Last Sunday, September 5, witnessed another ugly development in the political history of West Africa, when a group of soldiers, led by a French Legionnaire, Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, announced the takeover of government in Guinea after arresting the democratically elected President, Alpha Conde.
Doumbouya, amid cheering crowds, accused Conde’s government of “endemic corruption” and of “trampling on citizens’ rights” even as he pledged to open talks on forming a new government, but it is not yet clear when, or under what form, this new government may take.
The world rose in fury and denounced the coup, demanding the restoration of democratic order and the release of the detained President. The United Nations, United States, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others have been vehement against the coup.
ECOWAS and the African Union have suspended Guinea from the two blocs to which it is a member but are yet to impose sanctions.
ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc sent a delegation to Guinea and it met the overthrown President Conde and the new military rulers who toppled him. The 83-year-old Conde is said to be in good health, according to envoys from ECOWAS during the mission to the country.
The visit by the delegation of ECOWAS on Friday came as diplomatic pressure on Guinea’s leaders intensified probably forcing them to make uncertain commitments to the return of democratic rule.
It is presumed that the visit of the delegation will pressure the military junta in Guinea to initiate a clear process of returning constitutional order as soon as possible but Doumbouya and his men had made a commitment that appears uncertain about future political process in the country.
The coup leaders have formed what they call the National Rally and Development Committee (CNRD), which has dissolved the government and the constitution. They have also appointed army officers to head regional administrations and on Thursday ordered the central bank and other banks to freeze all government accounts, in order “to secure state assets.”
The political instability occasioned by constant coup plots and undemocratic change of government in West Africa is so disturbing that experts are pressed to admit that some of the factors have been principally the tyranny of the so- called democratic governments. There is also the failure of the regional blocs to take decisive steps to punish military takeovers in the region other than the usual rhetoric of suspension and sanctions.
For instance when soldiers seized power in Mali last year, ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions on the country, but lifted them after Mali’s ruling military committed to restoring civilian rule. The coup makers led by Assimi Goita set a transition programme but have again truncated it when they sacked the civilian interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on May 24, accusing them of failing to consult the military about a cabinet reshuffle. The soldiers have selected Goita as Interim President with the regional bodies probably not knowing what to do.
The issue of undemocratic and tyrannical behavior of some of the West African democratic leaders is another source of worry and probably an incentive for coup makers. For instance Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015. But last year, he allegedly manipulated a constitutional change to allow himself to run for a third term by organizing what the opposition called a sham and illegal constitutional change. People who came out to protest the constitutional change were mowed down with guns by soldiers on the orders of Conde.
It was a similar story in Ivory Coast when President Alassane Ouattara also won a third term last year after changing his country’s constitution, while the ECOWAS did little or nothing to forestall this constitutional move which opposition have denounced as illegal. This is a sad episode, which has continued to increasingly characterise Africa’s political landscape and the concomitant economic backwardness.
Speaking on the issues, International Constitutional Law expert and public affairs analyst, Livingstone Wechie, said the coup in Guinea, the world’s number one producer of bauxite, sends a recurring but groundswell signal for heightened instability that may go round the various draconian African States.
He blamed the situation on what he called the “lacklustre and criminal governance models with which Africa’s rulers have held the continent to ransom.” He stressed that it was hypocritical of the US and some European nations to condemn the coup when they are robust beneficiaries of the instability of Africa.
He also criticized the African Union and ECOWAS for their inability to take stringent measures against coup plotters in Africa.
He said “the only interventions from these legless continental and regional bodies are the threats of sanctions which never materialize because they are all partners in crime against promoting good governance and lack the needed capacity to enforce relevant protocols haven lost their sense of purpose set off by the founding fathers. My view is that these bodies in Africa should be disbanded and reenacted with a new approach that has at heart the Africa of our dream.
“Ostensibly, the red flag warning sign for African Heads of State is that they are no longer safe and their firm grip on power for life and tyranny is no longer guaranteed because a battle line has been drawn for the coming days.
“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 developments are 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.
“This is a reason African has remained in the backseat in terms of democratic development and infrastructure revolution in the world.”
He charged African patriots not to relent at this time in ensuring the recovery of Africa from the hands of its current crop of destructive rulers.
“It is a bad story that Africa continues to be ruled by black-legs and enemy forces. At this time, what should count the most will be saving Africa at any necessary rate strategically and renewing our true democratic zeal,” he said.