Over the last three years, the African Sahel region has witnessed a wave of coups d’état in seven countries that extend from Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean to Sudan on the Red Sea. Five military coups succeeded in five countries, in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, and Gabon, while three other nations—Tunisia, Chad, and Sudan—had constitutional coups. During approximately the same period, coup attempts were thwarted in Gambia, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, and the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe.
Many motives and circumstances have been cited for these coups, as putschists accused the ruling regimes of corruption, economic mismanagement, and failure to confront armed separatist and jihadi movements that constitute a serious challenge to the region’s states. Disparate international reactions to these coups also point to the complexities of the intense regional and international competition between interested major powers. France, and the United States to a lesser degree, adhere to supporting elected governments in countries that experienced coups for reasons that do not necessarily have anything to do with supporting democracy, but rather with the isolated authorities’ compatibilities with their own interests. On the other hand, other international players, led by Russia, have found opportunities to enhance their influence by supporting the emergent regimes and the new power brokers, exploiting the region’s growing wave of discontent with the West.
The Sahel Coups: Approaches and Patterns
The region’s coups can be classified into two general types: military coups and constitutional coups.
These represent a familiar pattern of change in Africa. Although this phenomenon declined at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it has seen a resurgence in the last three years.2 Mali had two coups, in 2020 and 2021, the first of which ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18, 2020, and was led by Colonel Assimi Goïta (40 years old). The ousted president was accused of failing to address the deteriorating security situation and of widespread corruption. But pressure from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) forced the military junta to accept the formation of a transitional government led by civilians and retired officers, for a maximum of 12 months, as part of a plan to hold general elections.3
Former defense minister, Colonel Bah Ndaw, became head of state on September 25, 2020, but quickly clashed with the military that maintained its influence in the country. Goïta once again led another coup and ousted Ndaw because of disagreements over a cabinet reshuffle in which two military officers lost their positions. After the second putsch, Goïta became head of the transitional authority and head of state following a decision by the Constitutional Court on May 28, 2021.
The same thing took place in Burkina Faso, which had two coups as well, the first in January 2022 in which Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba (41 years old) detained President-elect Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, holding him responsible for the failure in confronting the jihadist insurgent movements in the country, and formed a military council under his command. But this military junta soon lost territory to the same insurgents and Sandaogo Damiba was removed from power in another coup by 34-year-old Captain Ibrahim Traoré.4
Burkina Faso has indeed suffered through decades of corrupt and oppressive military rule, and yet it witnessed one of the strongest popular movements demanding democracy in the Sahel region.5 Traoré represents a unique example of the new coup leaders in the region, and enjoys popular support due to his populists speeches and his young age.6 His speech last July at the Russia-Africa summit was very well received in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries, when he spoke about his country facing forms of neo-colonialism and imperialism.7
Guinea, in turn, had a coup on September 5, 2021, led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya (41 years old), which was considered “an extension to the erosion of democracy” in the country under 11 years of rule by President Alpha Condé, who controlled all aspects of the state.8 Doumbouya declared that the ousted president was responsible for rampant corruption, disregard for human rights, and economic mismanagement.9
The coup in Niger received international attention because of France’s hardline position toward it, which was contrary to the situation of Niger’s neighbors. Since its independence in 1960, Niger has had four bouts of military rule. In 2011, the country embarked on a democratic transition by organizing three elections, congruent with former President Mahamadou Issoufou’s commitment to the constitutional term of office, which put Niger on the road to democracy. This was not easy in a country surrounded by neighbors experiencing insurgencies, extremism, and military coups. After a decade of relatively stable progress toward democracy, Commander of the Presidential Guard General Abdourahamane Tchiani took over government last July (and deposed democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum) under the pretext of the erosion of security in the country.10
The latest in this series of coups in West Africa took place in Gabon when army officers on August 30, 2023, seized power and ended the control of the Bongo family, which was close to France and which had governed since independence (55 years).11 The coup leaders placed President Ali Bongo under house arrest, arrested his son Noureddin for high treason, and appointed Commander of the Republican Guard General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema as interim president in the transitional period.12
The army’s move to dismiss the president appears to have been linked to the results of the presidential election that were announced hours before the coup, in which President Bongo won a third term in office, with 64.27 percent of the popular vote according to the Gabonese Election Center. But the opposition rejected the result due to violations and the apparent partisanship of election authorities. The opposition also protested against a constitutional amendment proposed by the president to have the elections limited to one round instead of two so that he could ensure his reelection. It appears that the army took advantage of the tension to oust the president, announce the annulment of the results, and dissolve standing institutions.13
The African countries that had successful military coups have common borders and share the same accusations of security and economic failures and widespread corruption directed at democratically elected governments. In Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, coup leaders said that their motives were related to the deterioration of security and the spread of corruption, and that the army bears the responsibility of making necessary changes in governance.14 The structure of the state is also similar in those nations that underwent coups, with many having fragile institutions and the military in a powerful position, in addition to long histories of political and security problems.
