Guinea’as military leader, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, took centre stage at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, delivering a thought-provoking address that challenged the prevailing Western model of democracy unsuitable for the African continent’s diverse complexities.
Colonel Doumbouya, who seized power in a coup d’état in Guinea Conakry in 2021, stood before world leaders in New York and highlighted a recent surge in coups across West and Central Africa, emphasizing that these events underscored the limitations of the Western democratic framework. This stark observation, however, was met with criticism from international bodies and Western powers, including the United States and France, who have consistently called for a swift return to democracy in the affected countries.
In his address, Colonel Doumbouya took issue with the condemnation of these coups, characterizing the global response as racist and condescending. He argued that Africa has been burdened with a governance model imposed from the outside, one that may work efficiently in Western contexts but struggles to adapt to the unique realities, customs, and environments of African nations.
“It is time to stop lecturing us and treating us with condescension like children,” he declared, firmly asserting that Africans can fully design governance models suited to their specific needs and aspirations.
Colonel Doumbouya’s government had initially proposed a two-year transition to elections in 2022 after negotiations with the regional bloc ECOWAS. However, there have been limited indications of progress towards organizing a vote.
Western nations, especially France, expressed deep concerns about the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where military governments have initiated a shift away from former colonial ties and toward strengthening relations with countries like Russia.
Colonel Doumbouya passionately argued that these recent events have forced African nations into an outdated ideological battle reminiscent of the Cold War era. He insisted that African countries do not wish to be forced into choosing sides in this geopolitical struggle and instead emphasized that “The African people are tired, exhausted of the categorizations with which everyone wants to box us “We are neither pro- nor anti-American, neither pro- nor anti-Chinese, neither pro- nor anti-French, neither pro- nor anti-Russian, neither pro- nor anti-Turkish […] we are simply pro-African.”
“Placing us under the influence of this or that power is an insult. It is contempt and racism towards a continent of more than 1.3 billion people,” he declared.
Colonel Doumbouya’s rise to power came after the overthrow of Guinea’s then 84-year-old president, Alpha Conde, who had modified the constitution to seek a third term, sparking widespread protests.
In a pointed critique, he stated, “The real putschists, the most numerous and those who avoid any condemnation, are also those who plot and scheme… in order to stay in power eternally.”
Colonel Doumbouya went further to argue that the recent coups in Africa were attempts by the military to save their nations from leaders who perpetuated “broken promises” and manipulated constitutions to cling to power at the expense of their citizens’ well-being.
Guinea is just one of several West and Central African countries that have experienced a wave of coups since 2020, raising concerns about the continent’s stability. With a young population projected to double by 2050, Africa’s trajectory holds significant global implications.
While Colonel Doumbouya staunchly defended the coups in his country and elsewhere as necessary interventions, questions remain about the long-term effectiveness of such military takeovers in addressing the underlying challenges they purport to confront.
According to U.N. experts, in Mali, where the military has been in power since 2020, the Islamic State group has expanded its territory rapidly. Similarly, Burkina Faso, which witnessed two coups in 2020, experienced a slowdown in economic growth in 2022, following a robust 6.9% growth rate the previous year.
As African nations grapple with these complex issues, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, who leads the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, emphasized that “military coups are wrong, as is any tilted civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice.” He called for practical solutions to address long-standing problems rather than endorsing coups as a means of change.
The debate surrounding the role of coups in African governance continues. Still, Colonel Doumbouya’s address has undeniably provoked discussions on the compatibility of Western democracy with the continent’s diverse and dynamic societies, providing a glimpse into the complex challenges facing Africa’s political landscape in the years to come.
Written by Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar, USA Correspondent