COUP D’ÉTAT IN AFRICA: Democracy still the way to go

Niger Coup Leader Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane And The Cnsp Leadership
Niger Coup Leader Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane And The Cnsp Leadership

Despite its glaring imperfections, democracy still remains a glimpse of hope for the African continent. There is no other better system of government that is known to man than democracy.

Some argue that the worst form of democracy far outweighs the better form of military rule. It is true that if democracy is to be practiced, it must be practiced well. Democracy is not a pick and choose affair. It operates on wheels of good governance, the rule of law and human rights.


The former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan of blessed memory, foresaw the truncation of the democratization journey in Africa by men in uniform when he cautioned African leaders who use the undemocratic means to change their countries’ constitutions to stay in power and thus engendered impunity and abusive leadership that posed threats to democracy.

As it stands now and perhaps judging from the recent happenings, it points to the fact that such a wise counsel from an illustrious son of Africa has gone unheeded.

Military takeovers

Although the continued label of the continent as a scourge of famine, HIV/AIDS, armed conflicts and corruption, the military takeovers resurrecting in Africa are a cause for concern to many people.

Gone were the days when the continent was notoriously reputed to be the hallmark of coup d’états across the globe.

That is to say, the military takeovers in Africa are not a new phenomenon and are well-documented in academic reports, books and journals. For instance, the UN report (1998) has it that between 1960 and 1990, the West African sub-region only recorded thirty-five out of seventy-two successful coups in Africa.

It is therefore not surprising that Mali, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Burkina Faso are embroiled in one form of military intervention or the other. Nigerien coup, being the latest in the series of the military takeovers in the West African sub-region, has created doubt even within the international community as to the commitment of African leaders to hold themselves accountable to democratic values on the continent.

There are some African leaders who consciously or unconsciously managed to circumvent constitutional order through incredulous and foul means to remain in power. Botched elections often leave behind different types of conflicts, with some of them leading to wanton loss of lives and properties.

Massive Acceptance

The coup that toppled the Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoun regime appeared to have received massive acceptance by the overwhelming majority of the people who took to the streets to welcome the military junta at the capital Niamey.

That could only mean that people are dissatisfied with the leadership style of President Mohamed Bazoun.

While it is true that the Parliament represents the collective will of the people, it is also true that not every decision taken by Parliament resonates with the people. But at the end of the day it is the people’s power that triumphs.

Citizens enter into social contract with elected leaders, they do so under the belief that their lives will change for better. However, when hope gives way to disillusionment, people begin to see men in uniform as messiahs or saviors or redeemers to extricate them from shackles of poverty, sufferings and bad governance.


As expected, the narrative by Guard chief General Abdourahamane Tchiani and his coup makers for the justification of the Nigerien coup is not different from any other military takeover on the continent. Talk of corruption, unemployment, increasing salaries of elite class, cronyism, nepotism, economic mismanagement, naked impunity of elite class, selfishness, human rights abuses, etc.

The irony of it all is that military leaders who metamorphosed into democratic leaders tend to perform worse in office than their predecessors. The Niger bloodless coup offers opportunity for the international relations experts and researchers to begin to address the reasons why after decades of democratic practice in Africa, the coups are fast rearing their ugly heads in the governance system again.

ECOWAS Protocols

Another question is why ECOWAS leaders look on unconcerned while other heads of state temper with the constitutional order which often necessitates military intervention leading to violence and loss of life and properties.

It stands to reason that if the ECOWAS sub-regional body had warned the President Bazoun against the trajectory, he was taking his country through, this coup could have been avoided.

Little wonder, some African leaders see no evil and talk no evil with what the President Bazoun did and some even attended his inauguration by patting him on the back.

The argument that because of state sovereignty, no other country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country is weak and needs to be revised, considering the fact that what affects one country also affects others.

It is not enough for the ECOWAS sub-regional body to keep issuing press releases and statements condemning coups and imposing sanctions here and there instead of cracking the whip on the erring leader or member.

There are several legal frameworks developed to regulate sub-regional institutions. For instance, the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) and Lome Declaration on Unconstitutional Change of Governments (2000) all speak volumes on the unconstitutional means to power and accession to power must be through free, fair and transparent elections.

Relevant sub-regional body

If the ECOWAS is to remain a relevant and proactive sub-regional body for the needs and aspirations of people, African leaders have no choice but to take up the challenge and begin to speak with one assertive voice against other African leaders who subvert constitutional order and entrench themselves in power, even if they lose elections and amass massive wealth in office while the overwhelming majority of their citizens are walloping in abject poverty.

It is high time African leaders were told that enriching themselves and their family and friends will make the continent always ripe for coups. In other words, overthrowing a legitimate government will become a common occurrence on the continent.

ECOWAS must be told using force to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoun would result in bloodshed and anarchy. In addition to imposing strict sanctions on the country, the best approach to the crisis lies employing “jaw jaw instead of war war.”
ECOWAS leaders must address socio-economic challenges which have been identified as the root causes of coups on the continent.


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