Latest coups of State in Africa: analysis and consequences


In recent months we have seen coups d'état in Mali, Chad, Guinea, Sudan and the latest in Burkina Faso, countries that are among the poorest in the world, highly unstable, some of them failed states or with corrupt governments. 

They all have a common denominator: the economic crisis and popular discontent, also marked by jihadist terrorism, immigration and organised crime. Not only are these coups d'état in such a short period of time worrying, but also the contagion effect that could be created in other African countries in the absence of an international response.

The overthrow of democratic governments in former French colonies in West Africa is becoming a trend and the problem in these countries is ultimately the legitimacy of the state and the citizens' perception of whether their government is valid and capable of meeting their needs.

This legitimacy requires a focus on protecting civilians and ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violations and abuses. In the absence of states' commitments to meet the needs of their citizens, no amount of international engagement is likely to succeed

A state's legitimacy begins at the domestic level when its citizens consider their state capable of the job they have to do. However, the state loses this legitimacy when it fails to serve its people and serves its own interests or the interests of third parties.

In the case of the coup d'état in Burkina Faso, Kabore has tried to placate the discontent of the population by reorganising his government, replacing the military leadership and banning anti-government protests. However, this has had no tangible effect in containing the growing discontent of the population.

The instability in Burkina Faso is the latest in a series of similar situations that have rocked West Africa, where military strongmen from Mali to Guinea to Chad have seized power from weakened governments over the past two years, unable to restore security to their countries.

Over the past year, widespread protests over insecurity have erupted across Burkina Faso as jihadist groups seized swathes of territory along the border with Niger and Mali to fund themselves, killing people and looting villages.

In early January this year, Burkina Faso authorities arrested a dozen soldiers on suspicion of attempting a coup, putting the country in a more disturbing and hostile situation.

Hours after gunfire erupted across the capital on Sunday, protesters took to the streets in support of the mutinous soldiers. The protesters, who sang songs praising the military, also set fire to the headquarters of Kabore's political party.

At the moment, public opinion is massively in favour of the coup because of Kabore's inability over the years to solve the country's serious security problem, a situation similar to that suffered in Mali, where several coups have also been carried out.

Kabore was the fourth head of state, after Mali, Chad and Guinea, to be removed from power by the army.

The deteriorating security context in these countries has exasperated both the civilian population and the defence and security forces. However, the failure of democracies cannot justify the legitimacy of ruling through coups. 

As long as all these countries remain failed states and governments cannot control their territories or guarantee their security, coups will continue to be carried out by the contagion effect of other countries.

The question is, after Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, which will be the next country to suffer a coup d'état in Africa? What has happened in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso may soon happen in Niamey, Abidjan, Cotonou or even Dakar, due to the so-called "contagion effect", reinforced by a context where France is perceived as an enemy.
In all countries, the common denominator has been corruption scandals and the inability to curb jihadists, which has led to coups d'état. 

The recent increase in coups in Africa also reflects a relaxation in the rest of the regional and international actors condemning coups. For a coup d'état to be sustained it needs to be internationally recognised, otherwise it will be isolated.

However, the international response to different coups has been different. Each external actor's reaction to a coup has been influenced by its interests and proximity to the overthrown political and military authorities and those who have taken over. In the case of Chad, in both France's and the African Union's position, the seizure of power by President Déby's son and the military council surrounding him was quickly accepted and no sanctions were imposed. In the case of Mali, however, the opposite has been true.

Economic interests must also be taken into account in countries such as Guinea, Mali or Burkina that have important mineral resources and close relations with Chinese and Russian companies, so a change of power can also have geopolitical consequences.

In the case of Russia, it has been actively supporting various coups d'état in Africa, such as in Sudan and Mali, in exchange for other types of economic and geostrategic compensation.

In this situation, the main losers are not only the countries themselves, which will suffer greater conflicts, internal displacement and food crises as a result of these coups, but also France and the EU, where the Sahel is our advanced border and a strategic area for our security, and where all these problems will be reversed in the near future.