In a surprising sequence of events, Africa has recently experienced political upheaval marked by a series of coups, reigniting concerns about the region's political stability. These coups have unfolded rapidly, raising profound questions about democracy in Africa.
Countries like Niger, Sierra Leone, and Gabon have all seen abrupt leadership changes within a month, highlighting the precarious nature of democratic processes.
The first domino fell in Niger on July 26, 2023, when President Mohamed Bazoum and his family were swiftly detained by the Presidential Guard. This led to the emergence of an unknown entity, the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP). Reactions ranged from support for Bazoum to cautious optimism about the CNSP. The international community condemned these coups, including the United States, France, the European Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
A parallel narrative unfolded in Sierra Leone when high-ranking military officials' intentions were questioned, prompting an extraordinary preemptive response. These officers were suspected of plotting a coup to disrupt peaceful protests, so the Sierra Leonean police quickly arrested them. This incident highlights the delicate balance African nations require between political stability and democratic processes.
Meanwhile, in Gabon, the echoes of chaos resounded once again following a bitterly contested election. The controversial victory of President Ali Bongo Ondimba triggered a retaliatory military coup, a stark manifestation of the entrenched dissatisfaction that had been festering beneath the surface of the nation's political landscape.The Bongo family's protracted rule, marked by allegations of corruption and electoral fraud, had sown seeds of deep-seated resentment that culminated in this audacious coup attempt.
With the recent coup in Gabon, we've seen three coups happen in Africa within just one month. This raises an important question: Why do military coups keep happening so frequently in Africa? To put it in perspective, since 2010, there have been a whopping 54 coup attempts or successful coups in Africa, while in the same time frame, there have been only about 17 such incidents in all the other countries and regions around the world combined.
This stark contrast highlights a significant issue: the ongoing challenge of political instability through military intervention in Africa. Why does it happen?
When colonial powers withdrew from Africa, they left behind a legacy that continues to harm the continent's prospects for stability and prosperity. These colonial powers often prioritised their own interests above Africa's well-being, perpetuating a cycle of exploitation. Their enduring influence reflects a lack of genuine concern for Africa's stability or interests and instead serves as a constant reminder of the self-serving agendas that have held the continent back.
Furthermore, the example of Algeria illustrates how France left behind a complex web of economic and political ties. Even after granting Algeria independence in 1962, France maintained strong economic links with the country, especially through the energy sector. French companies continued to have a dominant presence in Algeria's economy, ensuring that French interests were safeguarded. the Pied-Noir, who had settled in Algeria during colonial rule, retained significant economic and political influence, creating a dynamic where Algeria's sovereignty was compromised, Which highlights how these neo colonial practices is a reason for Africa's instability
This persistent legacy not only impedes Africa's economic and political progress but also challenges its ability to assert autonomy and sovereignty. It underscores the need for African nations to break free from the grip of former colonial powers and chart their own paths towards development and self-determination.
Another reason for those continuous coups is that the control of a handful of countries over Africa's vast resources, economy, and political landscape raises profound concerns. These countries, often distant superpowers, do not prioritize Africa's interests or the well-being of its people. Instead, they maintain a vested interest in exploiting Africa's resources to fuel their own economic growth and geopolitical power.
taking into consideration that Africa is home to 1.3 billion people, with 40% of them aged 15 or younger and 70% below the age of 30. In addition to its youthful demographic, the continent possesses a significant share of the world's resources, including 40% of its gold and up to 90% of its chromium and platinum reserves. It also holds the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum, and uranium. Furthermore, Africa boasts 65% of the world's arable land and 10% of the planet's internal renewable freshwater sources, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
For example, under the CFA franc system, these African countries are required to deposit a portion of their foreign exchange reserves with the French Treasury. This arrangement gives France significant control over the monetary policies and economic decisions of these nations. Moreover, these countries are pegged to the Euro, which can limit their ability to independently manage their economies in times of crisis.
France's influence over these economies is further demonstrated through trade agreements, which often favour French companies. This economic dominance not only perpetuates dependency but also hampers these nations' ability to develop sustainable and diversified economies. The global community must critically assess the ethics and consequences of resource exploitation in Africa, as well as the need for equitable partnerships that promote local development and economic self-determination.
The pervasive role of the military in African politics is also inherently detrimental and is a main factor in all of those coups. Civilian authorities often find themselves unable to challenge the military's actions due to the inherent power imbalance, which can endanger their lives and political careers. This imbalance erodes the democratic principles that underpin stable governance.
The military's outsized role in African politics poses a significant challenge to democratic governance and stability. Sudan's recent military coup serves as a stark example. The military's control over resources and politics, coupled with a history of authoritarian rule, led to widespread discontent and ultimately a military power struggle. The subsequent civil war underscores the volatility and instability that can result from military intervention in politics.
the employment of military powers in politics highlights their incompetence in the political era, along with deploying their militarian mindset, which treats the state and its institutions as soldiers, giving them no room for free speech, rejecting or even questioning their orders. which, even if it might be suitable for controlling armies, is certainly not in the case of governing people who are entitled to their political and free rights. Addressing military dominance in African politics necessitates comprehensive reforms to ensure civilian oversight, respect for constitutional norms, and a commitment to democratic principles. It's a critical step towards achieving lasting stability and progress on the continent.
In a nutshell, the recent rise in African coup attempts shows how historical legacies, socio-economic issues, calculated political manoeuvring, and social disillusionment interact. Coups promise transformation, but their aftermath often creates new uncertainties that erode democratic gains and exacerbate regional tensions. Now is the time to address these coup attempts' causes. Sustainable solutions are the only way the continent can build stable democratic institutions that address socioeconomic issues. As it navigates this complex terrain, Africa must focus on lasting peace, prosperity, and governance frameworks that meet the aspirations of its diverse population.
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