Sit-Tight African Leaders Take Action Amid Coup Concerns

The military coup in Gabon on Wednesday, which made it the seventh African country to fall under military rule, prompted Rwanda and Cameroon to announce major changes in their security forces, affecting senior military officials.

Many African leaders have remained in power for more than 20 years. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has been in power for 37 years; Teodoro Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea for 44 years; Paul Biya of Cameroon for 48 years; Denis Nguesso of Republic of Congo for 38 years; Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea for 30 years; Paul Kagame of Rwanda for 23 years and Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti for 24 years. Their combined tenure is 244 years.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda retired hundreds of soldiers from the country’s security apparatus. He also appointed new generals to lead army divisions across the country. The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) said in a statement that Kagame approved the retirement of 12 generals, 83 senior officers, and six junior officers. In addition, 86 senior non-commissioned officers were retired. A total of 678 soldiers retired as their contracts ended, while 160 others were medically discharged.

Some of the retirees were prominent figures from Rwanda’s 1994 liberation war, such as Gen. James Kabarebe, Gen. Fred Ibingira, and Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga. Both Kabarebe and Kayonga had served as chief of defence staff of the Rwandan army. Lt. Gen. Frank Mushyo Kamanzi, Rwanda’s ambassador to Russia, and Maj. Gen. Albert Murasira, a former defence minister, were also among the retirees.

Kagame also promoted several young officers to the rank of colonel and assigned new generals to lead military divisions. In June, he appointed Juvenal Marizamunda as the new defence minister, replacing Albert Murasira, who had held the position since 2018.

In a similar move, Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon and one of the longest-serving leaders in Africa, reshuffled some positions in the central administration of the Defence Ministry, according to a decree circulated on social media.

Biya, who has been ruling the country since 1982, shows no sign of stepping down despite his advanced age and declining health at 90.

Akin Oyebade, a professor of international law and jurisprudence, says that these African leaders who cling to power are feeling anxious because of the situation in the Sahel and Central Africa.

He argues that their lack of democratic legitimacy and poor governance have made their countries vulnerable to violent attacks by armed groups.

“They are today afraid of their shadows and seek to do whatever they can to stem the tide of military action against them.

Well, there is a lot of discussion regarding democracy and development. There is a body of opinion that democracy could be incompatible with development and, therefore, Africa is better served by dictatorship.

“Indeed, there are those who argue that the African soil is hostile towards western-style ballot-box democracy, but it must be stated that the jury is still out on that,” he argued.

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