Although Botswana is still regarded as a bastion of democracy, a good number of Batswana have no problem with a military government.
According to survey results from Afrobarometre, while the majority of Batswana are still in favour of democracy, a sizable proportion of Botswana citizens is not averse to military leaders exploiting dissatisfaction with democratic governance.
The survey shows that 41% of Batswana are open to the idea of armed forces intervening when elected leaders abuse power. “While ‘abusing power’ means different things to different people, elected leaders engaged in corruption and self-dealing while their people suffer might consider these findings a red flag. So should activists committed to nurturing the next generation of African democracies,” notes Afrobarometer.
The Afrobarometer is a pan-African, independent, non-partisan research network that gauges the public’s attitudes about economic, political, and social issues in Africa.
According to the survey, 54% of Batswana, 59% of Zimbabweans, 44% of Zambians, 38% of Malawians, 35% of South Africans and 34% of Namibians oppose military action. “But a slim majority of Africans are willing to endorse military coups if elected leaders abuse power. Acceptance of military intervention against illegitimate leaders is the majority view in 21 of the 36 countries, including Mali (82%), Guinea (68%), Burkina Faso (66%), and Sudan (58%) – all home to recent coups,” states the survey.
The survey results come at a time when democratic governance in Africa is facing significant challenges. The year 2023 has been a season of coups and violent attempts to overturn governments, putting African military powers under heavy scrutiny.
Data indicates that in the previous 73 years, there have been 486 successful or attempted military coups. On the African continent, 106 of the 214 coup attempts have been successful.
The Afrobarometre survey also notes that young people are more accepting of military action than older ones. “Youth are particularly open to military intervention: 56% of 18 to 35 year olds, compared to 46% of those over age 55,” states the survey.
Previous surveys on the African continent have found that people’s trust in key democratic institutions and norms is decreasing, and the trend has been worsening over time. This findings also underlined the necessity for governments in power to bridge this gap and deliver transparent governance.
“On average across 36 countries surveyed by Afrobarometre in 2021/2022, two thirds of Africans say they want democracy (66%) and disapprove of military rule (67%),” notes Afrobarometre.