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Ecowas Must Demand Condé’s Reinstatement




Zambia’s peaceful and orderly election in August offered a glimmer of hope that Africa’s story might be changing.

For the third time in three decades, an opposition leader defeated the sitting president, sending a message to the world that the continent may not be the incumbent’s lair after all.

Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema didn’t just win; the incumbent, Edgar Lungu, accepted defeat and congratulated the winner.

But hopes that Zambia’s election could be a turning point have since dissipated, as soldiers in the west African country of Guinea overthrew the civilian government while the continent was still savouring its Zambia moment.

Guinea President Alpha Condé (83), who wangled himself in place for a third presidential term in 2020, was kicked out of office, sparking images of déjà vu in what would be the fourth military strike – three of them successful – on the continent in six months.

Was the violent and catastrophic fall of Condé inevitable?

I’ve heard the argument that Condé didn’t have to go, that his country needed him more than he needed the country, and that the crooked referendum by which he gave himself an extra 10 years was for the good of Guinea.

In an article published last October and titled, “Why Guinea still needs Condé”, Nigerian journalist Aniebo Nwamu said, with a hint of satire, “having elections every four years is a Western tradition. It’s expensive – and it achieves little for us in Africa. Only when an incumbent underperforms should we have cause to seek their replacement.”

Well, Condé is what you get for the mistaken belief that politics can produce messiahs.

The veteran leader of the opposition, who proclaimed himself Guinea’s Mandela, couldn’t overcome the temptation to match Paul Biya’s disgraceful record in self-perpetuation.

It is precisely because politics is inherently incapable of producing messiahs that term limits are needed to save the system from abuse, encourage competition and accountability and potentially inspire a new generation of leaders with new ideas.

Sure, if Condé had served out his additional two terms of 10 years, bringing his total to 20, and later stepped down at 93 years of age with his juices still flowing, he would still not have outdone his predecessors, Ahmed Sékou Touré, who ruled for 26 years, or Lansana Conté, who ruled for 24.

And that is part of the reason Guinea is where it is today. That country, like its cousins across much of Africa, has had the misfortune of leaders who take their countries for a ride.

They tell themselves that they are performing well, and that they are also indispensable. Why waste time and public resources to test performance by periodic ballot when even the blind ought to see the benefits of the indispensable leader?

The result, unfortunately, is what happened in Guinea last Sunday. Not that any of what the apparent coup leader, Mamadi Doumbouya, said to justify the coup makes sense.

It doesn’t. It was an insult for him to speak as if soldiers have a monopoly of patriotism, that they are the Salvation Army unspoiled by endemic elite corruption and just waiting to save the country and hand it over to long-suffering citizens. Nonsense.

Africa has been here before, ruled by military strongmen with the God complex. And the continent still carries the scars of the abuse of power and millions of lives lost to instability and conflicts often rooted in violent and disorderly transfer of power caused by military dictatorships.

At the nadir of its infamy, a Nigerian military chief, General Salihu Ibrahim, regretted that the army that was supposed to be on a rescue mission had lost its way after 19 years in power and become a part of the problem.

In his words, it had also become “an army of anything goes”. At the time, civilians had been in charge for 14 out of 33 years of Nigeria’s independence. Soldiers, who were in charge for the rest of the time, had become the piston of the engine, elaborately documented in Tom Burgis’ book, The Looting Machine.

Guinea wasn’t different. And the claim of its new military leaders to sainthood is an insult that suggests that the coup leaders are in denial of their country’s history.

From Lansana Conté to Moussa Dadis Camara, who were both soldiers, The Looting Machine documents monumental fraud in Guinean iron ore contracts up and down the corridors of power, reaching to the innermost circles of the military elite’s family members and merrily perpetrated with their active support and connivance.

Events in Niger, Chad, Mali and now, Guinea, are particularly troubling not only because of their contiguity, but also because all four are Francophone.

There are nine Francophone countries in west Africa and the four troubled ones make up 17% of the region’s population of around 441 million.

Paris has, of course, maintained a curiously prudent silence since the Sunday coup, letting the UN do the difficult job of calling out the new military regime in Conakry. But French silence speaks louder than words.

The stifling grip of France over the economies of these countries, which virtually sucks the life out of them, has compounded the misery and vulnerability of a number of the Francophone countries.

