Sir: The wave of military coups in the region – Mali in 2020 and 2021, Guinea in 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022, and recently Niger in July, and now Gabon a Central African country in late August, raises serious concerns regarding the long-term stability of democratic governance in the region. It is disheartening to note that West Africa, once seen as a beacon of democratic progress, is now plagued by political upheavals and coups d’état. The increasing number of such incidents is a clear indication of the leadership deficiency facing the region. This deficiency in leadership not only threatens the stability of individual countries but also undermines the development of West Africa as a whole.
For a community to function well, it needs to have a democratic government and peaceful transfers of power. Unfortunately, West Africa has been plagued by a series of coups, which have exposed the fragility of democratic institutions and the mistrust of political processes. Countries that have fought for democracy for many years are now grappling with the reality that coups are becoming more common than fair elections. This trend highlights the failure of elected officials to uphold the principles of democracy and responsible governance.
One of the primary reasons behind the increasing number of coups in certain countries is the prevalent culture of corruption and impunity. This culture has weakened the foundations of these nations, eroded public trust, and jeopardized the provision of essential services. As a result, ordinary people bear the brunt of socio-economic hardships. Leaders gaining riches while infrastructure and services erode causes political instability and military intervention.
The absence of capable leadership has led to the neglect of crucial industries such as job creation, healthcare, and education, particularly affecting young people in West Africa. They face significant challenges in finding employment and accessing quality healthcare and education facilities. Power-hungry individuals exploit their frustration with this difficult situation for political gain, leading to a sense of pessimism and vulnerability among the youth.
The incapacity of leaders to address these pressing issues demonstrates a lack of vision and short-sightedness that is detrimental to the long-term development of the region. Unfortunately, many leaders prioritize self-enrichment and personal aggrandizement over inclusive policies and sustainable economic growth. This short-sighted strategy not only destroys the social contract that supports stable governance but also alienates the public. It is important for leaders to have a long-term vision that promotes growth and benefits everyone in the community.
In West Africa, effective leadership involves promoting harmony and inclusivity among diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. This is crucial to prevent political unrest and violence that have historically resulted from ethnic conflicts. Leaders must continuously work towards overcoming differences, forging a national identity, and promoting social cohesiveness. Conversely, ineffective leadership can result in the exploitation of these divisions, leading to ongoing instability and unrest.
It is important for both regional and international players to collaborate and support efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, promote good governance, and foster economic development in West Africa. This is necessary to address the increasing number of coups and leadership deficiencies in the region. However, this support should come with conditions attached, encouraging leaders to be more accountable, transparent, and responsive to the needs of their citizens.
The region must see this trend as a wake-up call and work together to retrace its steps on the road to stable governance, sustainable development, and steady peace.
Written by: Tosin Afeniforo
IUSS Pavia, Italy