President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stated that coups have never been and will never be the solutions to Africa’s political, economic and security challenges.
He indicated that the re-appearance of coups in Africa in all their forms and manifestations must be condemned by all, since they undermined the continent’s collective bid to rid itself of the menace of instability and unconstitutional changes in governments.
He was of the strong view that the condemnation of coups, without corresponding action, would do very little and called for stiffer and deterrent measures against perpetrators of coups on the continent.
Opening the African Union (AU) Reflections Forum on Constitutional Changes of Governance in Africa in Accra on March 15, 2022, the President, who is also the Chairman of ECOWAS, said condemning coups alone, without corresponding action, would do nothing, as witnessed in recent times.
Consequently, he suggested that there should be collective agreements, effective deterrence, bold actions and adequate preventative measures against coup makers.
The three-day forum, being organised by the AU and the government of Ghana, is being attended by almost all the heads of organs of the AU and other partners, as well as security and governance experts.
President Akufo-Addo stressed unity among African countries as a weapon to check the activities of coup plotters.
“Our unity and resolve should send a clear message to coup plotters that coups have never been and will never be durable solutions to Africa’s political, economic and security challenges,” he stated.
Touching on sanctions, he noted that the reality was that they had not been applied uniformly.
He explained that while continental bodies were quick to sanction military coup leaders, civilians who achieved similar ends via the manipulation of constitutions to remain in power went without sanctions.
He called for the strengthening of the existing frameworks to capture such infractions and stop would-be perpetrators in their tracks.
The President said although Africa had come a long way in attaining democratic credentials, not everybody had accepted democracy as the preferred mode of governance.
Their reason, he explained, was the claim that Africa was underdeveloped and democracy was cumbersome and, therefore, there was the need to get things done in a hurry.
He said others also sought shortcuts to office to exercise power without limits, while there were those who had no respect for the free choices of the sovereign people because they thought that was not in line with “their so-called ideological preference”.
Referring to reports from the African Centre for Strategic Studies, President Akufo-Addo said 18 African leaders had either modified or eliminated constitutional term limits in the past two decades, while eight others resisted efforts to institute term limits.
That, he indicated, brought the number of countries lacking constitutional traits to 24, representing almost half of the number of countries in Africa.
In contrast, he said, the same source noted that 21 countries upheld term limits and 15 now had them in their constitutions.
Furthermore, the average time office holders had been in power in the 21 countries that had respected term limits was four years, he said.
He said in most of the situations where incumbents had not respected term limits, they had argued that it was in response to popular pressure by their people to remain in office and also their term limits had no meaning in poor underdeveloped society where uplifting the citizenry was of the highest priority.
The President added that others also believed that leaders should remain in office if they continued winning elections.
He said the electoral processes that had been used to serve term limit extensions or removals in Africa had often been marred by allegations of widespread irregularities.
He noted that Africans had paid dearly for the actions of those leaders and explained that 90 per cent of the 24 countries that either lacked term limits or circumvented them experienced various levels of civil unrest and political instability, including coups d’état.
Risk of coup
President Akufo-Addo quoted the 2019 Risk of Coup report, which stated that Africa had experienced more coups d’état than any other continent.
He said as the chair of ECOWAS, he had witnessed directly the devastating effects of coups d’état and what attempted coups had brought on the region.
He said the AU Peace and Security Council and other regional blocs had identified a number of factors underpinning unconstitutional changes of governments, including deficiencies in governance, political greed and marginalisation.
Others factors, President Akufo-Addo said, were human rights violations, unwillingness to accept electoral defeat, manipulation of constitutions and their revision through unconstitutional means to serve personal narrow interests.
The President noted that there were international dimensions to coups because some foreign interests instigated changes, often in favour of repressive governments, foreign economic interests and other geo-political benefits.
“Some foreign entities regard coups in Africa as a means of enhancing their regional ambitions, as such they engage in all sorts of disinformation campaign in a bid to discourage the authority of democratically elected governments and instigate opposition protest against incumbents,” he added.
He said he was looking forward to receiving the outcome of the Accra Forum across declaration documents, including key recommendations on the way forward.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Commissioner, Political Affairs, Peace and Security at the AU Commission, Bankole Adeoye, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the leadership of Africa and its citizens were worried over the resurgence of military coups in Africa.
He said the forum had been organised to provide and mount a robust platform for broad stakeholder discussions on the issues at stake, and that it was important for the AU to deliver incrementally on its mandate by recommitting to the ideals of democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
Mr Mahamat noted that the forum would feed into the AU effort at the leadership level that would address issues of terrorism and unconstitutional changes of governments at the Malabo Summit.