Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who has ruled Uganda uninterrupted since taking power through a guerrilla bush warfare in January 1986, has hipped condemnation on the recent military takeover in Guinea-Conakry, urging what he calls ‘African freedom fighters’ to evaluate these ongoing events in the continent and take a principled stand against a new tide of coups taking shape in Africa.
Col. Mamady Doumbouya executed a successful coup d’état on 5th September 2021, deposing the sitting President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, who now remains under army detention, amidst regional and continental pressures by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and African Union (AU); demanding for his unconditional release and restoration of constitutional order in a country, where the population swarmed streets of Conakry to celebrate toppling of government by the national army.
The coup in Guinea, the latest in Africa, is preceded by manifestation of similar events in West Africa; happening in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021, and Chad (Central Africa) in April 2021. Researchers Dr. Joseph Siegel and Dr. Daniel Eizenga from the African Centre for strategic studies argue in The Conversation that the resurgence of power seeking military in West Africa has a sobering implication for instability, in a region already beset by growing security threats. They suggest that once precedent is set for a coup as a viable means to take power, nothing will stop other groups in Africa from taking a similar path.
However, the coup in Guinea has already received international (UN) and regional condemnation; with ECOWAS and AU suspending Guinea’s long term membership and imposing sanctions against the military rule, by the newly constituted National Committee for Reconciliation and Development (NCRD) headed by Col. Mamady, after initial talks with the coup plotters, who are bent on overturning Conde’s third term, yielded to nothing.
Now, President Museveni, a veteran Luwero bush war revolutionary and self-styled Pan-Africanist, in a statement released last week, wants the international community and African freedom fighters to take a decisive action against these ‘disruptors of African destiny’, whom he has adjudged to lack ideological grounding on the principles of African resistance and liberation;
“When it comes to these new coup d’états in West Africa, we must ask three questions: What is the ideological stand of these coup makers? Whom are they overthrowing in terms of ideology and aims? What right do these coup makers have when it comes to interfering with our destiny?” Museveni questions!
The Ugandan president who extended his stay in power through a highly contested and controversial elections early this year, to 40 years by 2026, intimated that coups in West Africa are simply manifestations of a fundamental departure from the core ideals of African liberation, grounded in five strategic aims that entail political struggle for self-determination, African Nationalism, Pan-Africanism and forging strategic alliances with other well-meaning powers, while also consciously engendering collective action against Neo-colonial tendencies in Africa, Asia and the Latin Americas.
“The few times I have interacted with Professor Alpha Conde, he belongs to the tradition of African freedom fighters,” Museveni attested, saying, “I certainly do not know the ideological position of the coup makers. However, there are clues that they may not be part of the freedom fighters. The African Union has made some positive steps in the realization of our five strategic aims. The AU has outlawed coups. Who, then, are you to make a coup against the decisions of the AU? Besides, I was surprised by the arrogance of these people!”
It should be noted that both president Museveni and now deposed President Alpha Conde were re-elected into office recently in Uganda and Guinea Conakry respectively, both incumbents having modified their national constitutions to remove safeguards for peaceful transfer of power. In Uganda, Museveni presided over the constitutional amendment to remove term limits in June 2005 and the abrogation of the upper age limit cap (of 75 years) in 2017, allowing him free pass to stand for 2021 presidential elections, where he defeated Robert Kyagulanyi by 59% of the total votes cast.
Similarly, professor Alpha Conde, a former chief opposition figure in Guinea first climbed to power under a newly enacted constitution in 2010, following the death of President Lansana Conte: who had taken charge through a coup in 1984, revising the 1990 constitution to lift term limits, to keep himself in power until his death in 2008, under fierce opposition by Alpha Conde. Although the 2010 cconstitution had strengthened and restored presidential term limits in Guinea, President Conde, after serving two terms, amended this safeguard to allow himself a 3rd term that he subsequently won in October last year.
Observers of the two elections in Uganda (2021) and Guinea (2020), held under the restrictions of COVID-19, report that the incumbent presidents used authoritarian tactics to arrest and harass opposition, limit media freedoms, ban protests, political campaigns and further shrink civic space, stacking both the judiciary and national electoral commissions to play in their favour. In Uganda, the November 2020 riots that broke out following the arrest of opposition presidential candidates saw the killing of over 80 civilians by security forces. While for President Conde, crackdown on dissent eventually led to his ousting early this month.
Analysts have observed that unfairness in the conduct of elections in Africa, that fails to guarantee peaceful transition of governments, explains the recent string of coups happening in the continent. For Joseph Siegel and Daniel Eizenga, muted criticism of such political processes by international organisations (the UN, AU, ECOWAS and the East African Community (EAC)) have made these coups inevitable. To them, experiences of military rule have left Guineans traumatized, impoverished and economically isolated, hence, the need to carefully walk back the coup in Guinea.