Lessons from Zimbabwe – A new kind of Military takeover that’s not a coup

Zimbabwe National Army commander Constantino Chiwenga – second from left – addressing the media. EPA-EFE – Aaron Ufumeli

Military leaders in Zimbabwe have introduced a new kind of military intervention that does not literally constitute a coup d’etat. A first in Africa where the military overthrows a regime but does not take power, and instead preside over a peaceful transition of power and ensures peace and security. The entire debacle must have gone unnoticed across the military barracks around the African continent because the focus was Mugabe being toppled and that was enough news to divert attention from the unusual event taking place behind the scene.

From Ghana to Nigeria, Africa has witnessed first hand how the military takes power by force and sometimes shedding innocent blood in the process. But Zimbabwe’s military leaders have showcased a new kind of way to change things for the better by not taking power but by facilitating a bloodless and simple transition when all else has failed. What happened in Zimbabwe must have got a few leaders worried across the continent and necessitated a desperation to forge new alliances with the military out of fear of not seeing what happened in Zimbabwe replicated across other African countries.

What happened in Zimbabwe can pass for a democratic handover in many parts of Africa where people have only experienced the violent part of military takeovers. The fact that the military can overthrow the government of a tyrant without the urge to take power must be a welcome phenomenon that would make the military start enjoying a new kind of popularity unseen before in the continent.

And the fact that the military was not keen on taking power gives credence to the military’s actions and in some ways validated what they did to bring change to a country that has only known one type of leadership for the most part of its recent independent history. I would call it a new kind of politics in Africa, one that can usher change without the ballot box in extreme situations where change has become imperative as in the case of Zimbabwe.

What you will now see is African leaders learning from Mugabe’s mistake and probably discouraging the possibility of this being replicated anywhere else, by implementing changes to military hierarchy and structures, or planting their own people to senior military positions to look after their interests. In Zimbabwe’s case, it became possible only because Mugabe became greedy and felt insecure to a point where he wanted his wife to be his natural successor. Had it not been for that, it would have been difficult for the military to present a legitimate reason, albeit one being there, to validate their actions.

But credit must also be given to the Military in Zimbabwe for showing so much restraint and maturity and statesmanship in how they conducted themselves during the entire operation. Their actions also in a way discourage bloody military coups in the continent as they would be viewed as unpopular and unnecessary when it can be done differently.

It seems a new era has dawned in the continent that ushers in a new kind of politics – (the military politics), one that can bring about regime change without the bullet or the ballot box and still be seen as legitimate in extreme circumstances.

© 2017, Ahmed M Kamara. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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