Saturday, May 23, 2015

Of Kings and Coups

The only way you can enjoy this article is by forgetting everything you know about democracy. Assume that the different forms of government are like wine. Different people like different things. Some like white. Some like red. 

While Europe and America have come to almost exclusively choose democracy as a form of government, some countries still maintain their monarchical governments like America’s close ally and one of its best friends in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. Or like Great Britain which spends millions of dollars on its monarchy every year. But like the Hausa say, one person dances and gets applause and another person dances and receives a beating. Not every monarchy is popular. If you are a black country, especially one without oil, a monarchy in whatever form can be a bad, dangerous thing. I can’t explain it. Just like two people eating the same shrimp but one person ending up having allergies afterward. Or how, from the same type of scandal Kim Kardashian can make a fortune while Monica Lewinsky can have a very difficult life full of infamy. Life is weird like that. I am a writer. Not a philosopher. 

But sometimes, despite having an allergy, you can still be addicted to a thing. Like me. I am lactose intolerant but find myself still buying yoghurt and ice-cream. It makes me sick afterward, but the joy of eating them makes it worth it. In Africa, even though monarchies can earn governments sanctions and sermons from the exemplary countries of the world, we still insist on having them. Maybe it is because we see the British monarchy and admire it so much. Who knows. 

Anyway, Africa loves monarchies and there are countless kings whose rule, just like the British monarchy, is not limited by stupid things like terms. The only difference is that, because we have been prescribed democracy, these kings, from Robert Mugabe and Paul Biya to JosĂ© Eduardo dos Santos and Faure GnassingbĂ© (who took over from his late king and father GnassingbĂ© Eyadema), have to find a way of balancing monarchy with majority rule. [Because except you are a Saudi king, loved by America, democracy is the only acceptable way to govern a country these days.]

Because these African kings are smart, they have found ways of organising elections for people to ask them to stay longer in power. That is a good compromise if you ask me. I think that is what the relatively young king of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza is trying to do now. That is why I do not criticise him much. He just needs to ask the other kings how they do it. 

However, even the most popular kings face opposition. Except perhaps for the British queen who somehow succeeds in being popular even as she becomes more expensive to keep. I don't know how she does it. 

Sometimes opposition to a king comes in the form of a coup. Every long serving kings knows how to avoid coups. Sadly, a failed coup is not like a failed marriage or a failed attempt at wooing a person. You literally die after a failed coup. Except you quickly leave the country. Otherwise, you die and no one will even plead for you. Because in most countries of the world, treason is punishable by death.

So, if ever you get too tired of a king, you must think carefully before you attempt a coup. Because a coup must be one hundred percent successful. I have a couple of modest suggestions:

1 Make sure America and Europe don’t like your long serving king. A king that does business with America and Europe will be hard to remove. Even if your coup is successful, your government will be frustrated and you may never be recognised, leading perhaps to a counter coup, in which case, if you are unlucky, you will be toppled. And killed. You don’t want that. Work on making sure Uncle Sam and his friends don’t like your friend. If your king is popular with the West, like say the Saudi King, you have only two options: pray for a popular uprising like it happened in Tunisia. Or just leave matters in the hands of God. I have heard that God works in mysterious ways.
2 Very importantly, make sure your king is in the country when you do your coup. A coup when your king has travelled is one of the easiest ways to fail these days. Especially if he has friends abroad. He will simply regroup or frustrate you from outside. You need to first capture the king. Then you can change the rules. Like in Egypt.

I deal with the world differently. I used to frustrate myself trying to understand how the Saudi king can be America’s friend and Mugabe an enemy even though they both suppress opposition and have refused to allow democracy. I have come to terms with the fact that the world is different for different people. The smart ones find a way around the uncomfortable rules: like my alcoholic friend who became ill and was banned from drinking alcohol by the doctor. He found a way around it by dipping his bread in alcohol and chewing. He didn't drink. And he was happy. I mean, he ended up dying, but that is not the point. The point is, he didn't break the rules, he didn't drink. 

Whatever you do, don't break the rules. 

God bless your hustle. 


  1. Always entertaining. It wouldn't be so bad having a king, so long as we can elect him and vote him off of the thrown.


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