Tuesday, Oct 19, 2021

Crisis in West Africa: The Rise of Coups

by Nicholas Dawson, Forecast International.West Africa. Image: wikipediaThe countries in West Africa have serious issues to contend with. The people..


by Nicholas Dawson, Forecast International.

West Africa. Image: wikipedia

The countries in West Africa have serious issues to contend with. The people not only have to live in fear of terror attacks, hostage crises, and finding themselves while fighting between non-state actors, but also the governments that rule them have been constantly shifting and changing. In multiple countries, coups have become common, with a special note to Mali that has had two military coups in nine months.  Military juntas have been gaining power while regional stability is already fragile. In some cases, such as in Guinea, the corruption of President Alpha Conde was cited as a reason for Mamady Doumbouya’s overthrow and installation of a junta. This analysis will explore the coups that have taken place in Chad, Guinea and Mali to better identify what led to the coups and what the juntas have done since taking power.


Beginning with the most recent coup: at the start of September, the president of Guinea Alpha Conde was overthrown by Special Forces commanded by Col. Mamady Doumbouya. During President Conde’s rule, several opposition leaders had been arrested or exiled due to their criticism of the president. Alpha Conde had rewritten the constitution to allow himself to run for a third term which had brought about protests from the people that were spurred on by the opposition parties. A study by Afrobarometer found that more than 8 in 10 Guineans favored a two-term limit. Some of the protests regarding the new constitutional change led to violence, killing between 10 to 33 people, depending on the source. President Conde won in a controversial election that saw continued protests get suppressed by police. Many of Conde’s detractors charged him with stirring ethnic tensions between the Malinke and Fulani people, as well as alleging largescale corruption.

Mamady Doumbouya, the man who overthrew Conde is a 41-year-old former French legionnaire and commander of Guinea’s Elite Special Forces. He had served in various missions across Africa and the Middle East. He justified the coup by stating, “The duty of a soldier is to save the country.” Following the coup, Doumbouya set up a military junta known as the National Rally and Development Committee (CNRD) to set up a roadmap to new elections and a new constitution. The opposition leaders who had been arrested or exiled were able to return and began consultations with the junta, with hopes of a democratic solution. An agreement would eventually be reached, where Doumbouya would be set as the interim president and the country would follow a “transitional charter” which would bring back civilian rule with elections in 6 months.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) immediately investigated Guinea for the coup and had decided to sanction those involved in the military junta for their actions, suspending Guinea from the group and demanding that Alpha Conde be let go. ECOWAS is worried about the turbulence in the region due to how poor the region is and how volatile the situation is. The African Union (AU) would soon follow. The CNRD denounced the sanctions and argued that ECOWAS should listen to the Guinean people. On October 1, Doumbouya was sworn in by the Supreme Court of Guinea as interim president. He stated that neither he nor any member of the junta will stand in any future elections, but so far there is no timeline as to when the elections will take place.


Sometimes those in power meet fatal ends. In April, Chad ruler Idriss Deby, the man who led for 30 years was killed while fighting rebels. Shortly after his death, the military quickly took over and gave power to his son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, who is a four-star general. Traditionally, the constitution stipulated that if the president dies it would be the president of the National Assembly who would provisionally take the duties of the president. However, Mahamat and the junta suspended the constitution and dissolved the government and parliament, stating that it would be provisional to maintain stability. Unlike the Guinea coup, in which the junta allowed for something resembling normalcy, the Chad junta immediately banned demonstrations and used force as necessary to repress them.

Strangely enough, when the AU performed a fact-finding mission regarding sanctioning or suspending Chad, the AU Commission of Political Affairs, Peace and Security decided not to sanction or suspend the country. While ECOWAS and the AU sanctioned Guinea for overthrowing Alpha Conde, they didn’t seem to have a problem with Mahamat’s coup and dissolution of the government. This doesn’t mean Mahamat got off easily. The AU gave conditions to the junta, including a review of the creation of a transitional charter and rejecting any extension of the transition process. The main consensus was that due to the rebel and terrorist influences in the region, there can be some leeway in the sanctioning and suspension process. As of writing, the junta since May has 18 months to transition the government, and the junta has appointed a new prime minister named Albert Pahimi Padacke.


To understand Mali’s recent 2021 coup, we must look back to last year’s 2020 coup. The 2020 coup of Mali President Boubacar Keita happened in August when there were arguments over military promotions. This event led to President Keita resigning that night as the military mutinied against him. Before this watershed moment, there had been protests demanding Keita’s resignation as well as the dissolving of the National Assembly and Constitutional Court. Many Malians have been angered over the inefficiency of the government due to its inability to solve conflicts in the country, provide basic services, and refused to respect democratic norms. Mali, along with Chad, has been the target of terrorist attacks and rebels which had led to instability which has led to failed governance due to increasing security problems. There had been multiple months of protests against the government following an election held in March, where only 7.5 percent of voters came out to vote and directly interfered with election results in 32 races.

The 2020 coup was led by the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), but they suffered failure when no agreements on a government could be secured. A transitional charter was approved. Following the coup, there was little violence and the people seemingly supported it. The head of the CNSP, Col. Assimi Goita would oversee the dissolution of the CNSP in January 2021. A new government would be appointed which would have Bah N’Daw be appointed as interim president and Moctar Ouane as prime minister. It didn’t last long, as both would be arrested in May and Col. Assimi Goita, who is the current vice president, said, “[he was] removing the prerogatives of the president and prime minister” for incompetence and forming a new government without consulting him. He claimed this was a violation of the transitional charter. The transitional charter that was agreed to gave Goita authority in defense and security matters, but no power in ridding the interim president and prime minister. Goita would then give himself the title of president with little pushback. The transitional charter also set up elections for February 2022, but recently it was announced the elections could be delayed, worrying ECOWAS and international observers. France has specifically been critical of Mali especially as it begins to withdraw troops, as the junta has been rumored to be in talks with the Wagner group, a Russian paramilitary group that has been active in the region, notably Libya. As of writing, no sanctions have been declared by ECOWAS, but they threatened it if the junta does not abide by the transitional charter.

These are just three examples of successful coups within the past two years. There have been multiple failed coups in the area, including in Niger and Sudan. Across Africa, coups have been rising as well, with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe losing power in 2017 before his death. In West Africa specifically, regional instability from security issues is one of the main driving points for coups, the other being perceived corruption found in the government. Freedom House found that West Africa’s democratic progress is slowly going away, and these coups are proof of that. Whether or not these juntas will uphold their agreements to revive civilian rule, there is still a chance that the next governments can still find themselves down the barrel of a gun. With these recent actions, the precedent of military interventions and coups against a government becomes normal.


By: Forecast International
Title: Crisis in Western Africa: The Rise of Coups
Sourced From: dsm.forecastinternational.com/wordpress/2021/10/12/crisis-in-western-africa-the-rise-of-coups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-in-western-africa-the-rise-of-coups
Published Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2021 10:30:38 +0000

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