Africa can do without coups, counter-coups

In this file photo taken on March 2, 2022 Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, President of Burkina Faso, arrives to his inauguration ceremony as President of Transition, in Ouagadougou. PHOTO | AFP

Summary

  • On Friday, a group of junior army officers announced that they had ousted Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba as head of the military junta that seized power eight months earlier.

Last Friday’s military coup in Burkina Faso was yet another serious set back in the struggle to democratise Africa.

It was the second military coup in the West African nation this year following the army’s ouster of the democratically elected government of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in January.

On Friday, a group of junior army officers announced that they had ousted Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba as head of the military junta that seized power eight months earlier.

Worryingly enough, the January coup was the fourth in a string of recent military takeovers in West and Central Africa, prompting fears of further regional instability.

Meanwhile, a succession of coups in Burkina Faso itself has only served to perpetuate the country’s troubled history. Last week’s putsch was the eighth coup in Burkina Faso since the country gained independence from France in 1960.

Recent developments in Burkina Faso and West Africa in general have brought back memories of the 1960s, 70s and 80s when military coups were the norm rather than the exception in Africa.

Hardly a year passed without a military coup taking place somewhere, and in some cases military rulers were ousted by their army colleagues. That is what happened in Burkina Faso last week.

Not surprisingly, both the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) have condemned the coup, and rightly so.

While AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat has condemned the “unconstitutional change of government” in Burkina Faso, Ecowas has reaffirmed its “unequivocal opposition” to the coup.

The European Union also weighed in, saying the coup “puts in danger efforts to supervise a transition, undertaken for several months, notably on the part of the Ecowas”.

This reaction was largely expected. What is needed is more pressure on the new military rulers to compel them to restore civilian rule in Burkina Faso sooner rather than later.

Africa already faces a myriad of problems, and military coups only serve to worsen the situation.


How to stem rural-urban tide

As local and foreign investment is still largely concentrated in urban areas, hundreds of thousands of young Tanzanians migrate annually to cities and towns in search of employment.

This wave of rural-urban migration is not entirely surprising given that nearly 50 per cent of rural households live below the poverty line. For instance, Dar es Salaam’s population increases by nearly 200,000 annually, with the authorities struggling to provide adequate social services and amenities such as infrastructure.

It is generally acknowledged that about three-quarters of people in the city live in unplanned areas. Other urban centres are also finding it difficult coping with an influx of immigrants. It is small wonder then that crime levels are high and epidemics frequently break out in the crowded settings.

Equipping rural youngsters with skills, knowledge and inputs will go a long way in improving agriculture. However, it is essential to build strong and adequate infrastructure to store crops and ease transportation to marketplaces.