The forgotten coups

The forgotten coups

Dino Mahtani reports for FP today from Guinea — some of the most insightful and investigative journalism done there since the December 2008 coup. That dearth of information got me thinking about Africa’s other recent, forgotten coups and how they have (or haven’t) progressed. Here’s a quick coup update from my favorite continent:


The coup: Just over a year ago, a coup unseated the president and installed a new, young, ex-DJ strongman as head of state. France, South Africa, and former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano  have been working behind the scenes to try to sort things out, and for months, it was to little avail. But then on May 14, the new president, Andry Rajoelina, announced that he wouldn’t sit for the next presidential election. He also set forth a timetable for the next presidential vote, to be held by Nov. 26. 

The mischief: Political resolution will be a relief for everyone, if the timetable indeed holds. Among other ills, the coup opened up a window of lawlessness for loggers to illegally ransack the forest for the country’s timber. The transitional government finally passed a moratorium on the logging late last month, but questions remain about whether the government can actually enforce it.

Why it matters: Madagascar has been a big test for the "responsibility" of several players to deal with the crisis — the African Union, which suspended the country’s membership and later imposed sanctions; South Africa, which has been trying to broker a deal and would rather that things stay quiet in Madagascar during the World Cup; and France, who was rumored to have supported the coup’s leader, at least tacitly, to some embarrassment later. (Paris would surely like the problem and the resulting awkwardness to go away.)


The coup: The more-recent military takeover in Niger,  which ousted an aging president, was met with surprisingly little uproar — in part because the junta seemed relatively benign and no one was praising the former government. Elections are promised before the coup’s year anniversary, in February 2011.

The mischief: The junta looks stupendously ill-prepared for the famine that is looming in the country. Radio reports recount how hundreds have been traveling from Niger into Northern Nigeria in hopes of finding more food. NGOs and aid groups are piling in to meet a 30 percent food deficit.

Why is matters: Aside from the humanitarian disaster, Niger’s coup is the final coup in the three-makes-a-trend theory for West Africa (Mauritania and Guinea have also had recent coups.) That’s would be an alarming trend if it caught on any further.