Africa’s recent history has been marred by a disconcerting pattern: seven military coups in just three years. This alarming frequency calls for a moment of reflection, pointing to deeper issues in Africa’s relationship with governance, democracy, politics, and power. Notably, these coups have found support with the masses, indicating dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in those nations. The coup in August 2023 in Gabon presents an intriguing case. For over five decades, the Bongo family maintained an unbroken grip on Gabon’s reins, ruling the nation for 55 of its 63 years of independence from France.
Omar Bongo ruled Gabon for 41 years before handing over the presidency to his son, Ali Bongo, in 2009. The situation was beginning to resemble a monarchy dressed in democratic robes. And military officers seized power following an election widely criticized for lacking fairness and transparency. How did one family subvert democracy to rule and subjugate a nation? We seem to forget that beyond the facade of democracy lies the essence: effective governance. A government for the people is the government that exists to dispense justice, mercy, and righteousness to their people. The end goal is not political parties, democracy and coups, it is good governance.
The political landscape of Africa teaches us that democracy is not everything. Some of history’s greatest minds, including Socrates, were harsh critics of democracy. The argument was straightforward: we don’t want the most popular person to fly the plane. We needed the most capable hands possible. Socrates was concerned about the problems that an uneducated majority could pose to the state (as seen in Nigeria). A problem that continues to confound thinkers today. It is critical to understand that God is dedicated to righteousness, mercy, and justice on earth (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Democracy is one way to accomplish this, but democracy should not be confused with governance.