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SWAIB K NSEREKO: Will Uganda’s efforts end African coups?

In the efforts to demonstrate leadership and influence in Africa, Uganda has assumed the mantle to mobilize African leaders in taking practical steps towards averting further military incursions that have so far witnessed three successful takeovers in Africa within the past 18 months and the wave still rages. Before the recent mini-summit of African leaders in the Republic of Congo, Kampala had been networking to reach out to a number of African leaders, proposing this kind of forum in which to thoroughly address this issue.

The meeting in Congo 

Three leaders—Mr Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Republic, Mr Faura Gnassingbe of Togo and Mr Felix Tshisekedi of Democratic Republic of Congo, beside president Museveni attended the summit in the quiet Oyo town of the Congo Republic on February 13. Most of them, save that of DRC, are products of military takeovers against the governments they inherited. They discussed the security implications of military coup d’états. They also touched on security situations in other regions of Africa including the Sahel, Great Lakes Region, Central Africa and West Africa. In West Africa three governments—in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have successfully fallen to their respective militaries. In East and Central Africa, the attempt in the vast DRC against president Tshisekedi simply backpedaled on February 5.

Kampala’s experience

Uganda has a tested and proven ability to thwart attempted military coups but, in equal measure, enjoys a rich history of military takeovers—with a regional record of seven previous changes—all military aided. Lately, Uganda demonstrated the capability of averting a military takeover in South Sudan where a splinter army faction, the SPLA-IO of Dr Riek Machar nearly overthrew President Salva Kiir in 2013 but the Ugandan army responded swiftly to foil the mission. President Museveni has recently revealed his disappointment with fellow African leaders when they slowed on his call for a continental armed protection of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. His son, commander of Land Forces, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba has lately been threatening to intervene in West Africa to protect the governments threatened by their own armies. He says he is only delayed by the order from the Commander-in-Chief to proceed. The Ugandan military is currently providing VIP protection to a number of African leaders including Somalia and Equatorial Guinea.

Impacts of coups d’états

They have generated enormous panic among a number of African leaders as the surge takes a contagious dimension. It has thrown various leaders into a state of uncertainty as they are not sure of the next victim. This is going to erode their focus from national priorities to individual survival, effectively impacting domestic and international engagements. Therefore, the measure being promoted by Uganda is timely. The question, however, is to what extent can it go to stop the rage? Yet along the way, are thorns such as:

The non-intervention rule: A principle of international law that restricts the ability of outside nations to interfere with the internal affairs of another nation. Fears are that if a new precedent of direct interference gets established, its broader effects might become unbearably worse than the problem sought to solve. It is upon this basis that not only African leaders have habitually been slow at responding to Ugandan calls but also international bodies of AU and UN levels.

New wine in an old bottle: Most of the current African leaders are initially beneficiaries of military takeovers; their moral stand against the practice today sounds questionable to scholars.

Popular attitudes: If the masses in the affected countries have welcomed the changes, it then becomes contradictory to impose against them a leadership deemed short of representing their aspirations.

The elusive consensus: As experienced on Gadaffi, to generate a continental consensus is a huge challenge because whereas not all countries face similar governance issues, some are unbothered, sensing no threat at all. Most sleepless nations are those rife with question marks over democratic practices, flawed elections, human rights records, arbitrary killings and arrests, disappearances, corruption, ineffective judiciary, rampant youth unemployment, etcetera.

What to do

The militaries don’t antagonize popular governments. They exploit unpopular situations. Kampala’s drive will, therefore, gain instant regional and international legitimacy with success if it’s accompanied with messages encouraging prone African leaders towards fixing governance weaknesses. It is such gaps that coup soldiers exploit to the delight of citizens.

Swaib K Nsereko is an Assistant  Lecturer, Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) Mass Communication Dept. 

Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at editorial@watchdoguganda.com

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