On Sunday Nigerians and other Africans and indeed the world was bombarded by breaking news on Guinea from cable news networks. The soldiers had staged uprising in Guinea’s capital and had taken over the state television where they announced that they had dissolved the West African nation’s government and constitution and closed all land and air borders.
Reuters reported that fighting broke out near the Presidential palace on Sunday morning, with several sources saying an elite national army unit, led by a former French legionnaire, Mamady Doumbouya, was behind the unrest. Videos shared on social media on Sunday afternoon, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed President Alpha Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.
Doumbouya appeared on state television draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers, saying his supporters planned to form a transitional government and would give further details later. “We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya said. “We call our brothers in arms to join the people.”
The government of Nigeria was among the first countries to reject the coup, describing it as a violation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. The federal government did not only condemn the military coup, it called on those behind the unconstitutional change of government to restore constitutional order without delay and protect lives and property. The federal government in a statement on Sunday by the spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Esther Sunsuwa, said it was saddened by the development in Guinea. The statement titled, “Nigerian government condemns coup d’etat in Guinea,” reads, “The Nigerian government is saddened by the apparent coup d’etat in the Republic of Guinea, in clear violation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.”
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also condemned the coup d’état. President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana condemned the action in a statement issued in Abuja. Akufo-Addo, who is also the Chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, said ECOWAS demands the immediate and unconditional release of President Alpha Conde as well as others arrested.
“ECOWAS notes with great concern the recent political developments which occurred in Conakry, Republic of Guinea. She condemns with the greatest firmness this coup attempt on Sunday, September 5, 2021. “ECOWAS demands respect for the physical integrity of the President of the Republic, the Professor Alpha Condé, and his immediate and unconditional release as well as that of all the personalities arrested.
Similarly, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the European Union, the AU had all condemned the coup in Guinea and demanded that the rebels release Conde. Guterres posted on twitter that “I am personally following the situation in Guinea very closely. I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde.”
The 55-member AU also called for an immediate release of Conde in a statement. Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is also the current AU chairperson, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the AU Commission chairperson, further called on the AU Peace and Security Council to meet urgently to examine the new situation in Guinea and to take appropriate measures in the circumstances.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell condemned in a tweet the coup in Guinea, calling on the rebels to release President Conde.
In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price also condemned the seizure of power by the military in Guinea, urging all parties to avoid violence and engage in dialogue.
The coup has been rightly condemned, but like in previous such condemnations when a ‘democratically elected’ government is overthrown, those leading the condemnations failed to address the underlying causes. The beauty and essence of democracy is indisputable. Man is yet to come up with a better system of government than democratic government. However, democracy is often abused by African politicians and elected presidents.
Most constitutional democracies give a maximum of two terms for presidents. This is also true in Africa. Sadly, in the continent, African leaders have found ways to circumvent the constitutionally set two term limit by amending the constitution so that they could have third term and more, against the public will. These despots who masquerades as ‘democratically elected’ presidents thrive most where they could effectively suppress the opposition.
Nigeria witnessed similar incident when former president Oluesgun Obasanjo wanted to amend the constitution in order to have a tenure elongation which was thwarted by the then very vigilant National Assembly. Obasanjo has often denied this but former U.S. Secretary of State and former U.S. National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, sensationally revealed in page 638 of her book “No Higher Honour: A Memoir of My Years in Washington” that former President Obasanjo, despite his often repeated denial, did in fact want a third term and had approached former U.S. President Bush to seek his support for altering the Nigerian Constitution to enable him achieve his aim.
According to Miss Rice, “In 2006, when President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria sidled up to the President [Bush] and suggested that he might change the constitution so that he could serve a third term, the President told him not to do it. ‘You have served your country well.
Now turn over power and become a statesman,’” he said. After a public rebuke from the United States and condemnation of his effort by the international community, the Nigerian Senate rejected the constitution amendment proposal that could have allowed Obasanjo to serve a third term. Some other African countries are not as lucky as Nigeria and have had third term and more, forced down their throats by desperate despots in presidential palaces.
Take the case of Guinea, President Conde had served his maximum two terms, but it was not enough for him. He therefore superintended over the amendment of the constitution so that he could have a third term.
He succeeded and ‘won’ a third term in October despite violent protests from the opposition.
Whatever may be said about the coup, the outpouring of pure joy on the streets of Guinea showed that the country and its people have had enough. It was a message to Conde that he ought to have gone when the ovation was high after his second term.
As good as democracy is, those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable. Like Conde, there are several African presidents staying on borrowed time at the Presidential Palaces across the continent and are hiding under the smokescreen of being ‘democratically elected’ when they should have left power decades ago. There are also some African leaders who are nearing the end of their second term and are thinking of amending the constitution to elongate their tenure, such leaders should know that they could get the Conde treatment. They should take seriously, the advice that former President George Bush gave to former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria when the latter wanted his support to change the constitution to have a third term in office; “You have served your country well. Now turn over power and become a statesman.”