GHANA:  SECAM Warns of Unchecked Coups, Blanket Promises by Coup Leaders in Sahel and Central Africa

By Paschal Norbert

ACCRA, SEPTEMBER 12, 2023 (CISA) – The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) is alarmed by the surge in coups in West Africa, warning that the crisis posed by military interventions is now taking centre stage in many countries, leading to political instability and fostering a climate of uncertainty regarding the future of the continent.

In a statement dated September 7, SECAM delineates the series of coups that have plagued Africa since the 1960s, maintaining that “coup d’états follow one another but are not alike.”

“While during the post-independence period (the 1960s- 1980s), coup d’états were part of a dynamic of power conquest with the aim of establishing dynasties, those carried out in the Sahel countries (Mali, Burkina, Niger) and in Gabon seem to have something in common, in the sense that, according to their proponents, their aim is to put an end to the system of predation and widespread corruption instituted by deposed regimes under the guise of a democracy supposedly meant to bring prosperity to African countries,” observes SECAM.

The body that brings together all the bishops in Africa and Madagascar argues that the new driver of coups in the continent is a push for economic emancipation that means Africans can trade at levels that are based on equality in which they can run their own affairs without being dictated to by the West.

“It’s true that Africa, which abounds in rich natural resources such as uranium in Niger and oil in Gabon, to name but a few, have the potential to achieve social and economic development for its populations. And yet, the reality shows that the continent is still confronted with endemic poverty, the cause of which is to be found in the system of “economic colonialism”, to borrow an expression dear to Pope Francis. This raises the question of whether these coups d’etats are part of a new continental and global geopolitical order,” the organization poses.

SECAM says it cannot remain indifferent to the happenings in the continent, and significantly, to the challenges posed by violence, the impoverishment of the population, social injustice, and the exploitation of natural and mining resources by multinationals “with the complicity of certain African leaders.”

It says, “It is crucial for African countries to collaborate with one another to ensure stability across the continent. The African Union should encourage the exchange of ideas and resources among its member states to prevent getting trapped and becoming prisoners of rigid ideological alignments. After all, Africa possesses the necessary means and talented individuals to achieve its development goals.”

SECAM is adamant that the new ‘populism’ invigorated by the enthusiasm of the people aroused by the entry of military leadership “ready to eradicate the undeserved poverty from which populations suffer,” may be fatal for Africa if history is any indication.

“Here again, we ask ourselves the question of how far this movement, emerging outside a legal framework, can go; and yet, history has provided us with abundant examples of the attempt to perpetuate the transition, which is a denial of the promises kept by the actors of the coups,” says SECAM.

“What is to be feared is that this populism will reactivate the old reflex of adopting an ideological alignment as in the days of the Cold War, and the consequence of such a reversal could be fatal for Africa, given the attraction of its mineral wealth to the great powers. We will not be surprised if the African populations remain the poor relations of development,” it states.

The continental episcopal conference, in quoting Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991, no 46), maintains the Church values the democratic system in as much as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate and thus,  cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or ideological ends.

It reiterates the calls made by the Catholic bishops in Gabon and West Africa that resolving political conflicts must not be done in violence, though warning political leaders as indicated in Populorum Progressio, the encyclical of Pope Paul VI (1967, no.30), “the injustice of certain situations cries out for God’s attention.”

“Everyone knows, however, that revolutionary uprisings, except where there is manifest, longstanding tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country, engender new injustices, introduce new inequities and bring new disasters. The evil situation that exists, and it surely is evil, may not be dealt with in such a way that an even worse situation results,” (St. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, no. 31), which calls for reforms and not revolutions.