AFRICA - Similarities and differences: analysis of the 3 coups in the Sahel

Friday, 1 December 2023 coup   military   bishops  

Lagos (Agenzia Fides) - In the last 2-3 years, military coups in the Sahel present similarities and differences compared to those that occurred in the 70s-80s. This was stated by the bishops of the Permanent Committee of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM/SCEAM), meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS).
The African bishops declare: "We are against coups d'état, a position consistent with the teaching of the Church, which firmly rejects the seizure of power by force. The Church defends democracy". In their final statement, the members of SECAM analyze the situation, considering that the current coups "contrast with the coups of the 70s and 80s, whose main objective was the acquisition and prolonged maintenance of power." “The recent coups are characterized by a somewhat messianic intention, supposedly aimed at freeing the population from injustice and ending the monopoly of national wealth by established political dynasties and their international allies,” they point out, adding that "the general population has shown its support for the coup plotters, considering these actions as an expression of deep frustration and anger at long-standing injustices.” Rahmane Idrissa, a researcher at the University of Leiden, agrees with this thesis. However, he draws a comparison between the current situation and the coups d'état that took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s, characterized by a period of transition and a rapid return to democracy. In an interview with Fides, the researcher outlines an overview of the military coups that have taken place in the three countries of the Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger).

What are the similarities and what are the differences between the 3 coups in the Sahel?

There are several similarities because the 3 countries face the same problems, in particular the war of terrorist groups in the Sahel. Therefore, I believe that if this war had not taken place, these coups would not have occurred. At the same time, the three coups d'état are different in terms of the circumstances in which they occurred. Especially in Mali and, to a lesser extent, in Burkina Faso, the coups occurred after a long series of popular protests against the established power. In Niger, on the other hand, there were no popular protests at the time of the Putsch. In fact, it was a very quiet period. Furthermore, the coups in Mali and Burkina Faso were carried out by young officers, while in Niger they were carried out by quite mature senior officers. The coup d'état in Mali has created a model in which the military promises to return power to a civilian government, but then fails to do so, postponing the date of the transfer of power between the military and civilians. In this sense, the military of Burkina Faso is imitating those of Mali and I believe that those of Niger will do the same. In conclusion, these three coups are different from those of the recent past, which were followed by a period of transition and a rapid return to civilian rule.

But will the coup plotters be able to defeat the terrorists and regain control of the territory?

No, because the security crisis is very complex and complicated. A purely military solution alone is insufficient to solve it. A political and economic solution is needed. The military, given their profession, think mainly in terms of military solution. In my opinion, they are not qualified to resolve the issue, in fact I fear that they will aggravate it.

Do you foresee other coups like in Chad? Do you think a coup is possible in Nigeria?

In Nigeria I see it difficult in the current circumstances and I do not think there will be coups d'état in other countries in the region. Chad already has a military regime. Instead, I think there will be other coups in the three countries that have already experienced one. This is because the situation is not stable. The military took power promising to resolve the security crisis and has no legitimacy other than that of force. And those who seize power by force can be overthrown by a superior force. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 1/12/2023)