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COUPS: AU’S NEW HEADACHE

By   /  February 23, 2010  /  No Comments

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Focus should be on good governance.
The latest headache for the African Union (AU) is no longer inter-state wars nor civil uprisings, but an upsurge in unconstitutional changes of government.
During the recently concluded AU Summit in Addis Ababa, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon decried the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.
“We must also guard against the manipulation of established processes to retain power,” added the UN chief. This was in reference to the happenings in Guinea and Madagascar.
This foresight has come to fulfillment; Niger’s military has to date taken over the reigns of power from President Mamadou Tandja. Niger’s military ousted President Mamadou Tandja in a swift coup last week, putting an end to months of political wrangling between him and the opposition.
Last year the ousted President extended and deepened his powers through a successful referendum that officially gave him three more years in power after his mandate had ran out in December. However, the move drew criticism and sanctions from abroad and created a row with his rivals hence dividing the nation.
This is the third coup in West Africa in the last 18 months, in what some observers say is an alarming shift away from democracy in a region seeking stability and investment.
In an interview with Reuters, West Africa’s regional mediator said after meeting the junta on Sunday, that Niger’s military plans to run the uranium-exporting country until politicians agree on a new constitution and are ready for fresh elections. No timeframe has been set for the transition back to civilian rule.
“They have assured us there will be an opening for everyone here in Niger, for an inter-Nigerien dialogue,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, president of the ECOWAS Commission, told reporters after meeting the military junta.
A spokesman for the military junta, known as the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, said that in the 1999 coup, there was a similar situation but the army held elections soon afterwards and handed back power and there was 10 years of stability.
“We are going to do the same thing,” Colonel Djibril Hamidou Hima said.
Even as African leaders aspire for the much needed United States of Africa, it behoves them to assess their heart of hearts and endeavour to uphold good governance in individual countries first.
According to writer Patrick Mutahi of Africa Insight, by December 2010, 29 countries in sub-Sahara Africa will have gone through an election. However the much needed ratification of the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance adopted in 2007 has not been done. The Charter needs 15 member-states ratification before it coming into force. But despite adoption in 2007, only 29 countries have signed the Charter; this portends a disaster come end of 2012.
Basing on the recent experience in Kenya and Zimbabwe, elections have become a volcano of violent conflicts in the continent.
The AU and the UN Should aggressively push for the ratification and domestication of this Charter so as to achieve the much needed free, fair and transparent democratic change of governments.

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Wilfred Mulliro is Kenyan columnist. MA in International Studies from University of Nairobi, B.Ed. in English Literature from Kenyata University. His articles which focus on Social issues and Politics appear in Kenya's leading Newspapers.

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