There are other complications, of course. The collapse of Libya, for example, has aggravated the spread of arms in the Sahel and re-energised extremist tendencies among the Tuaregs and other jihadist groups in the region.

Climate change has complicated matters for the agrarian and herder populations in these areas, and on top of that, the Covid-19 pandemic sparked predictions of Armageddon. It’s difficult to say what could be the most potent single factor in the adverse wind blowing across the Sahel.

Yet, some swear that of all the possible reasons, the potential complicity of Paris, and the pushback by a few leaders in the area fed up with being France’s puppets, could be the most significant factor.

Did Condé fall because of his country’s resistance to the incredibly lopsided CFA arrangement, a legacy of French colonial rule, which ties 50% of the deposits of 14 Francophone countries to the French treasury at a fixed rate?

What did the French military, which has a significant presence in the region, know about the coup in Mali? Did they look the other way during the palace coup in Chad?

It’s hard to nail the last straw. However complicit outside influence may be in the recent turn of events, African leaders must take responsibility.

It’s true that adverse conditions such as Ebola, destabilisation in the Sahel, reports of ex-servicemen joining non-state actors, and the Covid-19 pandemic affected the fortunes of Guinea and the subregion as a whole.

But the political elite, at the state and subregional levels, needs to show that it understands the nature of the threat, and stop feeding the fire by its indifference or irresponsible conduct – or both.

From Guinea to Mali and from Nigeria to Cameroon, the political elite has mismanaged, and even inflamed, ethnic tensions with their insensitivity.

Tolerance for press freedom is declining and opposition parties, where they are tolerated, are treated like the enemy.

Even within the governing parties, dissenting voices are sidelined and governance is often by a privileged few talking to themselves.

Bad examples have become so widespread – and inspirational leadership so scarce – that until recently former US President Donald Trump seemed to be the new standard.

The slide must stop. And a good place to start would be for leaders in the subregion to take a long, hard look at themselves and begin to live up to the standards they promised their citizens.

After watching Chad and Mali fall without consequence, soldiers in Guinea are obviously tempted to ask themselves, why not?

Before this hubris takes root, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and the African Union must go beyond tepid statements.

They must demand the immediate and unconditional restoration of President Condé, and lay down the consequences of non-compliance.

That is the only language bullies understand – consequences. When Ecowas took a stand in Gambia, Yahya Jammeh didn’t need an interpreter to know there would be consequences if he refused to step down after losing the ballot.

The soldiers in Guinea need a similar lesson, now before the string of coups becomes a cascade.



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Isn’t Insurance Most Digitally Backward Industry In Rwanda?



The insurance sector in Rwanda is one of the many sectors that have not adapted, at a rapid rate, to the technological advancements the World has seen in the most recent decades.

While the financial sector in general shows fast progress to adopt technologies enabling financial service providers to build products that improve customer experiences, the insurance sector in particular has not had an equal response

The lack of continuous innovations in the insurance sector in Rwanda, it seems, stems from a tight regulatory environment and institutional voids both of which blend together to make it hard for entrepreneurs to innovate.

In auto insurance for example, which is the principal focus of this opinion piece, the modern day insurer relies on the law of large numbers (if the amount of exposure to losses increases, then the predicted loss will be closer to the actual loss) where statistical averages, in the high volume classes, are relied upon to rate risks.

If we acknowledge; however, the fact that a vehicle is most likely to be involved in a crash while it is moving than when it is parked, a person driving from Musanze to Kigali and back each day poses higher risk than one that leaves their car parked at home or in a secure garage and boards a KBS bus to work.

To put this into perspective, at a macro level the averaging favors the insurer but, on a micro level, the person using public transport to commute to work is subsidizing the person driving from and to Musanze every day.

Auto insurance costs increase from time to time because insurance providers use a standard set of variables: age, gender, vehicle type, location and driving history, among others, to determine the cost of insurance.

These variables are not actual risk measurement variables, they only estimate drivers’ risk based on rough demographic assumptions about drivers.

Rough estimates of risk, together with rampant insurance fraud cripple investment returns for auto insurers and dissatisfactory services for the insured.

To provide a better customer experience that can help drivers save money and limit their exposure to risk, there is a need for a complete overhaul of the way the insurance system works by adopting models that more accurately predict drivers’ Propensity to Risk (PtR).

Such models reduce reliance on generic personal information and instead rely on real-world data collected and analyzed in real time.

