The involvement of the military in African politics has most often been compelled by the lack of good governance, corruption, the suppression of opposition and to an extent the lack of a free and pluralistic press. When one takes a look at the involvement of the army in the political setup of Africa right from countries like Nigeria, down to Ghana, Liberia, the Gambia and even Sierra Leone, it is true that the reasons are always interrelated.
Politics from the viewpoint of the typical African politician is seen as a profession where one could enrich himself at the expense and disadvantage of the poor people and so when that happens, and the military is ‘compelled’ to interfere in the body politics of a state, the people tend to give support to them.
A clear example being in Sierra Leone, a small country in the West African coast where a group of junior military officers overthrew the then All People’s Congress government led by now late Joseph Saidu Momoh in 1992. Generally, the Momoh regime then was one that could best be described as being corrupt, and which has as a daily way of life tribalism and cronyism, much to the distaste of national unity and peaceful coexistence.
And so when it became apparent that that the people were tired with the one party and dictatorial rue of the then All People’s Congress party, they saw the intervention of the military in the political arrangement of the state as a rescue mission. The military coup of Captain Valentine Strasser was, just like that of Johnny Paul Koroma undemocratic and unacceptable. But unlike the one of Johnny Paul Koroma, Strasser’s coup was welcomed by the people. However, the military became drunk with power and at the end they even became worse than those they had removed from power.
There were extrajudicial killings as was evident in the execution of over 20 people, including civilians and military officers after they were alleged to have attempted to stage a mutiny against the government. This in itself was ridiculous and outrageous and this was how they began losing public confidence and sympathy.
In The Gambia, since the military intervention of Yayah Jammeh, who later disengaged himself from the army for national politics, people have ever remained to live in fear. Today, The Gambia, despite claims of it moving along democratic credentials is being governed by the reign of terror as a weapon for success. There is nothing like press freedom in The Gambia and when that is lacking, then it becomes clear that democracy is under threat; media practitioners are arrested on a daily routine, opposition members not been allowed to express their political views for fear of being arrested among other undemocratic ills.
In Guinea, the story is but different from other countries in the sub region. The political landscape of Guinea has got the attention of military officers more than any democratic attention. From Lansaneh Conte who died last December to the current regime of Mousa D. Camara, it has always been the involvement of the army. But the situation in Guinea may need a thorough look from the perspective of what it means for the sub region, especially for sister countries sharing borders with Guinea like Liberia and Sierra Leone. The constant interference of the military in the political administration of Guinea has always had an effect on the economic, political and social aspect of other countries, especially Sierra Leone.
As recent as July of this year, I visited the Gbalamuya Customs Post in the Kambia district of Sierra Leone. From discussions I had with Customs officials along the border; it became clear that business is not as usual as a result of the junta regime in Guinea. This means, the economy of Sierra Leone was also getting support from it sister country due to the cross border trade between the two countries, but that was affected since business people were frightened. At the same time, the democratic government in neighboring is attempting to use the current political situation in Guinea to resolve a long border dispute with Guinea over Yenga.
So you realize that military governments are not the best in African politics but this had not been taken as a major factor in the development agenda of African states. Guinea Conakry could best serve as an example. The people of that country have been cheated, and the junta in that could still keeps backing on the use of military weaponry to instill their supremacy over the people and this is unacceptable.
Africans should be seen embracing democracy just as it is now happening in Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria (though the Nigerian example is questionable), Mali and Sierra Leone et al. It is only when the practice of democracy that African states stand the chances of reaching the apex of development. Guinea and Guineans should see the need to give chance to democracy, the rule by the gun is as outdated as the concept itself and so it is outrageous that despite the continent’s effort in achieving democracy, good governance and the rule of law, Guinea is still lagging behind.
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