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