he recent attempt of coup in Burkina Faso by the Presidential Guards has brought a lot of challenge for the Africa and the African Union.The AU must definitely be wondering whether there will be ways to stop coups in Africa.The bigger question is how can Africa put a stop at any anti-democratic seizure of power by the military?
Interesting the African Union has a well-defined set of norms and approaches to address unconstitutional changes of government among member’s states.These includes suspension and sanctions applied and I note the same as applied by AU in the recent coup d’etat in Burkina Faso. But much as this was applied the Presidential guards did not take much attention or respect to AU demands to hand over power to civilians and pave way for the democratic processes.
Africa has witnessed AU responses to such scenarios have not been impressive, we only see condemnations, statements and threats but beyond that we see nothing. And in the end AU embraces the same Military Junta’s after turning themselves into civilian leaders through undemocratic elections.
If we take for instance the crisis in Burundi even after AU sent our former President Bakili Muluzi and President Yoweri Museveni to reason with the President Nkurunziza on his third bid, he was not moved and nothing changed. He went ahead with the unpopular disputed elections and won but right in the eyes of AU, the result of these elections is more killings and mass refugees. So as long as its just mere condemnation by AU nothing will change to stop or remove leaders who impose themselves on the people.
But what is so interesting with the coup in Burkina Faso? Burkina Faso is the land of Thomas Sankara, the Pan Africanists icon who brought a lot of radical changes to his country which has influenced many African youth. Sankara brought reforms which are much needed in Africa today such as selling off government fleets of Mercedes Bez and made Renault cheapest then as official car for his Ministers, reduced his salary and those of his Ministers, he stopped 1st class air tickets for government officials, distributed land to the poor, made his country food self-sufficient, was first African President to appoint women to major cabinet positions and first African government to publicly recognize AIDS epidemic as a major threat to Africa. And if we are to talk of public reforms in Malawi then we have a lot to learn from this African icon.
As a man of the people, Sankara led a simple life style, he motorcycled and jogged alone in the capital of Ouagadougou, refused to use air-condition in his office on grounds that such was a luxury, limited his possesion to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer. When asked why he did not want his portrait hung in public places, as was the case with most African leaders, Sankara replied “There are seven million Thomas Sankaras” What a selfless leader he was! He was a true Pan Africanists, an icon, just a replica of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. Africa is really missing such type of leadership.
African Union and African civil society must be bold to tell any Military or civilian influenced leaders that coup d’état’s are outdated and not allowed in Africa anymore. The era of coups is over in Africa and the Military must be schooled that taking power by force without the mandate of the people is setback to Africa peace, security and democratic progress.
- Undule Mwakasungula, the former director of Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and now a human rights columnist on Nyasa Times