How much damage will Mauritania’s coup do to Africa?
Soldiers took power in a coup in Mauritania on Wednesday after presidential guards deposed President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi when he tried to dismiss senior army officers. Abdallahi took over only last year after winning elections to replace a military junta that had ruled since it toppled the previous president in a bloodless coup in 2005. The largely desert nation, one of Africa’s newest oil producers, has suffered five coups since 1978 but Africa as a whole has transformed its reputation for violent government ousters in recent years after notching up around 80 successful coups and many more abortive attempts between the 1950s and 2004.
There have only been a handful of military seizures in the last five years compared to the heyday of military takeovers in the 1960s. In the mid-70s around half of African countries had military governments. Since then, democracy has gradually made ground and attempts to seize power are strongly frowned upon.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and once notorious for military government, suffered its last coup in 1993.
The African Union condemned the Mauritania coup within hours on Wednesday, demanding that constitutional rule be restored. The AU was established in 2002 to replace the Organisation of African Unity which was discredited by its tendency to turn a blind eye to violence and tyrannical government in its member states. The AU has strongly condemned previous attempts to overthrow legitimate governments by force and threatened to “excommunicate” rebels who came close to overthrowing the Chadian government last February before being repulsed by forces loyal to President Idriss Deby. But despite the AU’s strong rhetoric, African diplomacy has generally had little success in reversing coups.
Most African governments are now anxious to attract booming foreign investment on the continent and nervous that coups or crises like that in Zimbabwe, whose economy has collapsed, will frighten off overseas investors.
Razia Khan, Chief Africa Economist at Standard Chartered Bank, warned that ripples from Mauritania’s coup could spread wider.
“This news will come as a setback to perceptions of improved governance (in Mauritania). It should also result in some focus on the political stability of Africa’s new oil economies, more broadly. A timely reminder of what is at stake and the risks — not favourable for investor sentiment.”
What do you think? Will Mauritania’s coup damage the economies and prospects of other African countries?. Should the AU take muscular action to reverse the military takeover?