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Fresh wave of military coups have hit Africa, but are they worth it?


The expatriate comes from a country that he believes is more stable than a tortoise sleeping on a flat rock.

Politically, he believes, the system will endure. Yes, if you’re French you might expect a few burning Citroens and broken champagne bottles on the streets of Paris, but generally speaking there’s an expectation that Germany won’t have a revolution, and that military coups won’t hit any of the countries of Western Europe.

The British military probably COULDN’T perform a military coup – they’re kept too busy polishing their shoes and learning how to comb peculiar headwear. Plus, centuries of political history have caused the British and other Western militaries to be proud of their distinction from the political class and bound to the idea that the military simply keeps away from such ugliness.

Mention plans for a military coup in a British barracks or mess, and you’d be laughed at or reported. After all, why seek to run a country when you can stay pampered in a barracks office, sipping sherry and having your medals polished by servants?

Of course, Britain’s Glorious Revolution of 1688 was in effect also a military coup undertaken by Oliver Cromwell and a few other army men who were upset that the new uniforms didn’t look as pretty as they used to. But 1688 is a long time ago, and the British army is now happy fighting small skirmishes abroad, just to stay distracted.

On the continent of Africa, of course, things are rather different, and coups have a long history. Firstly, the colonial powers left neocolonial parties in power, leading to popular discontent and the coups of the early years of independence. Subsequently, the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union saw one side or the other push for coups.

But now, once more, coups have become common, notably in what was once called French Africa.

Perhaps we should blame the French – not only for their colonial and postcolonial actions, but also for the recent Paris riots, which probably saw much of the rest of the world say, ‘If those idiots can do it, then so can we’.

Consequently, across ‘French Africa’ we’ve seen collections of poorly-camouflaged men (always men) standing around a microphone on TV stations, explaining how they’ve taken power ‘for the good of the country and for the sake of democracy’, which is a little like a murderer saying he shot a baby for the sake of its parents.

In Kenya, we know coups. For example, the ridiculously failed traitorhood of Brigadier Ndolo, who apparently decided to abort his coup when he stopped at a pub.

Also, the 1982 coup, which again failed and which arguably saw the Moi Regime degenerate into borderline tyranny.

Whether they succeed or fail, coups muck up countries.

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