The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - BY PA­TRICK SMITH

Spring­time for sol­diers

The armed forces are back at the cen­tre of pol­i­tics. Be they serv­ing pro­fes­sion­als, re­tired gen­er­als, ji­hadists trained in the Sa­hel or crew-cut wear­ing South African mer­ce­nar­ies, the men – and a smat­ter­ing of women – in khaki are call­ing the shots again. In Nige­ria, Gen­eral (re­tired) Muham­madu Buhari cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion in the coun­try’s most cred­i­ble elec­tions for 50 years. And six months ago in Burk­ina Faso, the mil­i­tary took its cue from mass protests against long-stand­ing Pres­i­dent Blaise Com­paoré’s bid to change the con­sti­tu­tion and get an­other term; he was driven into ex­ile within a week. Ac­tivists’ hopes were raised again in mid-may in Bu­rundi when a group of gen­er­als around for­mer in­tel­li­gence chief Gode­froid Niy­ombare tried to stop Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza’s cam­paign to se­cure a third term. That time, Nku­run­z­iza’s pres­i­den­tial guard de­feated the putsch. But events in Oua­gadougou and Bu­jum­bura raise the ques­tion of a ‘good coup’. That was the ar­gu­ment of Gen­eral Ab­del Fat­tah alSisi in Egypt af­ter he over­threw the Mus­lim Brotherhood gov­ern­ment in 2013. The mil­i­tary cam­paign by Libya’s Gen­eral Khal­ifa Haf­tar against a band of Tripoli-based Is­lamists who also claim an elec­toral man­date fol­lows the same lines. Both Sisi and Haf­tar get tacit back­ing from the West but a nu­anced tick­ing-off from the African Union. Sol­diers will be get­ting stuck into more of such bat­tles in the next few years. Af­ter two decades of high-oc­tane growth in Africa, the World Bank has an­nounced that this cen­tury’s first com­mod­ity su­per­cy­cle has ended as China cuts cop­per, iron and gold im-

The mil­i­tary re­mains the strong­est in­sti­tu­tion, with a range of eth­nic­i­ties and classes in its ranks

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