The New Wave of Military Intervention In Africa And The Rising Fear of Dictatorship
BY KAYODE OLADELE
The African continent is presently experiencing a resurgence of apprehensions over military coups and unlawful usurpations of power. In recent times, several nations in West, North and Central Africa, namely Mali, Guinea, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Gabon have experienced a combination of both successful and unsuccessful coup d'états.
In spite of the endeavors undertaken by international and regional entities, including the United Nations (UN), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union (AU), which have implemented punitive measures, suspended memberships, and voiced disapproval in response to this alarming occurrence, their efforts have proven insufficient in curbing the prevalence of military coups within the region. The occurrence of four military coups inside the West African sub-region in the preceding 18 months provides evidence for the escalating issue at hand.
Coup d'états have persistently emerged as a prominent and recurring phenomenon within the political landscape of Africa over the course of several decades. During the post-colonial period, a significant number of military coups took place across diverse parts of the African continent, encompassing territories in the East, West, North and South.
This paper undertakes an analysis of the diverse factors that contribute to military takeovers, encompassing corruption, nepotism, prolonged leadership, and socio-economic disparities. Furthermore, it offers prospective remedies for safeguarding and advancing democratic advancement.
Factors Driving Military Takeovers:
The role of corruption in facilitating the occurrence of military takeovers has been recognized in various African countries. Corruption, a pervasive issue in various African countries, affects the efficacy of institutions and cultivates an atmosphere of public skepticism.
The prevalence of corruption within the given context frequently prompts many to perceive the military as a potential source of salvation. According to Avoulete (2022), individuals dissatisfied with pervasive corruption inside the system may view the military as a powerful entity capable of purging the political environment.
Nevertheless, this perception is frequently erroneous. Military interventions, although initially motivated by the objective of eradicating corruption, can ultimately result in heightened instability due to the tendency of military regimes to sustain their corrupt practices and the absence of effective accountability procedures.
Moreover, nepotism has significantly contributed to the rise of military takeovers in several African nations. This practice involves granting preferential treatment to family members and close associates regarding political appointments and resource distribution. Consequently, it distorts the principles of good governance and creates a sense of exclusion among the majority population.
As marginalized groups experience a reduction in their possibilities and resources, they may find themselves increasingly drawn to the attractiveness of military interventions.
According to Powell et al. (2021), there is a perception among citizens that the military possesses a neutral stance and can dismantle established elites and redistribute wealth. Nevertheless, historical evidence indicates that military governments tend to substitute one manifestation of nepotism with another, frequently exhibiting preferential treatment towards military members and individuals who demonstrate loyalty to the junta.
The recurring issue of sit-tight leadership, characterized by leaders exploiting extra constitutional means and constitutional loopholes to prolong their tenure, has been observed in several instances across Africa. When political leaders ignore term limits or engage in electoral manipulation to extend their terms in office, voters may perceive the military as a final option to safeguard constitutional order. In certain instances, the military may perceive its role as a safeguard for stability, intervening to depose governments that undermine democratic principles. Nevertheless, it is essential to acknowledge that military interventions can potentially prolong a recurring pattern of power struggles and pose a significant threat to the principles of constitutionalism.
Socio-economic disparities have been identified as a prevalent element contributing to the occurrence of military takeovers in African nations. Persistent socioeconomic inequities serve as a conducive environment for the emergence of public discontent and political instability. Frustrations are fueled by economic mismanagement, an unequal allocation of resources, and poor provision of social services (Powell et al.,2021). Military coups can be perceived as endeavors to redress these inequities promptly.
The military frequently pledges swift transformation and fair allocation, eliciting initial public endorsement. However, historical evidence demonstrates that military regimes have a limited track record in achieving lasting socio-economic development due to their lack of proficiency in long-term economic planning and sustainable development.
Negative Effects of Coups in Africa
Military coups often contribute to the proliferation of totalitarian and fascist ideologies, despotism and the erosion of democratic principles and constitutional order. Consequently, they are unlikely to provide viable solutions to Africa's economic and developmental challenges.
These methods of governance, apart from being illegal, coercive and undemocratic, can only provide temporary solutions to corruption and socioeconomic imbalances.
Nonetheless, they frequently result in the establishment of authoritarian regimes, the erosion of democratic institutions, and the concentration of power within a military elite. This phenomenon curtails personal liberties and undermines the democratic process, impeding seamless power transitions. Military regimes have the potential to impede foreign direct investment and hinder sustainable economic growth as a result of their perceived lack of vision and economic proficiency as well as total disregard for rule of law and legal frameworks.
Strategies for Prevention of Military Coups in Africa:
It is essential to promptly and efficiently address the underlying problems that contribute to the occurrence of coups in Africa. Furthermore, addressing the underlying socio-economic challenges progressively contributing to widespread discontent and a decline in trust towards civilian leadership is crucial. This should be done through local-level interventions.
Individuals must have access to empirical knowledge that substantiates a robust association between democracy and development. Implementing and actively pursuing pragmatic measures is also imperative to mitigate the escalating issues of poverty and unemployment. Potential interventions that could be implemented include poverty eradication initiatives, infrastructural development projects, anti-corruption strategies, and substantial educational investments (Avoulete, 2022).
The successful implementation of these changes is contingent upon a robust political will to address these difficulties.
In addition, the promotion of civic education has the potential to serve as a preventive measure against the occurrence of military coups in African countries. A well-informed populace serves as a strong defense against military intrusions. Civic education programs can enhance the empowerment of individuals by equipping them with an understanding of their rights, the significance of democratic standards (Ani,2021), and the potential ramifications associated with endorsing military takeovers. Individuals who comprehend the significance of democratic processes tend to exhibit a greater propensity towards employing nonviolent methods to bring about societal transformation.
Moreover, the promotion of socio-economic development can prove to be highly advantageous in mitigating the occurrence of military coups. Mitigating socio-economic gaps necessitates implementing proactive policies that emphasize critical areas such as education, healthcare, infrastructure, and job creation. An economy that is flourishing and inclusive has the potential to address public complaints and reduce the attractiveness of military operations.
It is also essential for the international community to undertake measures to address the promotion of democracy in Africa effectively. Foreign countries and international organizations must collaborate with Africa to implement and promote efficacious punitive measures aimed at deterring military coups Africa, particularly in the regions of West Africa and the Sahel (Hohlstein, 2022). An example of an entity that can effectively contribute to preventing military coups is regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). Their commitment to preserving democratic standards has the potential to foster a cohesive and collective stance against unconstitutional attempts to seize state power.
Furthermore, combating the escalation of coups in Africa requires the African Union and regional blocs to form and fund military high commands. Coups can be avoided and responses can be coordinated due to these high commands, which are part of the regional security institutions. To begin, we need policies and an open process for choosing leaders. High-level commands are better able to sustain democratic norms and respond effectively after undergoing integration and training. Sustaining operations requires adequate, open funding from member states and support from the United Nations and other international institutions.
Generally, military coups often contribute to the proliferation of fascist ideologies, authoritarian governance, and the erosion of democratic principles and legal frameworks. Consequently, they are unlikely to provide viable solutions to Africa's economic and developmental challenges. In this regard, the African Union and regional Blocs must commit to forming and funding military high commands, as well as improving democratic institutions, civic education, and social cohesion, for Africa's progress to be sustainable in the long run. These steps, I believe, are essential if the continent is to overcome its problems and start moving in the direction of real, sustainable development.
Hon. Kayode Oladele, an international human rights lawyer, is former Chairman House Committee on Financial Crimes.