Africa: The Coup Era Returns

Published on 22nd February 2010

Tandja: Cornered                         Photo courtesy
I abhor undemocratic means of ascending to power. When Capt. Mousa Dadis Camara survived an attempt on his life by his aide Boubakar Diakite, many thought it was just an isolated incident  and a passing cloud. To the contrary, thinkers had a different take of this. Is this the beginning of a new era whereby marksmen are likely to usher democracy in? 

After Diakite shot Camara, his grip on power started to shrivel where it would have thrived. His sober deputy Sekouba Konate came into the big picture to arrest the impasse the country was in under Camara. Thanks to his efforts and bravery, Guinea may have a democratic elected government soon shall what has been agreed upon be adhered to.

The recent development whereby the army in Niger staged a successful coup tells how the army that used to be regarded as the means to power has made a U-turn that, if maintained- is likely to get Africa rid of tyrants and strongmen. Won’t it bring back military juntas? This is the big question many have to ponder on cautiously and carefully.

Mamadou Tandja a former army chief annoyed the world last year when he embarked on a controversial referendum that abolished the presidential term limit and gave himself more leeway to bulldoze Niger after his second-five-year term in office expired last December. His paid stooge maintained their bagatelle that Tandja had special work to complete as if the country was his private estate.

The turning of tables against Tandja must send signals to all African potentates clinging to power by depending on the armies. What transpired in Niger must open eyes for other dictators who think they are smart. Tampering with constitutions has become an in-thing for African tin-pot dictators. It has been done in Senegal, Uganda and Rwanda. This proved to be a hard nut for opposition and civil organizations to break given that it was supported by armies. Now, the new breath is likely to come from the men and women in uniform. They are tired of being a tool in one’s hand.

Given that all tyrannical regimes in Africa depend on armies, this new move –shall it aim at restoring democracy- is likely to succeed and spread pronto. Nigeria is currently democratically stable thanks to the realization of the army that it can play a great role in restoring democracy. Though Madagascar is still frangible, the role the army played during  the power struggles between former president Marc Rovalomanana and current one, Andry Rajoelina, is commendable and apable.

Though military juntas are coming to plunder just like those they depose, opposition needs to give them a heck so that their stint in power should restore democracy instead of transforming themselves into civilian aspirants for presidency as recently evidenced in a failed bid in Guinea.

It is time for the opposition to agitate that Niger be steered back to true democracy. The good name the junta gave itself: Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (SCRD) must mean exactly that.

Africa was trying to soldier on without coups. But given that our democratically elected dictators don’t want to honor their promises and the constitutions of their countries, slowly we’re relegating back to dark days of tyranny and dictatorship. What even pains is the fact that our sitting duck-AU, has always been backing dictators. That’s why when the army pulled Tandja down, it quickly suspended Niger. The irony though is when Tandja tampered with Niger’s constitution; it did not take such stern measures!

Nigers are upbeat though it is early to speculate. One of the junta leaders, Harouna Djibrilla Adamou, was quoted as thus: "We call on national and international opinions to support us in our patriotic action to save Niger and its population from poverty, deception and corruption."

“I hope the soldiers restore some order ... clean up the political environment,” said taxi driver Moussa Issa. “We need to start from scratch, without being compromised by the current political class which has been discredited over the last 20 years.” Issa added.

Is the junta going to meet the expectations of the people? Time will tell.

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