Military intervention in Africa cannot become a norm
This year alone, there were three military coups in which incumbent presidents, prime ministers and transitional governments in Africa were ousted. In Mali, Guinea and Sudan their governments fell under the institution to protect their countries. Military coups are not a new phenomenon, but accepting them as legitimate is. In these cases of arrest by the military state, coup plotters claim to intervene on behalf of the people of their country. Military officials who claim to be working on behalf of their citizens complicate the internal legitimacy and external responses of the international community.
Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the newly appointed President of Guinea, relied on a quote from the Ghanaian leader John Jerry Rawlings when it comes to military intervention on behalf of the Guinean people. “When the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom.” This trend towards military coups does not bode well for regional institutions like the African Union, ECOWAS and IGAD, which are experiencing multiple conflicts at the same time.
Sudan is the latest example of a transitional government overthrown by the military before civil rule could take shape. Military officials arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the leaders of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan on October 25th. Sudan’s Supreme General, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and former chairman of the Transitional Military Council who took office after Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in 2019, led this new coup derail Sudan’s transition to civilian rule.
In June, Prime Minister Hamdok warned against one complicated relationship between the military and the Sovereignty Council of Sudan. That instability warning came when Sudanese citizens protested Economic situation and a lack of accountability for a Massacre 2019 from the military in Khartoum. A Attempted coup was foiled by the military in September. This failed coup led to the arrest of over 40 officers and highlighted the growing instability in Sudan. Thousands attended weeks before the October coup pro-military rally and sit-in in Khartoum calling for a military takeover of the government. With several internal problems such as hyperinflation, fragmented factions and ongoing violence in Darfur, the Sudanese interim government could not maintain stability as it came under internal pressure.
As in Sudan, the interim government fell in Mali when the military took over as the central authority. Colonel Assimi Goita, Mali’s current interim president, led the 2020 Malian coup d’Ã©tat that led to the ousting of former president Ibrahim Boubacar KeÃ¯ta. After the 2020 coup, the Mali military junta took over the interim government Bah Ndaw as President and Colonel GoÃ¯ta as Vice-President.
In May the military imprisoned Ndaw as GoÃ¯ta declared himself president. GoÃ¯ta stated that the former President Ndaw and the civilian Prime Minister Moctar Ouane Cabinet position changes violated the transitional charter, forcing him to overthrow the transitional government. Days after the coup, thousands took to the streets of Bamako to protest their support for the military. Mali’s transition to a civilian government is now in jeopardy as the previously planned presidential elections may take place in February delayed from the military government. With Mali still suffering from a longstanding uprising in its northern region, France, a longstanding partner in the region, has begun withdraw his troops. Despite pressure from the African Union, ECOWAS, the United States and the European Union, GoÃ¯ta and his government remain in power and steer the transition to civilian rule
In Guinea, the new military government did not come to power through the dismissal of a transitional government, but a democratically elected one. Former president Alpha Conde saw his term of office cut after Col. Mamady Doumbouya overthrew his government. Conde’s impeachment comes one year after the electoral commission made him the winner of the a controversial third term bid in office. Post-election violence in Guinea in 2020 resulted in security forces using excessive force against protesters; numerous people died during this period without a government or military official being held responsible. Conde faced many accusations Corruption and human rights violations faced imprisonment or death for those who dared to oppose the government for Conde cracking down on dissenting opinions. With power consolidating in one man and extreme repression, perhaps it was a matter of time before Conde’s regime fell. After the coup in September, Guineans did celebrated the removal of Alpha Conde while the security forces who orchestrated the coup were raised.
The United Nations, the European Union, and the United States quickly convicted the coup in Guinea. the African Union and ECOWAS both suspended and placed Guinea from their institutions Sanctions in the countryside. Despite international condemnation, President Mamady Doumbouya continues to run the country and build his government, and recently appoints former UN diplomats Mohamed BÃ©avogui to the office of prime minister. The transition to civil rule in Guinea is fair Beginning, Guinea is likely to remain isolated while the African Union and ECOWAS develop a way of working with the military junta.
The most pressing question is why these military coups are taking place in the first place. The relationship between African citizens and the military has usually been stronger than the relationship between African citizens and their governments. Afro barometer Survey data show that citizens in Guinea, Mali and Sudan trust the military more than the president and members of parliament, in the case of Mali and Sudan by a very large margin. This trend correlates with the survey data from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which shows a high level of trust in the military in both Mali and Sudan. Guinea was the only one of the three countries that saw a decline in confidence in the military from 2010 to 2019.
Trust in the military is not necessarily a bad quality in a society; What is worrying is the level of military intervention we are seeing and the allegations of intervening on behalf of the citizens. Guinea, Mali and Sudan are prime examples of how rampant corruption, suppression of democratic norms and economic instability can lead to military coups, regardless of whether the government is in transition or not.
Seven successful coups took place on the African continent between 2010 and 2020, with six of the seven coups being led by the military. With three military coups in 2021 alone, greater regional stability should be paramount. The African Union, ECOWAS, the United Nations, the United States and other international partners are not allowed to give legitimacy to military coup leaders as this could lead to further attempts in different countries. The international community must put pressure on the leaders of the military coups and isolate their authority from global legitimacy. A more concerted international response means greater pressure on leaders to move to civilian rule and a concerted effort to get the military out of politics. With the interim governments in Sudan and Mali destroyed by military coups, it is now unclear how and when these two countries will relinquish their military government in favor of democratic rule. In Guinea, the slow process of reconciliation and the transition to civilian government is just beginning.
If you are interested in writing for International Policy Digest, please email us at [email protected]