Having reported from and observing Africa for more than 30 years I have seen a few insurrections in my time.
What happened on 6th January on Capitol Hill was nothing like one. And having watched a good deal of the coverage of the impeachment hearing in the Senate it does not seem to me that the Democrats have made their case.
Did Donald Trump try to whip up a crowd of thugs over weeks and months? Certainly.
Did he want to assemble them outside Congress on the day the election of President Biden was going to be certified to intimidate Senators? Of course.
But is there evidence of a clear, well thought out plan to storm the Capitol and overthrow the government? I think not.
What would an insurrection look like?
The Cambridge dictionary defines an insurrection as “an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government or ruler and take control of the country, usually by violence.”
The evidence of “organisation” seems strong. There was clearly a mobilisation of groups across the country, which Trump encouraged.
But where is the message or email from the former President issuing clear instructions for an attempt to defeat the government? I have seen none.
Think what a real insurrection or coup would have looked like. Trump would have used the mob he assembled for a much more specific purpose.
This is what a plausible scenario might have looked like.
First: the mob attacks with specific objectives. They would not have been opportunists who broke into the heart of government and then wandered about like political tourists – with their feet up on the desks of politicians and taking souvenirs as momentos.
They were armed and if they had had a proper plan they would have known what their targets were. These might have been to capture or kill key politicians. A real coup leader would have ensured that these events would not just taken place at one location. There would have been similar attacks on key targets across the nation.
Second: with the Capitol in the hands of real insurrectionaries President Trump could have ordered a State of Emergency. The army could have been sent in to take back control.
Third: with emergency powers at his disposal the Commander in Chief might have issued a string of orders. A “period of calm and reflection” might have been ordered leading to the election being re-run. The Biden victory would have been declared “null and void.”
Ask any dictator
Any African dictator who has seized power in a coup knows how this is done. It would have been accompanied by taking control of the media and pushing aside or intimidating the courts.
Trump is a crude amateur when it comes to political violence. His friend and supporter Vladimir Putin could have coached him on how a real insurrection is mounted.
Unpleasant, dangerous, sexist and racist – that’s Trump. But an insurrectionary? Hardly.