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Opinions of Monday, 7 February 2022

Columnist: Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed

Return of military governments to Africa

Guinea Coup Leader, Col Mamady Doumbouya Guinea Coup Leader, Col Mamady Doumbouya

The taking over of governments by force of arms (coup d’état) is gradually becoming the norm in Africa, especially in West Africa, where the armed forces of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have taken over the reins of government.

The dark era of military governments, which took away the joy of independence from Africa, may be creeping back into the continent again.

In West Africa, Colonel Assimi Goita of Mali and Colonel Mamady Doumbouya of the Armed Forces of Guinea-Conakry started this trend, a bad example, which other armed forces may be tempted to follow, if not stopped now.

In this regard, ECOWAS/AU countries should take swift action against Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the leader of the junta in Burkina Faso, and suppress the rebellion in the country.

The Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State should give the coup leaders in Burkina Faso an ultimatum to surrender and restore the democratic institutions in the country. Any discussion about organising a future election in Burkina Faso, should not even be discussed or entertained.

There are credible reports in the public domain that Colonel Damiba and other senior military officers in Burkina Faso have been stealing funds allocated for arms procurement to build lavish mansions in Ouagadougou, and live large at the expense of ordinary soldiers, who are owed several months of salary.

This coup may have been staged to cover up high-level corruption and other crimes, such as arms trafficking, diversion of public funds and other criminal activities by top-ranking Burkina Faso military officers.

Colonel Damiba was also one of the arch loyalists and hit men of deposed President Blaise Campaore (1987–2014), who most likely participated in the assassination of former President Thomas Sankara in 1987.

The speech of Colonel Damiba carried the patriotic tones of Thomas Sankara to deceive the public, but behind the mask is Blaise Campaore, who will soon be rehabilitated and return to continue his reign of terror.

ECOWAS/AU must be resolute in destroying these regimes now or eventually be confronted with multiple failed states, which the soldiers must have ravaged and ruined. Of the three states, the junta in Burkina Faso is the most dangerous and the blocs must be uncompromising in dealing with it.

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In Mali, the isolation and sanctions imposed on the junta should remain and they will work. If the impasse and resistance continue, further stringent measures should be taken, which may involve military action to remove Goita and his goons.

In Guinea-Conakry, Colonel Doumbouya, the coup leader, has opened Guinean borders to the Malian junta, to break the sanctions against the coup makers. Colonel Doumbouya, by this act, has chosen to confront and fight ECOWAS/AU countries. He must, therefore, be sanctioned accordingly.

The following measures should be taken to enforce the sanctions:

The coast of Guinea- Conakry shall be blockaded by the Nigerian Navy with the support of the navies of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Senegal. Merchant and naval ships shall not be allowed to sail in and out of the port of Conakry or any port in the country.
ECOWAS would increase its Air Force assets in Sierra Leone; jet fighters and bombers, preparatory to undertaking military actions in Guinea Conakry, Mali and Burkina Faso.
South African naval, air and military assets, in the spirit of African solidarity, should be invited as a standby force to support ECOMOG, in the eventuality of a military campaign against the juntas in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea Conakry.
ECOWAS/AU will encourage and support actions taken by military officers, who are loyal to constitutional authorities in the three countries, to arrest and detain the coup leaders.
Amnesty may be granted to the leaders of the juntas, if they comply with ECOWAS demands and allow a smooth transition to a democratically elected government, within the stipulated time. Burkina Faso will not enjoy this privilege. The government of Roch Kabore must be reinstated unconditionally.
If the crisis degenerates into a full-scale war, the leaders of the junta will be made to face charges of high treason before a military tribunal and be appropriately punished.
In conclusion, the Armed Forces of African countries should not constitute themselves, as an alternative or standby government, even where there is bad governance. The truism that the worst civilian government is better than the best military government cannot be disputed, going by the antecedents of the military governments in Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Ethiopia, etc.

After clearing the mess in the three renegade countries, the root causes of the wars in Mali and Burkina Faso must be addressed with the support of ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community.

The revendications of the Touraregs in Northern Mali for autonomy within a federated Mali must be discussed and negotiated for a peaceful resolution. If the war in Mali is resolved, it will lead to the resolution of other wars in the Sahel region.

Let all Armed Forces in West Africa be warned that military coup in the community is anathema, which will not be tolerated. Military officers should aspire to become Generals and not Heads of State.