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The Soldiers Are Coming Back Again

Aug 11, 2008, 7:07 AM

From Mauritania to Guinea-Bissau, soldiers have suddenly developed a renewed taste for power. It hasn't been like this for some time now.

With the winds of change blowing across the continent, our soldiers have been behaving themselves and confining themselves to the barracks.

Those of them who felt that the barracks was too restraining had to exchange their uniform for civilian clothes. They took to the civilian culture with gusto, so much so that soldiers who had never had any training in practical politics aspired to and even became the men in the driving seat of their respective countries.

This then raised hopes that democracy was taking root on the continent, as the men in khaki would no longer have justification for governance under martial law.

Where there were exceptions, international pressures made them to announce a short transition period to a democratically elected government. Some of these transition periods lasted for just two years.

Since Ould Vall handed over power to Mr Abdallahi last year, we thought we had seen the last of junta on the continent. But Gen Abdelaziz had different ideas. He detained the incumbent and then took over the reins.

Since that black Wednesday when democracy was cut short in Mauritania, the rot seems to have set in. It has now spread to Guinea-Bissau. Fortunately for democrats around the world, the coup was foiled.President Vieira can now heave a sigh of relief.

But who knows what is going on in barracks across the continent right now? We condemn any coup.

We condemn any violent overthrow of an elected government. The trite accusation of corruption always played up by the soldiers as justification for taking over power has proved to be a bunch of bulls.

In countries where the military have stayed for any length of time, corruption has been just as rife, if not worse.

Democracy, as we know it, offers the necessary paradigms for a just and prosperous society. Therefore, political differences should be sorted out through dialogue, compromise and reconciliation, not through the barrel of the gun.

These two latest developments on the continent are a wake-up call for leaders at all levels to be on their guard for the unexpected.

But more important, incumbent leaders should see what is happening as reminder of their responsibility to the people.

A government that is genuinely committed to the needs and aspirations of the people is unlikely to be toppled, as the people themselves will chase out the military adventurers. So the best safeguard against a putsch is good governance marked by accountability, transparency and responsibility.

"There are dragons in the wings of the World."

Cormac MacCarthy

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