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24th February, 1966 was a very important day in Ghana's history. It was the day our first President, Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown. A few weeks before the Kotoka-Afrifa coup, Nigeria had been convulsed by Nzeogwu, Aguiyi-Ironsi and others. And Mobutu Sese Seko Wabenza and Eyadema had arrived a few months before.
In the decades after that there was a parade of false liberators-- Amin, Mengistu, Rawlings and Doe, amongst others. They all promised change but most of them ended up being worse than those they replaced. They gave credence to Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw's statement that, "No one can contemplate the condition of the masses without desiring revolution; and yet revolutions have never lightened the burdens of tyranny, they have only shifted it on to other shoulders".
Even when we have democracy, the desire for change on this youngest of continents is so palpable and overwhelming. Obasanjo,Kibaki, Kufuor and Wade all rode change to power but so did their successors and the successors of those successors.
And yet, the masses continue to yearn for change- for jobs, for Healthcare, for education that equips people for work, for accountability and for good governance. Unfortunately, despite election after election, little changes.
When Americans, the French and the Russians talk about their revolutions, they refer to one period when truly everything changed.
They marked big transformational changes, for better or for worse. While the soldiers have clearly failed, it is not clear that civilians have succeeded.
Democracy must succeed so that the false revolutions will end forever. And while we disdain coups and coup-makers, we must never permit distance and ignorance to make them attractive again to the masses of Africa. We must educate the youth about the evil of coups while holding the feet of politicians to the fire. We must never permit the anniversaries of coups to pass without serious reflection. And we must resist the false glorification of coups-- which occurs regularly in Ghana and other places.
We must remember that if we persist in mis-governance, coups may return. As the Akan proverb goes, "Good life leads to forgetfulness ". We must not forget the days of false revolutions and we must never forget that they can return. Chile was an uninterrupted democracy for a hundred years before the 1973 coup. All it took was one very bad government.
Democracy must deliver change because "those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable ".
Let us remember the false revolutions so that we can avoid returning to them.
Forward Africa. Down with false revolutionaries. Let democracies deliver positive change.
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