Military takeovers in Africa in recent years not only invoke sad memories of years past when coups and civil upheavals reached epidemic proportion, it is amounting to what some pundits say is a version of the continent’s “Arab Spring”. The Sunday, September 5 overthrow of Professor Alpha Conde, President of the Republic of Guinea, by that country’s military has run chills in the spines of ordinary citizens in general and national leaders on the continent in particularly. As the coup is being discussed, there is so much venom being expressed about what many say is the unfortunate reversal to the primitive tendency. Even leaders of West Africa, who discussed the matter yesterday, were unanimous in their view about the barbarity of military takeover, thus suspending Guinea from the regional group and calling for the restoration of the Conde-led government. Liberia’s president, George Manneh Weah, also shares the ECOWAS position except that he also posited a more balanced disposition. As The Analyst reports, while President Weah abhors the disruption of civilian, democratic rule, he also warns against tendencies by some leaders who manipulate governance policies to extend their stay in power, something that obviously create the pretext for military uprising.
The President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, has categorically denounced military takeover that took place in neighboring Guinea and is calling on the coup makers to return to the barracks and restore dethroned President Alpha Conde.
Liberia has had a checkered history which particularly spurred following a military coup and subsequently culminated into a 14-year civil war.
Based on those unfortunate and negative experiences, President Weah, addressing his ECOWAS colleagues virtually yesterday, Wednesday, September 8, 2021, noted that it is understandable that Liberia has taken a strong zero-tolerance stance against military coups d’état in our region, because of the retrogression that they cause.
“We can say, with certainty, that there is no better substitute for good governance than constitutional democracy, no matter how difficult and challenging the circumstances,” the Liberian Chief Executive said.
He noted that Liberia and Guinea are fraternal neighbors bound by history, geography, culture, and geopolitics, among other factors.
President Weah stressed: “We share a 320-mile border from the Makona River to the Nimba Mountains. Our people are inter-related in terms of social and linguistic lineages and customs. And we are founding members, including Sierra Leone, now Cote d’Ivoire, of the Mano River Union, that aims to integrate trade and economic development in our sub-region.”
For these neighborly reasons, when the news of the coup in Guinea broke out on Sunday, September 5, 2021, he said, Liberia was obliged to call for calm on all sides, while expressing the need for an urgent restoration of civilian and constitutional rule, consistent with the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, and the unconditional release of Professor Alpha Condé, President of the Republic of Guinea.
“In the meantime, we have already sent our troops to various checkpoints along the border, to assist any of our citizens, as well as any of our Guinean sisters and brothers, who may need to cross over to our side as a result of the current situation,” he briefed his counterparts.
Taking note of statements made on the situation in Guinea by ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations, calling for the urgent and immediate restoration of constitutional and democratic order in the Republic of Guinea, President Weah said “Liberia stands aligned with the positions of these organizations, of which we are a founding member.”
“Let me express thanks and appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, and Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, for prudently and timely using his good offices in calling for this Extraordinary Summit on the Political Situation in Guinea and Mali.”
He reflected: “As you are all aware, my country Liberia is today a post-coup and post-war success story. However, it is important, particularly on this somber occasion, that I remind you that Liberia has learned the bitter lessons of a military coup d’état and its aftermath, which includes the suspension of fundamental freedoms under military rule.”
He said Liberia also knows how painful it is to live under international sanctions imposed on a country because of a military coup.
“We are aware of what it means when the Constitution is suspended and the expected goods and services from good governance are un-delivered to the people,” President Weah said, adding: “Liberia understands what it means when such deprivations exacerbate poverty, deepen inequality, and make the political and security situation ripe for civil war.”
He said Liberia also knows how civil wars can cause massive humanitarian crises that lead to the collapse of the state, the complete break-down of law and order, and forced migration of our citizens to neighboring and other faraway states.
“And Liberia has experienced – and is continuing to experience – the enormous economic and social costs of reconstruction and rebuilding of infrastructure and human capital from scratch,” said Dr. Weah, suggesting: “The way forward now is to devise a seamless path to the restoration of constitutional democracy in Guinea. To accomplish this, I would like to proffer a suggestion that we benefit from lessons learned in Mali so far based on the efforts of the ECOWAS Mediator.”
Digging, Pointing to Root Causes
Speaking further, President Weah reflected that it is likely that the situation in Mali has strong similarities with the current events in Guinea, in the sense that both events were allegedly caused by deep mistrusts between political authorities and the military.
“It is therefore necessary for the Authority to find a sustainable solution to the crises in Mali and Guinea by comprehending the factors that trigger such mistrusts, thereby leading to recurring coups d’état in the respective States,” he said. “We need to be concerned about the root causes, and the number and frequency of coups d’etat which have recently occurred in the ECOWAS region.”
He asked rhetorically: “Is it possible that there could be a correlation between these events and the political situations where constitutions are amended by incumbents to remove term limits through referendums? Or could this be a mere coincidence?”
President Weah said emphatically that if the removal of term limits is serving as a trigger for the overthrow of constitutionally-elected Governments, then perhaps leaders in ECOWAS should exert their best efforts to ensure that the term limits in the Constitutions of all member states should be respected.
However, he added “I have been consistent in my stance against the unconstitutional removal of democratically-elected Governments. This was my position in Mali, and this is my position today in the current Guinean crisis?
He reiterated the urgent need to resolve the unfolding crisis in Guinea, so as to avert the bitter experiences of the aftermath of a coup d’état that we have brought to your esteemed attention.
“We should also remain seized of the political situation in Mali until an amicable and sustainable conclusion of its transition process is realized.”