Military coups have been in the minds of many these past few weeks after West Africa experienced its third one in as many years. On July 26, 2023, the Presidential Guard in Niger launched a coup and detained President Mohamed Bazoum and his family.
Senior officers from various defence and security forces branches formed a junta named the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP). They announced the seizure of power on a televised broadcast.
While the coup has been condemned by governments in the United States, France, the European Union (EU), and ECOWAS, they have also seen support from military governments in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, as well as many people in Niger.
In fact, Mali and Burkina Faso have gone further by stating that any military intervention in Niger by ECOWAS and other foreign parties will also be considered a declaration of war against their own countries!
What is concerning, however, is seeing some Tanzanians, especially the youth, supporting military coups and regimes. Most of these people are driven by naivety and a hatred for the old colonial systems which still haunt former French colonies today.
Not a way to go
While I agree with their sentiment towards France and its stronghold on its former colonies, I do not agree that military coups and suspending civilian rule are the way to go.
Although military coups occur under the guise of restoring social order and bringing about structural change, they usually end up maintaining the status quo but with an even stronger iron fist.
When we do not learn history, we tend to repeat it, and I believe that is what is happening now with those supporting military coups. West Africa is no stranger to coups; most countries have experienced several coups and military rule.
Nigeria (1966-1979, 1983-1999), Mali (1968-1991, 2012-2013, 2021-), Guinea (1984-2010, 2021-), Burkina Faso (1966, 1980, 1982, 2022-) and Niger (1074, 1996, 1999, 2023-) to name just a few.
The coups of yesteryear have something in common with those of today; all were led by young midlevel soldiers who promised to bring about positive change but never did. What leads us to believe that it will be any different now?
I suppose if you are a person who believes the end justifies the means and the end is the dismantling of the entire French colonial system, then yes, these coups are justified. I am 100 per cent against what France has done to its former colonies.
France’s questionable legacy
We know that France forces 14 of its former African colonies to pay a colonial tax, use the FCFA, the French currency for its former colonies in Africa, and put 85 per cent of their foreign reserve into France’s central bank under the French minister of Finance control.
We know that France has assassinated or overthrown West African leaders who had tried to remove their countries from the unfair pact with France. David Dacko of the Central African Republic was overthrown in 1966, Maurice Yameogo of Burkina Faso was overthrown in 1966, and Hubert Maga of Benin was overthrown in 1972, just to name a few.
French is not without blame, and anti-French sentiments in West Africa are deservedly earned. After all, former French President Jaques Chirac said in 2008, “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.”
And another former French President, Francois Mitterand, said in 1957, “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”
READ MORE: ACT Wazalendo Condemns Niger’s Coup
However, having military leaders who use the French government as an excuse to topple democratically elected governments will not yield any different results from past coups.
What the security apparatus of these countries were supposed to do was defend and protect their civilian leaders who have national interests at heart rather than being used to assassinate and remove democratically elected officials who went against France.
Why have countless West African leaders who were anticolonial and pro-development such as Modibo Keïta, Thomas Sankara, and Sylvanus Olympio, been removed and, in some cases, assassinated while their soldiers either stood by and did nothing or actively participated in the events?
Where were these soldiers and other security men when it was time to protect their leaders from the hands of the French? If they could not protect their leaders from French actions, what makes these current coup leaders believe they will not meet the same fate?
The national security apparatus should protect national interests, including protecting and safeguarding the lives of those chosen to act in our interest. The police, intelligence service, and the military should never forget the roles they were designed to play, which should never include ruling over the country.
It is frustrating when these military leaders lie to their people and claim to be against French imperialists, while it is these same militaries and other members of the security apparatus who fail to protect their leaders from French assassinations and coups.
I praise Tanzanian security forces, especially Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) and the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS). Our military and intelligence services have maintained great discipline in their duties.
Besides the army mutiny in 1964 and the coup attempt in 1983, which gained no steam, we have mostly avoided any threats to democratic civilian rule. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened after the death of former President John Pombe Magufuli had we not had a strong security apparatus in place.
Rumours at that time had swirled that there were active attempts to deny then Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan to ascend to the presidency as the constitution required.
At least through my observation, the rumours gained credibility after former Chief of Defence Forces Venance Mabeyo, during Magufuli’s funeral, publicly pledged allegiance and loyalty to the new President and Commander-in-Chief.
The moment might have passed many people, but to some of us, the public pledge held great significance and signified the strong foundational structures of our military.
I would warn Tanzanians not to be quick to celebrate such actions as military coups. Such events create a rabbit hole that is hard to get out from. That is why countries that have experienced a coup have subsequently experienced several others.
The cycle will continue until broken, leaving behind a trail of blood, broken systems, and shattered hope!
Thomas Joel Kibwana is an international relations and business development expert with ten years of experience. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter as @tkibwana. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.