The Star February 23, 2010 Edition 1
ON February 18 Niger’s president, Mamadou Tandja, was overthrown in a military coup. This is after he had changed the constitution to extend his stay and broaden his powers after 10 years in power.
The Economic Community of West African States has dispatched a delegation to Niger to express disapproval, and African leaders have condemned the coup as unconstitutional and a threat to democracy. The AU bit its teeth and suspended Niger from it’s activities. What a loss by the people of Niger!
According to Niger’s residents, the coup provides an opportunity to hold elections that were postponed indefinitely in December so that Tandja could stay in power.
I wish I was as opposed to this coup as our leaders. African leaders choose to keep quiet when their colleagues tamper with constitutions to suit their greed by extending their stay in power.
Many African leaders that came to power through violent means later “legitimised” their rule by initiating constitutional reforms and peppering in some skewed elections but when the two terms have “not been enough”, they have gone on to change the constitutions to stay beyond that.
What recourse do the people in these countries have? Who is a better keeper of democracy in those countries, the leaders or those who enforce change?
For instance, if Mugabe or Gaddafi are overthrown, should people cry that democracy in Africa has been dealt a severe blow?
Much as I disagree with coups, having seen a number of them in Uganda, I think the leaders themselves force people to seek this alternative.
More crucially, African leaders and the AU are completely unhelpful when it comes to advancing democracy. Democracy, according to many of them, is defined according to how it suits their desires for power.
Stephen Twinoburyo, Pretoria