Democracy is under threat in West Africa. The sub-region has been bedeviled by constant coups perpetrated by ambitious army officers, who sometimes capitalised on the undemocratic behaviour and failures of the acclaimed democratic leaders in the sub-region.
On Sunday, September 5, 2021, a group of soldiers led by Col Mamady Doumbouya, shot their way into the Presidential Palace in Guinea’s capital, Conakry and arrested President Alpha Conde after toppling him in a coup. They accused him of corruption and human rights violations and vowed to correct the ills of the society.
This latest military takeover in the bauxite-rich West African country has drawn the condemnation of the international community. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have suspended Guinea from all their bodies and mounted pressure on the coup leaders, who appear to be succumbing to international pressure with a hasty declaration of an uncertain transition to democratic order.
On Thursday, September 16, ECOWAS leaders rising from an emergency summit in Accra, Ghana, imposed sanctions, asset freezing and travel bans against the military government in Guinea and those slowing Mali’s post-coup transition.
The 83-year-old Conde was the first democratically elected President of Guinea in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015. But after serving his constitutionally required second term in office, Conde allegedly manipulated the constitution to allow him run a third term which he won last year. The self-serving constitutional changes he initiated was rejected by the opposition and those who came out to protest.
Speaking on the Coup, International Constitutional law expert, Livingstone Wechie, said “Unfortunately, the interest is not and has never been Africa’s progress, although its purported rulers have for too long taken the people for granted. The most disturbing aspect of the development is that those taking power forcefully are not members of the patriotic class, but rebels who want to have their share of power control without any iota of patriotism or Pan Africanism.”
Also speaking, the director of the Centre for China Studies (CCS) Charles Onunaiju, noted that instead of the formalistic reaction to coup in Africa by AU and ECOWAS, the regional bodies must begin to reactivate their Peer Review Mechanism especially the AU, which will give an early warning signal to threat to democracy and move to avert it.
“The pear review has been ineffectual because it would have indicated an early warning signal in the case of Guinea where democracy was in danger when Conde changed the constitution. So, we have not been able to develop an effective early warning mechanism in engaging democratic rule,” he said.