“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. Statements condemning coups alone without corresponding action will, however, achieve little or nothing, as witnessed in recent times. This problem requires collective agreement, effective deterrence, bold action and, equally important, adequate preventive measures”.
These were the words of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the African Union Peace and Security Council Forum on Unconstitutional Changes of Governments in Africa, held on Tuesday, 15th March 2022, at the Kempinski Hotel Accra.
Delivering the keynote address at the event, President Akufo-Addo stated that even though it has taken a long time for a consensus to emerge in Ghana, and, indeed, in Africa, that the democratic form of governance is preferable, “we should not take it for granted that everybody has accepted democracy as the preferred mode of governance”.
According to the President, “there are those who hanker after authoritarian, personal rule, because they claim Africa is underdeveloped and democracy is cumbersome, and we need to get things done in a hurry. There are those who seek short-cuts to office to exercise power without limits, and there are those who have no respect for the free choices of our sovereign people, because they do not accord with their so-called ideological preferences.”
Against this background, reiterated that “we still have some work to do to convince such people that we are all safer under democracies”.
Citing data from the 2019 Annual Risk of Coup Report, the President noted that Africa has experienced more coup d’états than any other continent, with thirty percent (30%) of all coup attempts on the continent having occurred in democracies.
“As current Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States, I have witnessed directly the devastating effects that coups d’états and attempted coups have had on the region. There have been at least three such occurrences in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, and an unsuccessful attempt in Guinea Bissau. As some of you may know, the AU and other Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as ECOWAS, have identified a myriad of factors underpinning unconstitutional changes of government,” President Akufo-Addo said.
He continued, “Among them are, according to the AU Peace and Security Council, ‘deficiencies in governance, political greed, mismanagement of diversity, failure to seize opportunities, marginalization, human rights violations, unwillingness to accept electoral defeat, manipulation of constitutions and their revision through unconstitutional means to serve personal narrow interests’ and so on”.
The reappearance of coups in Africa in all its forms and manifestations, the President said, must be condemned by all, since it seriously undermines thecollective bid to rid the continent of the menace of instability and unconstitutional changes in government, as currently defined by the frameworks enshrined in the Lomé Declaration, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, and other important regional and continental instruments.
“Unconstitutional regime changes retard a country’s growth,” he added.
In as much as the drivers of unconstitutional changes in Government are largely domestic, President Akufo-Addo noted that the international dimension cannot be overlooked, as foreign involvement in fomenting unconstitutional changes, often in favour of repressive governments, foreign economic interests and other would-be geo-political benefits, are contributory factors.
“Some foreign entities regard coups in African countries as a means of enhancing their regional ambitions. As such, they engage in all sorts of disinformation campaigns in a bid to disparage the authority of democratically elected governments and instigate opposition protests against incumbents,” he added.
In implementing existing continental and regional instruments and protocols, he indicated that defaulting Member States are condemned and suspended from the activities of continental and regional bodies, and individual coup-makers are sanctioned.
However, he noted that, in reality, these sanctions have not been applied uniformly.
“While we are quick to sanction military coup leaders, civilians, who achieve similar ends via the manipulation of constitutions to remain in power, for example, go without sanctions, although their actions are clearly prohibited in our legal instruments. This means that the existing frameworks need to be strengthened to capture such infractions,” President Akufo-Addo said.