Tools like Onboard Diagnostics (OBDII) built-in into today’s vehicles can be tapped into to monitor behaviors so dangerous such as excessive speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking.

These metrics coupled with mileage and frequent time of drive (day or night), can help insurers more accurately calculate risk.

With more accurate risk estimates, insurers can cut down on their costs. Equally, drivers can track their own driving habits to reduce costs, save more money and improve safety for everyone on the road.

Steven Caleb Katurebe is an expert in the field. 

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When Circumstances On The Ground Permit, We Hope To Return Home To Afghanistan



On August 20th, I shared that our SOLA community is safe. Today, I want to share a few details as to the form that safety is taking.

Last week, we completed the departure from Kabul of nearly 250 students, faculty, staff, and family members.

Everyone is en route, by way of Qatar, to the nation of Rwanda where we intend to begin a semester abroad for our entire student body.

So many individuals played key roles in our departure, and while I can’t thank you all here, I want to publicly offer my gratitude to the governments of Qatar, Rwanda, and the United States for their critical assistance.

SOLA is resettling, but our resettlement is not permanent. A semester abroad is exactly what we’re planning.
When circumstances on the ground permit, we hope to return home to Afghanistan. For now, I request privacy for our community. My heart breaks for my country.
I’ve stood in Kabul, and I’ve seen the fear, and the anger, and the ferocious bravery of the Afghan people.
I look at my students, and I see the faces of the millions of Afghan girls, just like them, who remain behind.
Those girls cannot leave, and you cannot look away. If there’s one thing I ask of the world, it is this: do not avert your eyes from Afghanistan. Don’t let your attention wander as the weeks pass.
See those girls, and in doing so you will hold those holding power over them to account. My commitment to the women and girls of my country, just like my commitment to my students, is unwavering.
They are the fires that will never go out. Finally, I want to thank you all for the outpouring of love and support.

About the author:

Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the President of SOLA: the school she co-founded while still a teenager. Born and raised in Kabul, Shabana finished high school in the U.S. through the State Department’s Youth Exchange Studies program.

The School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) is an Afghan-led private boarding school for girls, the first of its kind in Afghanistan. SOLA’s mission is to provide Afghan girls a rigorous education that promotes critical thinking, a sense of purpose, and respect for self and others.


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Gen. Ndayishimiye, Tshisekedi Agree To Eradicate Insurgents In Region



The President of Burundi Gen. Evariste Ndayishimiye flew to Kinshasha for political and diplomatic consultations according to his office.

Gen. Ndayishimiye was received by his host President Felix Tshisekedi at Palais de la Nation. The two heads of state had a one-to-one meeting lasting over an hour.

According to a joint statement the Burundian and Congolese heads of state spoke of the need to strengthen peace and security in the sub-region during their talks.

“The two heads of state decided to activate with determination the concerted mechanisms aimed at eradicating the armed groups operating on Congolese territory,” the statement said, while indicating that they are committed to closely monitoring issues relating to security on the borders of the two neighbouring countries.

Gen. Ndayishimiye and Tshisekedi want to strengthen regional and sub-regional organizations for the consolidation of peace, security, stability and sustainable development.

They call on the international community to invest in the peaceful resolution of the security and humanitarian crises in the region and in other conflict zones in Africa.

Apart from the security issue, the two heads of state discussed economic development projects.

They highlighted the construction projects of bridges for vehicles and for pedestrians between the provinces of South Kivu in the DRC and in Cibitoke in Burundi on the Rusizi river, the agricultural exploitation in the Rusizi plain as well as the electrification of the Bujumbura-Uvira-Bukavu-Goma road.

Within the framework of the same visit, the delegations of the two countries signed the agreements and memoranda aiming at “the revival and the consolidation of the cooperation”.

It also covers agreements and memoranda relating to the construction of a Gitega-Uvira-Kindu railway, trade, peacekeeping, defense and security as well as political and diplomatic consultation.

In their meeting, the two heads of state noted a low level of implementation of existing agreements and consequently reframed “the strategy of revitalizing work”.

On regional integration, President Ndayishimiye expressed “unwavering” support for the DRC’s candidacy for membership in the East African Community.

On the other hand, President Tshisekedi reiterates his “unconditional” support for Burundi’s candidacy for the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Note that the visit of Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye to the Democratic Republic of Congo began on July 12 and ended on Wednesday July 14, 2021.

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