Last week Thursday, September 17, 2015, the world woke up to the rude announcement of a military coup in the West African country of Burkina Faso. The military putsch succeeded in overthrowing the transitional government headed by interim President Michel Kafano and his Prime Minister Isaac Zida, replacing them with General Gilbert Diendere as the country’s new strongman. Following this, there have been riots on the streets by those protesting against the anomaly, leading to the needless deaths of innocent citizens. Reports say that in addition to seizing political power, the soldiers raided the offices of Ouagadougou’s Radio Omega, setting them ablaze.
The junta calling themselves the National Counsel for Democracy imposed a dusk to dawn curfew, with all flights in and out of the country cancelled. Expectedly, the international community including Nigeria has condemned this rape of democracy, even as they called on the putschists to immediately restore the overthrown executive back to power.
We are totally in support of this call and all other measures to bring back normalcy and democratic governance in Burkina Faso. More odious is that a small praetorian presidential guard and not the army carried out the coup. The coup was not only uncalled for, it was a more telling betrayal by those who should be responsible for protecting their bosses. Incidentally, the putsch revealed the simmering rivalry and discord between the national army and the presidential guards established by the immediate past President, Blaise Compaoré, for his personal protection. Indeed, another painful aspect of the coup was the bravery and determination of the Burkinabé people to kick out Compaoré from power at serious risks to their own lives. In defending their action, the coup leaders cited marginalisation of politicians from the electoral process.
Nevertheless, observers believe the main grouse was the decision by the transitional authorities that former members of the Compaoré regime and political parties who supported the former president’s attempt at tenure elongation be stopped from taking part in future elections. Whatever the reasons for the coup, it should not be allowed to stand, as doing so would bring the African continent back to dark days of military dictatorships when rule by coercion and force was order of the day. Indeed, Africa needs respite from these marauding hordes in military uniform that believe power must flow from barrels of the gun.
That is why we welcome the intervention of ECOWAS, the United Nations and African Union delegation led by Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal and Boni Yayi of Benin to broker solution to the imbroglio. We recall that Burkina Faso had been preparing for general elections scheduled for October 11, in order to restore democracy following last year’s overthrow of long-term leader Compaoré when the 1,200-member unit struck. African leaders must use every means possible to sack the coupists, including the use of force to end their reign of impunity.
Military coups have become an aberration and this is why their intervention in politics no longer enjoys the support of the people and the international community. There must be concerted efforts by all stakeholders to sensitise soldiers especially in the West African sub region on the futility of military rule when democratic governance has become the rallying call all over the world. Africa should work towards getting out of the zone of turmoil, characterised by poverty, repression and war – in which it has existed all along – into zone of peace, in which can be found peaceful, democratic and wealthy nations. Therefore we insist that the coup plotters in Burkina Faso climb down from their high horses and see their professional duty as that of protecting their country from external aggression and not substituting democratic rule with commands from the barracks.
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