President Weah’s order to state security to beef up security along the long the Liberia- Guinea common border in anticipation of a mass exodus into Liberia of Guineans seeking refuge from a possible outbreak of fighting in that country could prove unfounded.
The Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) has condemned the coup but beyond mere condemnation it appears that there is very little else it can do to restore former President Alpha Conde to power.
According to Dr. Kwesi Aning of the Accra-based Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre(KAIPTC) this because the ECOWAS as well as the African Union(AU) have consistently failed to not only ensure that member states adhere to laid down conventions but to also chastise those who flout those conventions.
In this regard, he is predicting that two more coups may occur in West Africa by the end of December 2021. This is against the backdrop of three coups and an attempted coup just in nine months. In Mali where Liberian troops are on peacekeeping duties, there have been two coups while in Niger, there has been an abortive coup attempt and a successful coup in Guinea.
But, Dr. Aning’s remarks appeared to have caused consternation amongst top government officials possibly including President Weah himself. He has condemned the coup and called for adherence to ECOWAS conventions seemingly suggesting that Alpha Conde be restored to power.
But restoring Alpha Conde to power is indeed a tall order given expressed widespread popular support for the coup. Most Guineans spoken to seem to share the view that former President Conde had flouted the Constitution making changes to it to allow for a third-term run.
Additionally, they cited harassment, arbitrary arrests of perceived political enemies, corruption and bad governance as reasons why they support the removal of President Conde from power. Those reasons, according to political analysts indeed resonate strongly amongst citizens of the Ivory Coast and Liberia.
Both Liberia and the Ivory Coast, according to them have been plagued by political violence. According to a Radio DW report, in 2020, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara’s third term bid provoked violence that left eight persons dead and more than 100 persons injured in Divo, a town stated 124 miles northwest of the capital Abidjan and in Bonoua 80 kilometers from the capital.
Given the febrile political atmosphere in both countries, a coup cannot be ruled out according to analysts. In Liberia, according to them political violence which has characterized legislative and senatorial elections cannot be ruled out in 2023.
Further, according to them, the popularity of the ruling CDC led by President Weah has waned significantly. They cite the massive defeat it suffered at the polls in the recent referendum, the senatorial by-elections in Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount and Lofa Counties and the violence perpetrated by CDC supporters that attended those elections as worrisome signs of what could unfold.
More to the, analysts maintain that the growth of a personality cult, rampant public corruption, increasing economic hardships amidst growing public discontent and the proliferation of hate messages on social media could provide justification for military intervention.
And apparently fearing a repeat of what has unfolded in Guinea President Weah has ordered state security forces into a state of readiness to repel or contain any spillover from events in Guinea granted it does happen.
But with eyes on the future for a George Weah second term bid, it remains to be seen to what extent the ruling CDC will go all out to ensure a CDC victory at the 2023 polls come whatever may. History recalls that stolen elections results led to the abortive Quiwonkpa invasion in November 1985 shortly after the October elections and then in 1989 to the outbreak of a 14-yr. civil war.
But 1985 is almost four decades ago and perhaps memories of those tumultuous events may have faded significantly. History suggests that military interventions in politics have most often failed to address issues of bad governance, corruption, issues often and generally used by coup makers to justify their actions.
Former President Conde as a long term opposition figure was no doubt aware of the pitfalls into which previous Guinean leaders have fallen that saw their exit from power. His country had a history of military intervention with the most recent being the Dadis Kamara led coup.
But Dadis Kamara was later shot and wounded at close range by his chief of Presidential bodyguards Lieutenant Abubakar Toumba Diakite. His claimed that Dadis Kamara had betrayed democracy by refusing to take responsibility for the September 28 shooting in a Conakry stadium that left several persons dead.
Dadis came to power in December 2008 in a bloodless military coup following the death of President Lansana Conteh. He had promised to return Guinea to civilian rule in elections in which he would not contest but later balked announcing that he would contest the elections. At a protest rally held in a Conakry stadium on September 28, 2009, soldiers under the orders of Lieutenant Diakite opened live fire that resulted in the deaths of several civilian
In similar fashion akin to Dadis Kamara, President Conde initiated a change in the Guinea Constitution to allow him a third term bid. He won the elections which was marred by violence and widely believed to have been characterized by fraud. Public protests against him were violently suppressed again leaving several dead.
In the end he was deposed by his Chief of Special Forces Mamadi Doumbuya who has since declared his intention to return the country to civilian rule. The rest is now history. Liberian government officials expressing consternation at the appearance of military top brass on a local talk-show ought to take heed.
The deployment of troops along the border could serve to deter or prevent any spillover. But what if the threat comes from within?