African business, politics and lifestyle
Lessons for coup makers?
President Barack Obama’s decision to end trade benefits for Guinea, Madagascar and Niger shows some stiffening of Washington’s resolve to act against those seen to be moving in the opposite direction to demands for greater democracy in Africa.
But the fact that new benefits were simultaneously extended to Mauritania may also give a lesson in how would-be coup makers should best behave if they want to get away with it.
In the first three countries, there is no clear idea as to how they will return to a form of government more acceptable in the eyes of Western countries or those of their neighbours.
Guinea and Madagascar in particular both look in real danger of much greater turmoil.
In Mauritania, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz overthrew an elected president in 2008 – the country’s first freely elected president – but managed to get elections organised and himself voted into office by July, although the ballot was condemned by his opponents.
Perhaps crucially for the Western support, he also swiftly promised to cooperate in fighting al-Qaeda in the Sahara.
Uncertainty over transitions in both Guinea and Madagascar has stoked internal instability as well as costing foreign assistance.
Obama’s measures will have little direct impact on Guinea’s rulers, but the message on the importance of swift elections may still be heard – if not acted upon – by the soldiers holding the fort since junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara was badly wounded in an assassination attempt on Dec. 3.
Camara’s experience was one no coup maker could want to repeat.
Feted by Guineans when he took power a year ago following the death of the local strongman, questions soon surfaced over the direction and decisions of the government.
The killing of more than 150 pro-democracy marchers in September brought local and international outrage. Camara’s own army was also concerned at where blame would fall. He was shot by a soldier who feared being made a scapegoat for the massacre. Flown to Morocco, it is now uncertain when Camara will return.
Coup makers in Africa seem to be better off in terms of local and international support to ensure a rapid election and transition, ideally with the support of neighbouring states, even if planning to keep hold of power.
But should the international community do anything that might benefit anyone who takes power in a new coup, particularly given that military takeovers have been growing much less frequent in Africa? Should the world be ready to accept, or even encourage, coups that get rid of anyone not clearly moving towards more accountable government?