Tuesday, 31.05.2022

PSCC Talk: "The resurgence of coups and their impacts on stability in West Africa and the Sahel"

As part of its virtual conferences called "PSCC Talk", the Peace and Security Competence Centre of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES PSCC) Dakar organised on Tuesday 31st May 2022 a virtual conference on the theme "The resurgence of coups d'état and their repercussions on stability in West Africa and the Sahel".

Coups d'état were once the preferred method of changing governments in Africa. According to Issaka SOUARE, Director of the Sahel and West Africa Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), "Between 1951 and mid-2020, more than 90 coups have been carried out".

In 2000, the propensity to resort to coups was sufficiently worrying for the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to adopt the Lomé Declaration. In a radical departure from its usual policy of turning a blind eye to the 'internal affairs' of member states, the OAU decreed that any seizure of power following an 'unconstitutional change of government' would entail the suspension of the country concerned. Following the Lomé Declaration, the incidence of coups d'état declined steadily from 15 between 1991 and 2000, to eight in the following decade, and then to five between 2011 and 2020. However, there has been a resurgence of this phenomenon in the West African region and particularly in the Sahel since 2020. In less than 20 months (between 18th August 2020 and 24 th January 2022), five coups d'état and one failed coup attempt (in Guinea-Bissau) were committed: two in Mali (in August 2020 and May 2021), one in Chad (in May 2021), one in Guinea Conakry (in September 2021) and one in Burkina Faso (in January 2022).

These coups d'état are taking place at a time when the region is experiencing a significant deterioration in the security context with the sanctuarying of terrorist groups in the Sahel and their expansion towards the coastal countries by multiplying attacks against the symbols of institutions but also against civilians. This is a worrying situation for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which, despite condemnations and sanctions, seems powerless to stop this phenomenon.

The conference was moderated by Dr. Sampala Fati BALIMA, International Expert on Defence and Security, Conflicts and Migration (Burkina Faso) and Dr. Serigne Bamba GAYE, Expert-researcher on peace, security and governance issues in Africa - Lecturer in International Relations at the Centre des Hautes Etudes de Défense et de Sécurité (Senegal) and addressed the following points:

  • How to analyse the resurgence of coups in the Sahel and West Africa? Is it just a fashionable phenomenon or a return to the dark decades in the sub-region?
  • What impact might this have on the stability of the West African sub-region and the continent in the medium and long term?
  • What safeguards should be put in place and how can such a phenomenon be definitively contained in the West African and continental political sphere?

The exchanges were rich and fruitful also due to the participation of experts on security issues, academics, researchers, members of civil society organisations, defence and security forces from different African as well as some international forces (Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, USA, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Benin). These discussions were moderated by Dr. Aly TOUNKARA, Executive Director of the Centre des Etudes Secretaires et Stratégiques au Sahel (Mali).

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