JOHANNESBURG – Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed Zimbabwe for allegedly setting a wrong precedent of coups in Africa after late President Robert Mugabe’s November 2017 ouster was sanitised and packaged as a bona fide means of replacing unpopular regimes outside the ballot.
After addressing the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, Johannesburg South Africa, Obasanjo said Africa must find a way out of the toxic culture.
“I once moved a motion in 1999 then that any country that has a government not through constitutional means should be suspended,” he said.
Led by then commander Constantino Chiwenga, now state Vice President, the Zimbabwean military staged the so-dubbed Operation Restore Legacy on the eve of 15 November in what would culminate in Mugabe’s forced resignation days later to pave way for the installation of his long time aide and now incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mugabe’s bloodless ouster amid national euphoria also seemed to get approval from some of the countries most critical about coups.
But Obasanjo, a former military boss once part of Zimbabwe’s peace negotiations in years gone by, was adamant a coup should never be disguised as anything different.
“There should be no half measures about these; It started in Zimbabwe where they said ‘it’s not a coup and it’s a half coup, it’s near a coup’; A coup is a coup!” he said, adding, “Citizens of Africa have been able to shun leaders who amend the constitution, intending to personally gain from such amendments.”
Nations such as Sudan, Mali and Burkina Faso that have experienced recent coups and are under military rule.
Military coups were a regular occurrence in Africa in the decades after independence and there is great concern they are starting to become more frequent.
This year has seen two takeovers in Burkina Faso as well as a failed coup attempt in Guinea Bissau.
In 2021, Africa witnessed a higher number of coups compared with previous years.
February this year, the army in the Democratic Republic of Congo tried and failed to oust President Felix Tshisekedi.
A study by US researchers, Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne, identified over 200 coup attempts in Africa since the 1950s and about half of these have been successful.
Obasanjo has had mixed results as a mediator of stubborn conflicts across Africa since he stepped down as Nigeria’s president in 2007.
In 2003, he barred Mugabe from attending a Commonwealth summit hosted by Nigeria nudging Zimbabwe to quit the club, saying he did not “regret” the decision he made at the time.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002 after Mugabe was accused of rigging the presidential vote while viciously clamping down on the opposition.