In recent years, West African countries have witnessed a notable shift in political dynamics, characterized by the emergence of a new wave of politicians. These leaders, often hailing from younger generations, mostly military, bring with them a fresh perspective and a renewed commitment to addressing the pressing concerns of their countries. Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced a resurgence of coup d’états, marking the departure from instability to stability with a better political landscape compared to previous decades per se. This phenomenon prompts a critical examination of the underlying factors driving these political transformations and their implications for governance, stability, and regional dynamics in West Africa. In this context, it becomes imperative to analyze the interplay between these new political actors and the resurgence of coup d’états and to discern the broader implications for the socio-political landscape of the region.
Causes and Catalysts of Coup d’états in African Countries
The surge in coup d’état in some sub-Saharan African countries seems to be a departure from a long hold of colonialists to freedom. Recently, the crisis in Burkina Faso has spotlighted a shift in political approaches, with a new generation of politicians aiming to address the pressing concerns faced by the society, particularly the youth, who are growing up on a path seemingly devoid of opportunities. Following Burkina Faso, Niger has witnessed a change in leadership due to the predecessor’s failure to adhere to the law and serve the interests of the people. Prior to Niger, Mali boldly resisted colonialists, and now Gabon has taken a similar stance. What is the correlation or the relationship between these coup d’états, and what are the possible causes?
The coup d’état in Mali raised a lot of concerns about France’s foreign policies in Africa, but the narrative on the international realm seems to favor the country with the higher bargaining power. In most of the African countries, instability and political tensions have become common. A surge of grievance and discontent with leaders has emerged as people become increasingly open-minded, largely due to the influence of social media platforms. This trend has raised questions about the fragility of governance structures in several African countries and the challenges they face in consolidating democratic institutions. Factors such as political corruption, socioeconomic disparities, ethnic and regional tensions, and security threats have contributed to the resurgence of coup attempts. For instance, Burkina Faso experienced a revolt in 2014, leading to a transition towards a more democratic system. Similarly, Sudan saw mass civilian protests in 2019 and recently in Gabon, ultimately bringing down a longstanding autocratic or so-called democratic leader. These examples highlight the complex dynamics at play in Africa’s evolving political landscape, where both traditional military-led coups and hybrid models involving various actors are on the rise.
The international community and regional organizations such as the African Union (UA), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), also known as CEDEAO in French, have been actively engaged in responding to these coup attempts. Diplomatic efforts, peacekeeping missions, other military interventions, and even sanctions have pressured coup leaders and sought resolutions that align with democratic values. However, the effectiveness of these interventions varies from case to case, and the delicate balance between stability and democracy remains a central challenge. As Africa navigates this period of political
transformation, there is a growing need to strengthen institutions, foster civic engagement, and uphold the rule of law to ensure that the departure from instability leads to lasting stability and democratic progress on the continent (Nkurunziza, 2020; Williams, 2018; Kandeh, 2021). However, despite the coup attempts, poor governance and political corruption remain some serious unsolved issues.
Governance Failure and Political Corruption
While the surge in coup d’états may appear concerning at first glance, it also signals a shifting dynamic in African politics. It reflects a growing desire for accountable governance and the rejection of autocratic regimes, as citizens increasingly demand transparency, representation, and a voice in their countries’ affairs. This changing political landscape is echoed in the popular uprisings and movements that are sweeping across the continent. There is an increasing belief that a positive change and the determination of African citizens to shape their own political destinies can be a reality. However, unexpected rise in coup attempts continues to raise concerns about the region’s progress towards stability and democratic governance. Factors such as socioeconomic disparities, governance failures, and security challenges have contributed to the fertile ground for discontent and unrest. An analysis of these factors and reforms from one regime to another is not convincing since the political landscape never really change and the leaders kept falling in the same path.
Governance failures and political corruption have long been persistent challenges in Africa, contributing to instability, economic stagnation, and diminished public trust in institutions. Weak governance structures, characterized by inadequate checks and balances, limited transparency, and a lack of accountability mechanisms, have allowed corruption to thrive. The misallocation of public resources and embezzlement of funds intended for essential services like healthcare, education, and infrastructure development have been detrimental to the well-being of citizens (Osei-Tutu & Mahama, 2017). This pervasive corruption not only hampers economic growth but also undermines the legitimacy of governments and erodes public confidence in the effectiveness of state institutions. The impact of corruption on development is particularly pronounced in several sectors like healthcare and education, where limited resources are stretched thin, leading to inadequate service provision and compromised public welfare (Méon & Weill, 2010). Efforts to combat corruption and improve governance in Africa are crucial for fostering sustainable development and ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are equitably distributed among all citizens, but first and foremost, strengthening institutional frameworks, promoting transparency, and empowering civil society are essential to address the challenges that are facing African countries.
Transitions to stable governance and the path from instability to stability
A successful transition to stable governance can provide valuable insights into the key factors and strategies that may contribute to sustainable political stability. Ghana has experienced a successful transition from military rule to democratic governance in the early 1990s. Through a combination of strong civil society activism, international support, and an effective transitional justice mechanism, Ghana has managed to establish a stable democratic system, and still today there is no coup attempt. The establishment of democratic institutions, coupled with a commitment to the rule of law, allowed for the peaceful transfer of power through multiple elections, solidifying Ghana’s reputation as one of the most politically stable countries in West Africa. I hope that Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon will seize the opportunities presented to forge a more robust democratic system anchored in resilient and trustworthy institutions. These foundations, coupled with effective accountability mechanisms, hold the potential to catalyze the restoration and progress of these nations.
In examining the emergence of the new wave of politicians in West African countries alongside the resurgence of coup d’états, it has become evident that Africa is at a critical juncture in its political evolution. The dynamic between these factors highlights a complex struggle for governance and stability. While the infusion of fresh perspectives offers a promise for transformative change with youth conscious awakening, the specter of coup d’états must serve as a stark reminder of persisting challenges and the need for robust democratic institutions. The success of the new leaders in this political landscape may require a commitment to inclusive governance, transparency, and accountability. Learning from the successes and failures of past political transitions will be instrumental in steering these nations towards a future characterized by stable, prosperous, and democratic societies. The path ahead may be fraught with obstacles, but with determination, strategic foresight, and a collective dedication to the betterment of their nations, West Africa has the potential to emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.