Be fair to coup makers; we made them after colonial powers left...

Monday September 20 2021
Guinea soldiers.

Soldiers in Guinea's capital Conakry on September 5, 2021, following the coup. Military takeovers are bad takeovers, and so are civilian takeovers of powers that are not theirs constitutionally. To condemn the one, condemn the other first. PHOTO | FILE | AFP


I must admit I find our rulers on the African continent nonsensical, both in what they do as well as in what they do not do. I’ll take the current case of Guinea as an illustration, though it does in no way stand alone

Both African Union and the west African economic bloc, Ecowas, have been on Guinea’s military chiefs case, wanting them to hurry up to “return to civilian rule” after they ousted Alpha Conde.

I have always asked myself if so-called “civilian rule” is the be-all and end-all to ensure proper governance in our countries, even when we know that the so-called “civilian governments” have nothing civil about them; they are in reality police-military dictatorship hiding behind a non-uniformed façade of flaky individuals who would be thrown out of office if their people could muster any real power to vote them out.

The reality that we have lived ever since the old colonial powers left has consistently shown our rulers to be replicas of the departed colonial rulers, save their skin colour, and they have refused to do anything that would mean real freedom to their people.

Long journeys

In a number of countries that we know, the individuals and movements that lead their people in the fight for independence were never allowed to take over when the colonial rulers were leaving.


In those countries where this was not possible — where more or less authentic liberators were allowed into power — factors like corruption in all its forms derailed the process of liberation, and what was eventually installed was a governance structure so beholden to the departing masters that to the masses of the people, the new elites were substantially the same as the order they were claiming to have replaced

It was thus that whatever was agreed between our political leaders with the British — for instance at Marlborough or Lancaster — was never discussed between ourselves and our new rulers. What was agreed in these London halls was a modus vivendi between our new rulers and the old masters, with all of the rest of us none the wiser.

Leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere tried to warn us against the pitfalls of “flag independence,” telling us that neo-colonialism could be even more insidious that classical colonialism, because the new order kept real power in neo-colonial relations although black men were allowed the empty pomp and ridiculous circumstance of a fictitious independence.

Soon it became clear that the new order was unsatisfactory, both for the masses of the people and sections of the elite, who wanted more say in governance and who were still looking for what independence meant in terms of livelihoods and power relations.

Of coups and stolen votes

The advent of the first military coups d’etat of the 1960s was a manifestation of this discordance, the new rulers clinging onto ten old colonial practices and shutting down anyone who dared to question the continued colonial rule, complete with political prohibitions and restrictions; incarcerations and assassinations. This is the reality that has never changed since the 1960s.

When, in the early 1990s, a number of our countries were shoehorned into some kind of multi-party system or other, it was only temporary, for multiparty was a convenient catch-phrase that did not guarantee people’s freedom or meaningful public debate on which new governance system would be fashioned and operated:

Votes were stolen and elections turned into charades with no meaningful significance, and soon, authoritarian regimes made sure it was not the votes that were stolen, but whole elections, wholesale. Those who dared to question this were gunned down or forced into exile, or left to rot in jail, with all manner of trumped up charges.

In all, the political project that we thought had dawned in Africa in the early 1990s was but a mirage, and all we have in the place of the early enthusiasm are illegitimate cabals that cling onto power by the skin of their teeth with the most naked use of military and police force with periodic “elections” that the people are increasingly staying away from

Increasingly, the African voters have been disenchanted with these shams, and they have either withdrawn their participation and are looking for alternatives, and when they do not find these alternatives, many of them will go searching in the wilderness, and who knows what they could find there?

But we, the pseudo-intellectuals of the unthinking order, believe there is something wrong with everything that goes wrong, except ourselves, who went wrong right from the outset. Still, we do not get it, do we?

In our chanceries, our bright-eyed young “analysts” stare at each other with the thick-brimmed but unseeing spectacles, and quote from lengthy treatises on how the military take-overs should be outlawed within the architecture of African governance.

Fiddlesticks, say I. Military takeovers are bad takeovers, and so are civilian takeovers of powers that are not theirs constitutionally. To condemn the one, condemn the other first. Be consequential.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]