared is thought as an african then as a white man i love the flow and use of lang..

Andrew August 18, 2005 - 8:36 am

"command and use of english language…." (in comment 5) what was Iyoha talking (or writing) about This article is filled with contradictions.

PRINCE KENNEDY IYOHA August 17, 2005 - 9:20 am

In the first place i will like to express my admiration for this writter his command and use of english language.

Before we go into analisis of the coup we need to look at the life of the ex-leader of mauritania and how he got power how long he has been in power and what plains he has to retune his country to democratic rule. We need to make a vivid analogy of this ex and what he has acheived for the people of mauritania all this more than 20 years in power. There is a comon say in Nigeria that those that live by sword often give up the ghost by the very same sword.

Nigeria as a leader in west africa has an obligation to be close to the new leaders in mauritania share experance and encourage them to keep their promise of handing over power to a rule of law in two years.

The africa union is a very young entity without enough infastructure to impliment sanction which to me is more detrimental to the very same comon people in the street or set up a mechanism to regulate unlawfull take over of power by millitary juntas.

Democracy is the best option of governance. But the use of force is some times necesary in bringing about a permanet change like the Nigeria experance.

We should remember that the ex-leader of mauritania has been in power for more than 20 years without any offer to bringing his country to the rule of law and this new leaders are offering a possibility to his people to experance a democratic igovernment which in tune will bring in many good things to that country like forign investments accountable government tourism…etc.

Africans and indeed Nigerians are very sceptica to the military because leaders like Abrahim Babangida made very many promises without complying to any. General musharat of pakistan also made promise to hand over power and later extended the date of his handing over power to democratic government.

in the case of mauritania lets hope that he can like obj who promised and handad power to civilians in 1979 and the last military leader of Nigeria.

If we take pain to study the coup in mauritania our conclution will be or my conclution is that the coup was necesary.cotdevour is today in problem because of the settight mentality in our land.

pozzy August 17, 2005 - 12:49 am

busanga is very confused and lost.

Anonymous August 16, 2005 - 6:48 pm

The article is interesting and insightful..but is there any alternative to good governmeent

Lekan August 16, 2005 - 1:21 pm

There is nothing excellent in this article! Hear the writer himself: "If so far my piece appears disjointed and incoherent" He was damn right!

At one moment he tried to justify and glorify the abominable coup in Mauritania. And the next moment he was trying to come around as a way!

Precisely its the thinking of this writer and his ilk that brought Africa to where it is today. They brand their democratically elected leaders as corrupt pseudo-democrats election riggers etc etc and based on these excuses they encourage coups against these democracies. And these same people will soon turn around to condemn the military dictators they encourage in the first place.

If our politicians are not allowed to go through the process of crawling and walking (which took American politicians 200 years to master) how can they mature Is election perfect in America Till today many Americans still feel Bush is there because of the Supreme court judgement against Gore; but did that make the American military stage a coup

Going by the contents of this article the quotation attributed to Ghandi at the bottom of the article is absolutely irrelevant!

Anonymous August 16, 2005 - 11:52 am



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