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The military promised not to participate in the elections. Because the military had overthrown a civilian regime, the African Union condemned the action.
columnists | a good coup? Amb. Hank J. Cohen (Ret.) Is There Such a Thing as a Good Coup in Africa? Mauritania, Guinea and Niger as Instances of Positive Change 35 Maaouya Ould Sid’ Ahmed Taya: What Goes Around, Comes Around. Photo: UN A BOUT 15 years ago, the Organi- overthrew an elected regime. Over the fulfillment of the military’s promises. zation of African Unity (now the years, he transformed himself from a African Union) declared that it military to a civilian ruler and in his The transition was remarkably transpar- journal of international peace operations | volume 5 | number 6 | may-june 2010 would no longer tolerate military coups second decade in power, he orchestrated ent. Political parties formed and operated against civilian governments. Even worse, several rigged presidential elections. Then, openly. Televisions and radios broad- military coups against democratically- in August 2005, the Presidential guard casted political debates. There was no elected civilian governments would result staged a bloodless coup while Ould Taya censorship. The election took place in in total membership suspension and was visiting Saudi Arabia. A military 2007, producing a civilian president and possible sanctions. Of course, since ruling council was established. The civilian parliament. several of the African heads of state military leadership promised to bring making these declarations were them- about a two-year transition to establish a In 2008, the unfortunate occurred. The selves elevated to power through military new constitution and free and fair new civilian president Sidi Ould Cheikh coups, the condemnations were clearly elections, leading to a new civilian Abdellahi turned out to be so incompe- not going to be retroactive. dispensation. The military promised not tent and corrupt that the military had to to participate in the elections. depose him. This time, all international Since the anti-coup doctrine’s promulga- hell broke loose. A truly, democratically tion, there have been relatively few Because the military had overthrown a elected head of state had fallen victim to a military takeovers in Africa. Those that civilian regime, the African Union coup. What could be worse? The U.S. have most recently taken place in condemned the action. However, the ambassador declared the military regime a Mauritania, Guinea (Conakry) and Niger coup was so popular among the people, bunch of criminals. The African Union are considered unique cases requiring that the African Union decided to send a was outraged. special treatment; and deserve individual mission of inquiry, which found, examination to determine how the unsurprisingly, that the military had staged However, the military gave democracy African Union’s policy has evolved. the coup because the Ould Taya regime another chance. This time, the com- had become hopelessly corrupt and mander of the army, General Mohamed Mauritania stagnant. Poverty was increasing and Ould Abdel Aziz, resigned and ran as a Islamic militancy growing internally. The civilian, and won a free and fair election in By the end of his reign in August 2005, African Union placed Mauritania on a 2009. At the end of this tortuous three- President Maaouya Ould Sid’ Ahmed suspended list, but asked the international year process, all was forgiven and Taya had been in power for just over two community to support the country’s international relations were normalized decades; and he had originally taken transition to democracy. In short, with Mauritania. power through a military coup that Mauritania was on probation pending the 36 The author is a former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and is President of Cohen & Woods International. 35 total absence of communication until U.S. required to step down in favor of a newly columnists | a good coup? Gui
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