West Africa coups redux


Guinea-Bissau presidential candidate and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior shows an inked finger after casting his vote in the first round of presidential elections on Mar. 18. He is now missing after his home was attacked during an attempted coup.



NAIROBI, Kenya — It's like the 1970s all over again in West Africa.

In the last month there have been coups in Mali and now, today, in Guinea Bissau.

In the last few years Niger and Guinea have also suffered coup attempts and come under military rule for months on end.

Independence in West Africa was, for the most part, followed by dysfunctional civilian governments which were overthrown by military men who thought they could do better. They couldn't and coup followed coup.

According to historian Martin Meredith in his book 'The State of Africa', "In the first two decades of independence, there were some forty successful coups and countless attempted coups." By the 1990s large parts of the region had devolved into some of the nastiest civil wars the world has had the misfortune to witness in places like Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Then things started to get better.

Military strongmen were replaced with elected rulers (in some cases these were in fact the same individuals), large-scale conflicts subsided, economies ticked up thanks to rising commodity prices and global demand. It seemed by the mid 2000s that West Africa's coups could be safely consigned to history.

Not so. It seems there are still plenty of men (for it is always men) who think a uniform, a gun and a grievance gives them the right to dictate to civilians, rather than protect them.

More from GlobalPost: Guinea-Bissau: Army seizes parts of capital in attempted coup