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The soldiers are coming back again

Dec 18, 2013, 10:01 AM

From Mali to South Sudan, 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.

News coming from South Sudan these days is, no doubt, very disturbing. According to the BBC, more than 60 soldiers have been killed in two days of clashes in the South Sudanese capital.

Fresh violence broke out on Tuesday, a day after the government said it had quashed an attempted coup.

Thousands of people have sought shelter at two UN compounds in the capital.

On Monday, President Salva Kiir blamed soldiers loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar - who was dismissed in July - for the violence.

He said the clashes began when uniformed personnel opened fire at a meeting of the ruling party, former rebel force the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), on Sunday night.

Fortunately for democrats around the world, the coup was said to have been foiled despite continuing violence in the capital, Juba.

As we always emphasized on these pages, we condemn any attempt to violently overthrow 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.

This latest development on the continent is 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