Military coups are generally not the ‘best‘ way to come to power. They are usually an indication that things do not bode well for the future because they have a tendency to be the beginning of the rule of the Gun, by the Gun rather than of the law.
Historically, military coups in Africa have always brought in the rule of the Gun, by the Gun and trampled over the rule of the law; which, unsurprisingly, ferments deep resentments and a desire for more military coups. It becomes a vicious cycle of military coups, one after the other.
“A soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal” Thomas Sankara
A military coup, is a dangerous (political) power (acquisition) instrument, primarily because its ultimate power lies, and therefore, derives from a dangerous weapon – the gun. Usually in the wrong hands with heads full of brutality and twisted perception of power as a consequence of lack of clear and grounded understanding of political ideology.
Historically, in Africa, the military – whose formation and code of conduct is deeply rooted in its colonial origin and therefore purpose – has largely been, and remains largely so today, extremely and brutally against the public – the civilian. They treat the civilian as the enemy and inferior to them, hence, the kind of brutality that is typical of most African military personnel against civilians.
Their brutality is facilitated by the power they derive from the possession of the gun. The gun is their power.
It’s this twisted logic and perception of power, at the centre of which is brutality and the willingness to serve it in unlimited measure, that makes a military coup, a dangerous, and frankly, undesirable instrument and a means of acquiring – and coming to – political power.
Military coups and liberation movements in Africa, usually, have quite a lot in common. They are both borne out of deep socioeconomic and political dissatisfaction usually as a result of dysfunctional governments that seem to exist to serve to fatten their officials and starve the masses, eventually to death.
Military coups often bring in a military rule, that is, the rule of the Gun, by the Gun, while promising a ‘quick’ return to civilian rule; a promise that is rarely and/or peacefully honoured. They, however, tend to repeat the same mistakes; or do and engage in far more worse and atrocious mischief; which makes another coup inevitably necessary.
Similarly, many liberation movements in Africa, once in power (government); end – and have indeed ended – up morphing into repressive regimes; as repressive or worse than those they replaced. To maintain their power (grip), and with the help of the memory of the past; they become extremely brutal against and towards those who oppose their repression or express resentment for their failure to live up to the ideals and promises of and during the liberation struggle.
They inevitably create a need for another liberation from a repressive regime, of what was once a liberation movement brought into power by a costly liberation struggle but nonetheless with worthy ideals and a just cause. Therefore, it inevitably becomes a vicious cycle of liberation struggles that, once in power (government) and besotted on the success power brings, and in their infinite determination to maintain power, end up morphing into repressive regimes.
This is why military coups and liberation movements (and struggles) in Africa, as inevitable and necessary as they may be under the prevailing circumstances that make them desired alternatives; they should, however, always be welcomed with deep reservations. They must prove they aren’t merely another pack of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
This possible reality should never be allowed to be lost in the euphoria of the moment of a seeming triumph over the present evil. Because history is not short of examples where triumphant struggles over evil; have instead struggled to bring in and therefore be replaced with another reign of far worse evil than the triumphed.