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Guinea Conakry Military Takeover: The growing permissiveness toward coups in Africa

Guinea’s president has been ousted by Mamady Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire officer.

Coup leader Col Mamady Doumbouya says his soldiers seized power because they wanted to end rampant corruption, human rights abuses and mismanagement.

The leaders of the third military coup in West and Central Africa since April, promised on Monday to set up a transitional government of national unity after ousting President Alpha Conde and dissolving his cabinet.

President Condé had been in power for 11 years at the time of the coup. Despite the country previously having a constitution which specified for Heads of States to serve for two terms of 5 years each only, President Alpha Condé at the end of his mandate twisted it and ran for another term – this time with unlimited renewability.

A growing permissiveness toward coups in Africa

This is the third coup since April in West and Central Africa. Analysts have raised concerns about a slide back to military rule in a region that had made strides towards multi-party democracy since the 1990s.

Judd Devermont, the director of CSIS Africa Program linked Alpha Conde’s ousting to a growing permissiveness toward coups in the region.

Reacting to ECOWAS’ communique on Sunday condemning the takeover in Guinea, Samuel Ablakwa a Ghanaian politician and MP raised concerns about the return to the era of coups in Africa.

“If African leaders do not take steps quickly to right the wrongs in society, the era of military takeovers may return,” the Ghanaian MP said on Ghana Web.

“Factors that build fertile grounds for coup d’etats are emerging in most African countries, a situation that must be dealt with immediately in order to sustain the democracies of these countries,” he added.

“Unwarranted thirst for a third term, corruption, joblessness, poverty, manipulation of constitutions, profligacy of the ruling elite and impunity give rise to military takeovers,” according to MP Ablakwa.  

Regional Bodies React

The Lomé Declaration of 2000 aimed to consolidate democracy on the African continent by outlawing unconstitutional changes of government. With this Declaration, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) took a position to support political change that is effected through the ballot and not by any other means. By declaring unconstitutional changes of government unacceptable, anachronistic and undesirable, the OAU was creating or entrenching the norm of democratic political change. But has the African Union (AU) been consistent in its responses to unconstitutional changes of government in Africa?

The African Union President, Felix Tshisekedi and the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat on Sunday issued a joint statement against the military takeover in Guinea, demanding for an immediate release of the detained president.

“We condemn all forms of military takeovers and demand for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé,” they said in a press release.

Regional experts say like other coups in recent years, all the AU has done was to repeatedly condemn coups d’etat and urged its member states to respect constitutional rule. They argue that this should have been prevented when African leaders changed the constitutions of their countries to third or unlimited terms.

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