Striking the Balance: Democracy, Coup d'Etat, and the African Quest for Stability

Published on 22nd August 2023

In the realm of governance, the concept of democracy has stood as a beacon of hope for societies seeking to uphold the principles of freedom, representation, and progress. However, like any system of government, democracy is not without its complexities and challenges, particularly when viewed through the lens of Africa's unique collective mindset. As I share my perspective, I urge my fellow Africans to consider that while democracy might present its own limitations, resorting to a coup d'etat is not a viable solution to the multifaceted issues we face across the continent.

It is my earnest belief that our collective journey toward effective governance should be marked by a dedication to democratic principles, even as we acknowledge the nuanced dynamics of recent coups across the West African region. These unsettling events have underscored the fragility of our political landscape and have prompted us to reevaluate the foundations upon which our nations are built. While the attraction of swift change through a coup may momentarily captivate some, it is imperative that we recognize the lasting damage such actions can inflict on our countries' progress and stability. Thus, our commitment to democracy becomes all the more essential, serving as a steadfast anchor in the face of uncertainty.

The pages of African history are etched with instances where populations endured the hardships of one-party dominance, autocratic rule, and military regimes. The fervent resistance against such oppressive governance models is a testament to the resilience of African communities. This serves not only as a critical lesson but also as a wellspring of inspiration, urging us to remain steadfast in our commitment to democratic ideals.

African countries have experienced 98 coups between 1952 and 2022, according to a United Nations report on coups in Africa. With the recent ones in 2023, this number has now exceeded 100. You may be intrigued to ask, where did those coups take us? The cycles of coups and counter-coups that have marked our history have had far-reaching consequences, often hindering our nations' growth and development. Rejecting any possibility of reverting to junta regimes and authoritarian rule is imperative, as democratic stability offers a path toward sustainable progress.

Democracy sets forth certain expectations, expectations that I wholeheartedly endorse. Therefore, democratic governments hold a huge responsibility to deliver on their mandates, ensuring that the economic, political, and social freedoms of their citizens are upheld, otherwise, junta leaders would always find justification for their involvement.

It is paramount that we confront the question: If democracy has found success in diverse corners of the world, why should its potential not be realized within the nations of Africa? In our pursuit of answers, we must critically evaluate our leaders, democratic institutions, and their practices. If we can shape these aspects, progress is certain. The power to shape these factors lies within our grasp, promising progress that can echo the success stories of countries such as Mauritius, Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and even nations like Canada, Australia, France, and the USA.

While skepticism about democracy's intentions can be raised, including the notion that it has been used as an imperial instrument, we cannot overlook the undeniable fact that democracy has thrived outside the African context. What stands to be gained from dismissing a system that has yielded progress elsewhere?

As I advocate for the prosperity of democracy in Africa, I emphasize the importance of integrity and sincerity within our leadership. While time can be an ally in transformation, authentic change will only occur when our leaders embody a commitment to the advancement of our nations. Instances like those we have witnessed in Cameroon, Uganda, and beyond are stark reminders that long years in power alone cannot bring about positive change in the absence of transparency and honesty.

The quest for balance between democracy and coup d'etat encapsulates our collective aspirations as Africans. It is a journey that necessitates navigating complexities, overcoming historical baggage, and nurturing a steadfast commitment to democratic principles. As we move forward, let us be guided by the wisdom of our past, the potential of our future, and the understanding that true progress lies in our hands.

By Abubakarr Benson

Executive Director, Centre for Youth Participation in Democracy (CYPaD)

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