Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The coup in Guinea

The recent seizure of power in Guinea by the country’s military authorities following the death of President Lansana Conte has attracted widespread condemnation from world bodies and leaders. Both the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) have strongly condemned the military putsch.

The EU, under the leadership of France, said that it would oppose any coup in Guinea and called for free and transparent elections. Similarly, the AU’s Peace and Security Commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra, observed that the coup is a flagrant violation of that country’s constitution.

Nigerian President and the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, has unequivocally condemned the unconstitutional take-over of power in Guinea. He observed that the coup is a violation of the country’s Constitution and a breach of both the AU Act and the provisions of the ECOWAS Charter. Yar’Adua warned that the AU would not recognise any government that emerges through such undemocratic means. The president, who described as unfortunate the death of President Lansana Conte, demanded the immediate restoration of democratic order in Guinea through the constitutional process. In the same vein, the leader of the Union for the Progress of Guinea and the Secretary of the opposition alliance, Frad Jean-Marie Dore, has called for a peaceful transition of power.

The coup plotters, who struck a few hours after the 74-year-old Guinean leader died, suspended the Constitution, dissolved all political institutions and banned all forms of public assemblies. Led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, they banned all political activities and ordered the citizens not to engage in looting but to stay at home. They also set up the National Council for Democracy and Development (NCDD) to rout out corruption and organise fair elections in two years. A banker, Mr. Kabine Komara, was appointed as Prime Minister.

Earlier, the former Prime Minister, Ahmed Tidine Souare, had insisted that he was in charge and assured that the government is functioning as it should. The Guinean Constitution provides that the National Assembly Speaker should be in charge until a presidential election is held within a period of 60 days, but the mandate of the National Assembly expired two years ago, with the former government failing to conduct fresh legislative elections.

Regardless of their reasons, the take-over of power by the military in Guinea while the nation is still mourning the death of its leader, is in bad taste. It stands condemned by all lovers of the democratic process of change of power and respect for constituted authority.
Besides the unconstitutionality of the putsch, it shows utter disregard and disrespect for the late head of state. The coup is unnecessary and uncalled for. Already, the AU has suspended Guinea. The body also rejected the junta’s proposal of a two-year transitional programme.
President Yar’Adua, however, has sent a fact-finding mission led by ECOWAS Commission President, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, to Guinea to ascertain developments in the country and to determine how to ensure peaceful transition to democratic rule.

We enjoin ECOWAS and all lovers of democracy to be careful not to unwittingly confer undue legitimacy on the illegal regime in Guinea by dealing with its leaders. This is the only way to send the message that leadership through coups is unacceptable. If this aberration is allowed to stand, others might be tempted to copy it.

Military juntas in Africa should be told plainly that coups are no longer in vogue. Coups are indices of under-development and lack of national pride that should be done away with. Those behind the coup in Guinea should retrace their steps and allow the constitutional means of change of power take its normal course. The constitutional provisions on succession in Guinea should be adhered to. It is not the duty of the military to take-over power when a sitting president dies. By doing so, the military is trying to cause confusion and disorder in Guinea. Democracy can be restored in Guinea without this illegal junta. That is the only way military coups can be stopped in Africa.