President of Burkina Faso/ Roch Marc Christian Kabore. Source unknown.
Mali, Guinea, and just 24hours ago, Burkina Faso all in the West Africa subregion have witnessed their share of military takeovers. In less than two years, the democratic experiment in West Africa is beginning to slide, steadily back to the early days of African colonial emancipation.
Unlike Mali and Guinea, the Mutinying Soldiers of Burkina Faso say their reasons for ousting President Roch Marc Christian Kabore includes the ill commitment of his government in dealing with Islamist threat from the north and inadequate military hardware to fend off the aforementioned Islamist threat. However, the history of most military coups in Africa may give us a glimpse of actions to be undertaken by the Burkinabe usurpers.
First is to announce on state television the takeover, install a coalition/interim governing body (comprised mainly of the military junta), promise free and fair elections within a fourth night which in many cases never happens and as a result rolls back the dice of democratic achievements in such countries.
ARE WE WITNESSING THE BEGINNING OF A TECTONIC SHIFT FROM DEMOCRACY TO MILITARY/AUTOCRATIC RULE IN WEST AFRICA?
Experts may not be in cahoots with claimers of a dying West African democracy but the truth is, we may perhaps be witnessing an exodus of military takeovers simply because democratic practices in the region is slowing creating a bourgeoning ground for coups. In Ghana (touted as the beacon of democracy in West Africa) the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections elections left 5 dead according to the Ghana Police Service.
The state, which is granted the power of legitimate violence in other to protect the lives and properties of its citizens is virtually non-existent in Northern Nigeria and Burkina Faso. The Malian Government can boost adequate security only in Bamako and relies on France to protect huge swaths of the country from separatists and jihadists.
Protestors in Ouagadougou chant and cheer the military in Burkina Faso on 23rd January. Image: Reuters TV.
“A hungry man is an angry man”. An African saying which may be merited in this article sheds light on the failure of elected governments to enact and implement policies to enable them to win the war against hunger and poverty. International initiatives targeting an end to poverty and hunger in Africa have perpetually failed. The more aid is shipped in from donors, thousands die of hunger and poverty annually according to the United Nations.
African governments whose solemn pledge is to ensure the basic needs of citizens is attained, only wastes loans and grants secured with the peoples mandate only to advance flamboyant living and wasteful populist policies. Unlike the first world, constitutional provisions in the peripheral countries compound the situation by protecting these fang wielding leaders by occasionally giving them a slap on the wrist as punishment for the enormous malfeasance they have perpetuated in office.
This unfortunate development disconnects the people from the ruling class fueling resentment and vendetta. It becomes natural therefore for the people in our part of the world to rush on the streets loaded fully with adrenaline to support any form of government takeover even though it would wash away achievements made by a country decades back and also stifle international business and investment. This is the democracy/autocracy quagmire we find ourselves in as Africans.
CAN AND SHOULD AFRICA CHANGE COURSE?
Of course, West Africa is in a shipwreck scenario, fortunately not in the middle of the ocean but close to a large island abundant in materials to aid reconstruction. Individual governments need to work, engage the citizenry and inculcate a habit of considering voices of minority and the misrepresented. Implemented policies should be made based on thorough research. Laws should be amended to hold public officers accountable and deal with what is found culpable. That will at least light the candle of trust in citizens.
As a body, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) should consider chartering a new course and must not be oblivious that economic crippling sanctions simply do not work (International Sanctions on Afghanistan, Iran, and Russia by powerful western countries have proved futile over the years). Dialogue has always sufficed and the leadership of ECOWAS finally has in grasp, the opportunity to show the rest of the world that yes democracy is a better alternative by showing leadership.
It can be done starting with individual leaders in their respective states within the sub-region to make sure that the tenets of democracy are fully implemented making institutions truly independent, responding to the basic needs of citizens adequately and giving no reason for coup plotters to justify their actions. YES, WE CAN.
By: Abdul Mumin Kamal/ Accra/ Ghana.