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Recurrent Coups in West Africa: Can Sanctions Targeting Coup Plotters Stem Wave of Unconstitutional Changes in Gov’t?

By February 26, 2022No Comments
Nigerian Vice President, Yemi Osinbao, left with United Kingdom’s Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, MP (2).jpg

Nigeria has called for more sanctions targeting military coup leaders in West Africa. Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who was speaking at an event to welcome the United Kingdom’s Minister for Africa, said it was important for the developed world to severely punish coup plotters in Africa as this would help to stop soldiers attempting to overthrow more governments on the continent. 

Osinbajo is one of several leaders on the continent that have condemned the current wave of unconstitutional changes of government.

Between August 2020 and February this year, there have been six coups in West Africa alone with four successful, while the other two failed.

Table of coups in West Africa and the Sahel courtesy Datawrapper

On August 19, 2020, coup leader Assimi Goïta ousted Ibrahim Keita’s government in Mali. Keita was forced to resign in the 2020 Malian coup d’état. Bah Ndaw, a Malian military officer and politician was installed and served as president of Mali between September 25, 2020, and May 24, 2021. He was overthrown during another coup in 2021 orchestrated by the same Assimi Goïta.

A failed coup to remove President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger was reported on March 31, 2021.

Malian Strongman Assimi Goita has become a nightmare to imperialist France, cutting off Paris from a much-needed source of cheap raw materials (C) BBC

Then there was a successful coup in Guinean on September 5, 2021, against the government of Alpha Condé, who help power between 2010 and 2021. The coup was plotted and executed by the Guinean Armed Forces headed by Strongman, Mamady Doumbouya.

There was a successful coup in Burkina Faso on January 24, 2022, when Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, a Burkinabé banker and politician, who served as the President of Burkina Faso from 2015, was deposed. The coup was led by Lt. Col Paul Henri Damiba. President Umaro Embalo of Guniea-Bissau was lucky to survive a failed coup at the beginning of February 2022.

Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba apparently speaks the minds of the people of Burkina Faso, much to the dismay of France and ECOWAS (C) Frontview Africa

With so many such cases Nigeria and the ECOWAS are worried that there have been cases of tacit endorsement by the western world especially when these foreign leaders keep silent. Their silence might not be unconnected with the influence and advantages they are getting in these African countries.

“That is why some of these western nations encourage coups in Africa because they gain from the new leaders,” says Akeem Iyanda, a Lagos, Nigeria-based political economist who talked to Timescape Magazine.

“Unknowing to the citizens, the superpowers have strategic stakes in the affairs of the countries where many of these coups occurred. It is so sad,” he said.

Sunday Akintoye, a Lagos-based journalist specialized in International Relations is of the opinion that democracy has not really taken roots in many of the African states, adding that democratization in Africa also requires a re-orientation to suit local circumstances.

“It is so sad that at a period when the world is moving fast, embracing a democratic system of government to give enduring good governance to the people, nations on the African continent are fast descending into a continent of backwardness. Those leaders must be blamed because they failed to live to expectations in most cases,” he said.

Mali, Sudan, Guinea, and Burkina Faso have since been suspended from the African Union over the coups. Chad, which is home to Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission Chairperson, was spared, as the coup followed the death of long-serving President Idris Deby, and was supported almost immediately by the former colonial master, France.

Banko Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security at the African Union just does not understand that the African people see imperialism as obsolete, disrespectful, and offensive (C) Twitter

Bankole Adeoye, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security at the African Union says the suspension of Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea was intended to stem the further spread of these unconstitutional changes in power.

“Every head of government in the assembly (African Union) has unequivocally condemned the resurgence of unconstitutional changes in government,” he says.

The military coups have become a source of worry for several leaders in Africa and Mr. Osinbajo reinforced that point in his meeting with Vicky Ford, the United Kingdom’s Minister for Africa, and Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria.

While coup plotting is giving governments across the continent a headache, the regional bloc, ECOWAS is also not comfortable that member states are not safe in the hands of military officers intent on capturing power for themselves.

Mr. Osinbajo said that since African governments have done their part, it was time for the western world to stand with the continent in denouncing coups. He said placing stringent economic sanctions on coup leaders would help curb the menace of military takeovers in Africa.

Mr. Osinbajo noted that following the tough stance by leaders of ECOWAS against recent coups in the sub-region, the cooperation of the international community, including other global, regional bodies, and financial institutions would concretize the efforts against unconstitutional changes of government and deter coup plotters.

“There is a lot of attention being paid to coups going on, especially in the West African sub-region, I think it is important that we take a closer look at how to prevent and deter coups and adventurers of various kinds who want to take over governments by force.

“One of the critical things which have been discussed at various ECOWAS meetings is how to cooperate with the rest of the world, bodies such as the UN, EU and some of the development finance institutions to give our sanctions more teeth,” said Mr.  Osinbajo.

However, the population in Africa does not always agree with people like Mr. Osinbajo as the population in Mali and Guinea have celebrated the constitutional changes in power, which commentators say shows how many governments on the continent are in power on account of sabotaged democracy.

Moussa Faki Mahamat operates more like a French civil servant at the helm of the African Union Commission. He basically articulates only what Paris wants him to talk about (C) Israel Hayom.

While Mr. Adeoye, says the likes of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Sudan were suspended from the African Union over being undemocratic, several governments on the continent are in power under questionable circumstances. Instances of rigged elections, imprisonment of opposition political leaders have been reported across the continent. The African Union rarely recognizes election rigging on the continent.

This tendency not to acknowledge election rigging and other undemocratic tendencies have, according to several commentators, fueled the most recent cases of coups and conflicts in many parts of the continent.   

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