In 2006, in the Pacific island nation of Fiji, troops overran the capital city, threatened the Prime Minister, forced his resignation, placed him under house arrest, imposed censorship on the media, and the coup leader, in the form of the head of the army, went on television to declare himself the new ruler of the country, writes former President Mohamed Nasheed for the Huffington Post.
In 2012, in my country, the Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives, mutinying police and soldiers overran the capital city, gave me, the President, an ultimatum to resign within the hour or face bloodshed, placed me under effective house arrest, raided the headquarters of the national broadcaster, and the coup leader, in the form of the Vice President, went on television to declare himself the new ruler of the country.
In the case of Fiji, the international community swiftly condemned the coup, blackballed Fiji from the club of civilized nations and suspended it from the Commonwealth. In the case of the Maldives, a report drafted by a Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) which was dominated by hand-picked appointees of the coup-installed government, and endorsed by the Commonwealth, has just whitewashed the coup, declaring it a perfectly legitimate and constitutional transfer of power.
Fiji and the Maldives’ contrasting experiences provide useful tips for coup-plotters everywhere. When planning your coup, remember that first impressions count – so don’t dress like an obvious coup leader. The man who takes over from the democratically elected leader should not wear military fatigues, as Commodore Frank Bainimarama did in Fiji; instead wear a lounge suit, as former Vice President Waheed Hassan did in the Maldives.
Secondly, get your messaging right: never, as in Fiji, publicly state you are overthrowing an elected government; instead, as in the Maldives, announce that the President’s resignation is a run-of-the-mill and Constitutional transfer of power.
Finally, have patience: if you follow steps 1 and 2, sooner or later the international community will tire of political upheaval and accept the new, coup-led political order, regardless of outward commitments to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.