Military coups: Indictment to African Union

Author: Reuben Twinomujuni. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • ... the African Union (AU) must silence the guns and end wars and civil and violent conflicts. This can only be achieved with the united act of a united Africa.

As a student of Public Policy and Governance, the news of a coup in Gabon has left me restless. As I watched and listened to commentaries predicting more coups, my mind wandered from Gabon to Niger, Mali (coups in August 2020 and May 2021), Chad, Burkina Faso (coups in January and September 2022), Guinea, and Sudan.  

In Africa, military coups are mainly because circumstances that lead to coups are never addressed by the new governments that take over. Each regime later focuses on entrenching themselves in power, engaging in corruption, embracing subtle foreign influences for their interests, insecurity, and political instability, culminating in high poverty levels of the masses who later take to the streets or the attendant army mutiny.

Africa has witnessed ten coups or attempted coups in three years. I will focus on the five countries that have recently had coups: Gabon, August 2023; Niger July 2023; Burkina Faso, January and September 2022; Guinea, September 2021; Mali, August 2020 and May 2021. All these countries are rich in mineral resources, their populations are small and poor, they were all colonized by France and apart from Gabon, they are in West Africa. 

Gabon has oil, cocoa, and a high average yearly income, but over one-third of its population lives in poverty. Niger is a significant producer of uranium, and Burkina Faso is wealthy in manganese and gold, but exploitation is limited by transport inadequacies. 

Guinea has abundant hydroelectric potential and significant amounts of bauxite, iron, gold, and diamonds, but its economy is based on subsistence agriculture. Mali’s wealth lies in mining, agricultural commodities, livestock, and fish, but it is among the ten poorest nations globally and a significant recipient of foreign aid. 

Why should citizens of mineral-rich countries wallow in abject poverty? Who benefits from exploiting these resources? The role and mandate of the African Union are to unite Africans, defend their sovereignty, promote peace and good governance, and improve living standards but the Union’s voice in these coups and protecting Africa’s interests is inaudible.

The Union just condemns the coups and threatens sanctions without providing solutions to the root causes of the coups.  Consequently, Africans lack a home and a shoulder to cry on and have remained poor, indebted, and divided despite the abundance of resources. Africa needs a Common Defense System with an African High Command to enhance stability and security on the continent. 

The foundation of African unity laid down by our forefathers seems to have been abandoned. At the first Organization of African Unity (O.A.U) summit in 1963, the presidents emphasized unity and total liberation of Africa and the consequences of disunity. If these forefathers were to resurrect and see the turbulence in their countries, they would feel betrayed.

In 1963, H.E. Sekou Toure, the then-President of Guinea raised thought-provoking questions that are still relevant today. He asked whether other people around the world, who have formed continental units, have adopted similar customs, ways of life, political and social systems, speak the same language, and have similar economic systems. He wondered why Africa should be incapable of achieving the same feat. 

Thankfully, he also provided answers. He believed that the merit of a larger community lies in the consistent coordination of their activities. 

Therefore, the African Union (AU) must silence the guns and end wars and civil and violent conflicts. This can only be achieved with the united act of a united Africa.

Reuben Twinomujuni, PhD candidate in Public Policy & Governance. Kyambogo university 
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