Since Zimbabwe’s military coup which ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017 – ending his 37-year authoritarian rule and 40 years at the helm of the ruling Zanu PF, still in power for 43 years now – there has been a dramatic upsurge of coups in Africa.
Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, an ex-military ruler who was the first in Africa to hand over power to a civilian government in 1979 after fours years in office (he was later elected in 1999 as Nigeria’s first civilian leader in 15 years), observed this last year.
He said Africa is struggling to extricate itself from a “culture” of military takeovers, saying Zimbabwe’s “wrong precedent” of the 2017 coup has fuelled a resurgence of putsches.
“I once moved a motion in 1999 then that any country that has a government not through constitutional means should be suspended,” he said.
“There should be no half measures about these; It started in Zimbabwe where they said ‘it’s not a coup and it’s a half coup, it’s near a coup’; A coup is a coup!.”
Coups were rampant in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, in the decades after independence and there is concern they are resurfacing forcefully again.
The takeover in Niger, led by the presidential guard, is just the latest in a string of coups which have rocked Africa in recent years.
There were two in Burkina Faso in 2022 as well as failed coup attempts in Guinea Bissau, The Gambia and the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
In 2021, there were six coup attempts in Africa, four of them successful.
The trouble is, whatever their root causes and dynamics, coups hardly lead to progressive change and democratisation.
Various studies have shown this.
Indeed, Zimbabwe’s current experience and situation shows that.