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05.03.2009 Feature Article

Is Ghana Immune to Coup d'états?

In the morning of Monday March 2, 2009, the President of Guinea Bissau, Joao Bernardo Vieira was assassinated. It is claimed that the precursor to the assassination of President Vieira was the killing of Gen. Tagme Na Waie, chief of Guinea-Bissau's military, in a bomb explosion in his office the previous day.

Guinea Bissau, which is the tinniest country in West Africa, located between Guinea and Senegal, has a population of 1.5 million and is considered one of the five poorest countries in the world (Source: CIA Factbook).

The country has gained notoriety for its military upheavals after it had gained independence from Portugal in 1974. President Vieira himself was a product of a military takeover.

Definition and examples of coup d'état
Coup d'état, commonly referred to as coup, is defined as the sudden overthrow of a government by a usually small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority. (Source:
Britannica, the online Encyclopedia also defines it as the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. Unlike a revolution, which is usually achieved by large numbers of people working for basic social, economic, and political change, a coup is a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel.

Among the earliest modern coups were those in which Napoleon overthrew the Directory on Nov. 9, 1799 (18 Brumaire), and in which Louis Napoleon dissolved the assembly of France's Second Republic in 1851. Coups were a regular occurrence in various Latin American nations in the 19th and 20th centuries and in Africa after the countries there gained independence in the 1960s.(Source: Britannica, the online encyclopedia)

The last successful coup d'état in Ghana, which overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr Hilla Limann, took place on December 31, 1981 under the leadership of Flt Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings. This gave birth to the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government which ruled Ghana for a period of eleven years.

Jerry Rawlings was the one who handed over power to Hilla Limann after he had earlier led a revolution on June 4, 1979 which successfully overthrew the military regime of General Fred Akuffo, who had earlier on deposed his predecessor, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

According to John L. Adedeji, Rawlings, unlike many other leaders in Ghana's history, subsequently led the country through the difficult years of economic recovery and succeeded in giving back to Ghanaians their national pride.

This school of thought is shared by most Ghanaians, the author of this article inclusive. Rawlings unlike most African leaders handed over power peacefully to John Agyekum Kufuor of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) after the latter had won a keenly contested election in December 2000 against Professor John Evan Atta Mills, the current president of Ghana, the candidate of Rawlings' party, the National Democratic Congress NDC.

The PNDC regime of Rawlings was able to survive several coup attempts as result of the counter intelligence strategies put in place by Rawlings and other key security capos of the PNDC like Captain Kojo Tsikata, who commands a lot of respect across Africa on matters of counter subterfuge and security.

Another reason for the survival of Rawlings and the PNDC regime was the fact that Rawlings was perceived as the face of the ordinary Ghanaian and he relentlessly exhibited commitment to ameliorating their plight.

Precursors to a successful coup d'état

The main precursor to a successful coup d'état is Social Injustice. Wikipedia defines Social Injustice as a concept relating to the perceived unfairness or injustice of a society in its divisions of rewards and burdens.

What is Social Justice?
Social justice is what faces you in the morning. It is awakening in a house with adequate water supply, cooking facilities and sanitation. It is the ability to nourish your children and send them to school where their education not only equips them for employment but reinforces their knowledge and understanding of their cultural inheritance. It is the prospect of genuine employment and good health: a life of choices and opportunity, free from discrimination. (Source: Mick Dodson, Annual Report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders).

Social justice means being entitled to the same rights and services as all other citizens.

Another precursor for a coup is lack control and loyalty of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and all other security elements of the state.

This is why the replacement of heads of such institutions is virtually inevitable whenever there is a change of government.

This lack of control and loyalty results from lack of proper and adequate security intelligence information due to lack of adequate state-of-the-art logistics for intelligence information gathering, incompetence on the part of those in charge of the various security agencies or their indifference to the needs of their subordinates.

It is for the reason of loyalty that the dismissal of Francis Poku by President Kufuor, after the former had served the country diligently for over seven years; under very funny circumstances was a deadly mistake no head of state should ever dream of committing.

Ghana was saved by the hand of God and the fact that Francis Poku was not a man given to parochialism and over ambition. You do not fire a security capo who has served you with all loyalty over the period of your presidency. Even if the reasons are justifiable, this must done intelligently and with all subtlety so that none of the parties involved becomes embittered and not in the manner as was done by President Kufuor.

Another major cause of a coup is election disputes. Whenever there is an election and one party (most of the time the party in opposition at the time of election) feels cheated, then whoever assumes power thereafter must pray to his God, ad infinitum, and ensure that those in charge of his personal security and that of the state are of the pedigree of the Rawlingses and the Kojo Tsikatas of this world.

Ghana is immune to coup d'etats?
As a result of the current democratic credentials of Ghana relative to that of other African countries, a lot of people are of the view that as far as Ghana is concerned, coups are a thing of the past.

Disappointingly, this view is shared by some civil society organizations. Unpalatable as it may sound, the author of this article is of the view that anybody who is of this impression could be likened to Alice in wonderland.

When we live in a country where the legislature and the executive upon the expiration of their term of office, want to benefit from largess of unimaginable proportions, irrespective of the plight of the ordinary man on the street, then I say we should think again.

This is why some of us find it heartwarming that President Mills in his wisdom has slashed down the ex-gratia for the Members of Parliament and has promised to set up a committee to review that of former presidents.

This is an exhibition of true Social Democracy, for which ideology, the NDC stands for. President Mills must continue to walk the talk so as to avoid incurring the wrath of the citizenry who may be of the perception that social justice is the preserve of those in authority, their families and cronies.

The President must continue to show by his deeds that he truly cares for every Ghanaian living everywhere.

For this country to be protected from mutineers of all kind, social justice must be the watch word. Every citizen of the country, irrespective of his or her tribe, social, political or religious affiliation must be treated in like manner and we must eschew all forms of unfairness and injustice.

The government in power must take absolute control over all security agencies and put in place all the necessary measures that will guarantee the loyalty of the men and women in charge of these security agencies as well as their subordinates.

Election disputes must be handled with utmost caution and settled amicably as early as practicable.

Nobody wants another coup in Ghana but the issue is it is never a want anywhere. We must take care so that we do not create the conditions that will nurture the evil bug that we all abhor so much, by our actions and inactions.

Long live social justice!
Long live democracy!
Long live Ghana!
Yours in the service of God and country,

Azali Archimedes Ackuaku ([email protected])

Azali Archimedes Ackuaku
Azali Archimedes Ackuaku, © 2009

This author has authored 2 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: AzaliArchimedesAckuaku

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