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When is a coup a good coup?

February 20, 2010

By David Lewis

Weeks after the African Union boldly announced the end of an era of coups on its continent, Niger’s military staged a spectacular overthrow.
Heavily armed in armoured vehicles soldiers blasted their way into the presidential palace, arrested the President Mamadou Tandja and dissolved every democratic institution in the uranium-exporting nation.
Niger’s new military rulers, the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (SCRD), faced the standard flurry of strongly-worded statements from Western nations and regional bodies that condemned people taking power through unconstitutional means.

But, more interestingly, there was no insistence on Tandja returning to his job. Instead, the focus appeared to be on looking towards elections and a new government. Tandja had drawn the ire of many Nigeriens and the international community over his successful campaign last year to change the constitution and extend his time in power by at least three years.
Spontaneous celebrations in Niamey after the military take-over were, therefore, not surprising. But, faced with the illegal ouster of a president many believed had become unconstitutional, the international community also seems to have been quick to recognize the opening the coup has offered.
Analysts cite members of the junta having been involved in a previous coup that swiftly led to elections as a reason for optimism. They also say Niger’s military is more professional than in place like Guinea, where soldiers have also grabbed power but failed to deliver elections despite over a year in power.
An aggressive, bold military operation has delivered a new dynamic that months of diplomatic and political wrangling failed to achieve.
Has the international community been too quick to jump at this opportunity? Or, if the politicians appear to be failing, should the military be allowed to play the role of arbitrator in crises like Niger’s?
Coups, especially in West Africa, seem to be alive and well. Niger’s takeover follows similar ousters in Mauritania and Guinea in 2008, and another one in Madagascar last year.
What impact are these actions having on confidence in a continent that is attracting unprecedented investment and is keen to draw a line under a violent and chaotic past?
Does swiftly accepting Tandja’s ouster not set a dangerous precedent for crises elsewhere?


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Posted by Newstime | Report as abusive

Africa still needs coups:
Despite the repeated condemnation of military coups, i believe there is still reason in enough why coups may be necessary. why? because Africa is largely made up countries which have no democratic hope. look from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt, Cameron, Libya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Tunisia etc we have rulers in power for decades and are only waiting for death to separate them from the throne. People who can’t retire after two terms, ought to be removed by any means available. With the trend of rulers preparing their sons to succeed them, coups are an inevitable lesser evil, only the juntas should be transitions to democracy.


Posted by ibiriti | Report as abusive

How can a ‘coup’ be good?

“Coup d’tate” is defined as the “sudden, unlawful and often violent overthrown of a government”.

If the youth see that violence is accepted to make changes ~ will it every end?

Madagascar is not Africa and we certainly don’t want to have coup, after coup, after coup as happens many places on the continent.

In the case of the coup in Madagascar last the action was not a ‘popular uprising’ but an event funded by France. The situation had been improving so the French decided they wanted their colony back. The dictator, Rajoelina, is a brutal puppet of France.

Now we suffer greatly. There are no jobs; no freedom of the press; the forests and our future are being sold to China.

When will the French leave us alone? We had 20+ years of Ratsiraka isn’t that enough? Don’t they have enough problems in their own country? And in their other former colonies?

If you want to see the result of the coup we invite you to come to our island. The world loved ‘Madagascar the Movie’.

But ‘Madagascar not the Movie’ would make the world cry!

Posted by Wonder12 | Report as abusive

Maybe the French need to redefine the word “Coup D’etat” – I say whatever floats your boat do your thing. What works for the West cant always work for Africa.

Why don’t the West mind its own business?

Africa needs its own formula. We are at the stage of ideology experimentation – we will find the solution and a winning formula.

Any formula works with its monarchy, dictator or democracy as long as you dont mix business and politics, China is a living example so is Saudi Arabia (though they need to improve and give corporate more freedom).

African leaders need to not interfere with businesses then everyone is happy.

Posted by Kiyaz | Report as abusive

When is everyone in africa going to wake up, smell the coffee, develop a backbone & grow a pair of testicals. We do not need coups. There is a simple reason, if we look at the current crop of currupt leaders we have they all entered government via coup, using the crappy excuse about bringing democracy but all we got was more autocracy/curruption/human right vialations. At the same time you have these idiots jumping up & down like they one the lottery. The only way we can get rid of currupt leaders is through people power, by standing united we are strong and before you tell me people are scared lets us remind ourselves of the phillipines, when the dictator maros was thrown out of government, it was not a coup that got rid of him it was people power, the same with cambodia, the same thing with romania, poland, yugoslavia etc. The did not wait for some perfectic thieving liberationist to come & rescue them, they did it themselves. Furthermore if there is any idiot who thinks coups in africa are a good thing look at Guinea, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Cameron etc. Only a complete ignorant ibecile would think coups are a good idea

Posted by rzaXL | Report as abusive

Honduras in 2009 defended its constitutional representative republic against an auto-coup in progress against it by an elected president. He was officially and constitutionally removed by Congress in a vote of 124-4. The Supreme Court ruled it 15-0 a constitutional succession. The Human Rights Obundsman declared that the human rights of every party concerned were protected. Virtually ALL of the organizations of civil society, including human rights groups, declared it legal and right.

Two days later, Hondurans marched in the big cities and the small towns and in tiny villages by the millions (population 7,000,000) in repudiation of the impeached ex-dictator and in support of the constitutional interim government.

Zelaya had condemned the constitution, democracy, the entire government, cut off all funds to the Court, the Electoral Commission, the Congress and anybody who opposed him, robbing the treasury to remain permanent and consolidate his de facto coup government.

The international reaction to the coup in Niger stands in contrast. Maybe Honduras taught them that there are still enough freedom-loving people in the world that they cannot yet impose their dictates on small countries, I don’t know.

But to the small African countries I say: Like the Trojans learned in the old story, Beware of powerful Western (and Eastern) nations bearing gifts..


Posted by trutherator | Report as abusive

Find the story about Honduras on my blog:

Posted by trutherator | Report as abusive

The reality is some countries are not ready to be democracies. To be a viable democracy, an overwhelming majority of the population must be educated; if not then you end up with the elections swiftly moving toward the most devious politician and not toward the ones that can truly help the people.

In short, a democracy of idiots will never result in good government…. and as bad as it may sound a good many countries especially in Africa do not have the educated population necessary for a democracy to work. Are people that believe in voodoo ready to vote?

Posted by Yirmin | Report as abusive

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