In Mali, Guinea, and Niger, the armies were affected by internal and external pressures. Regional organizations, such as the African Union and ECOWAS, intervened in Mali, and France rejected the Guinea coup and, more strongly, that of Niger. This was accompanied by increased opportunities for mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group to exploit the growing chaos and violence in the region.
These are defined as coups to change the regime or government in an unconstitutional manner, regardless of the party implementing them. This type of coup usually leads to the removal of the legitimate government or other legitimate institutions and their replacement with an illegal authority, bypassing the popular will and the approval of democratic institutions.15
A clear example of this is what happened in Tunisia in mid-2021 and afterward, as President Kais Saied led a campaign against constitutional institutions, suspending parliament, lifting immunity from representatives, and assuming the presidency of the Public Prosecution. Saied removed the government of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and began to run state affairs through presidential decrees, awaiting the completion of the steps to dissolve parliament. On March 30, 2022, the president suspended the 2014 Constitution and put to a referendum a new national charter that was accepted by 92 percent of the participants in a low turnout vote of 27.54 percent according to the Supreme Elections Authority, a figure that was still doubted by independent and respectable opinion poll organizations.16 Under the new constitution, the Tunisian political system was transformed from a semi-presidential to a fully presidential one, which led to the weakening of parliament and the formation of a second chamber, known as the National Council of Regions and Districts, alongside the Council of People’s Representatives. Early parliamentary elections were held based on a new electoral law. Voter turnout was very low (11.2 percent in the first round and 11.4 percent in the second) as a result of the full boycott of opposition parties.17
The other constitutional coup in Africa took place in Chad in 2021 when General Mahamat Idriss Déby (37 years old) and senior army officers took control of the state following the killing of his father, President Idriss Déby (who ruled for 30 years), during clashes with armed opposition factions. Before taking power, young Déby had assumed the position of president of the Transitional Council that was to last for 18 months while the country prepared for presidential elections. But that did not come to pass due to heightened foreign interference by France and Russia.18 With the expiration of the deadline, the Chadian National Dialogue Conference announced on October 8, 2022, the nomination of Mahamat Idriss Déby as president of the transitional phase that was to last for two years. The step to extend the transitional phase and appoint Déby as president increased the opposition’s rejection of the process, which was seen as bequeathing rule in the country as if it were an inheritance.
Since its independence in 1956, Sudan has witnessed six military coups. Elected governments have ruled for only nine years, while the military ruled for the remaining period (58 years). In 2019, the country witnessed a popular protest movement that prompted army officers to overthrow the regime of then President Omar al-Bashir (who had ruled since 1989) and to side with demands for a transition to democracy. But in 2021, less than a month before the army was to hand over the reins of government to civilians as stipulated in a power-sharing agreement establishing the Transitional Sovereignty Council,19 General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced the end of the “legitimacy of compromise” because it supposedly threatened the security of the homeland.20 Later, the military institution experienced its own split with the defection of the Rapid Support Forces, which plunged the country into an armed conflict that has made any transition to democracy unlikely.
Differences and Similarities in the Sahel Coups
Each of the aforementioned coups has had internal motivations and circumstances, but there are clear differences between each of the cases. For example, in Chad the situation appears to be one of succession through a constitutional coup while in Niger, President Mohamed Bazoum was democratically elected by a majority of the population. What is clear is that the roots of these coups lie in the failures of governments to meet the needs of their people for development, security, and eradicating corruption. Each successful coup also sends a message that encourages other officers in neighboring countries to seize power.
There are two basic common issues among these coups. First is the fragility of governance systems. Centuries of colonial rule in Africa and post-colonial regimes have produced unrepresentative elites over the last sixty years. Some African countries, like Ghana, Botswana, Mauritius, and others, have reformed their colonial governance structures and transitioned to democracies that meet the needs of their citizens. But the countries where coups took place remain among a group of states in which real power is still concentrated in the hands of narrow elites who are united by domestic commonalities (such as ethnic and racial ties), or are linked to outside powers.
African countries have made significant strides toward democracy in the wake of the Cold War. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance has shown that African governments’ responses to public needs improved during the first 20 years of the new millennium. According to the index, the provision of basic services, from security to food, is an important indicator of democracy, as is the holding of free, fair, and transparent elections.21 But even the most established democracies are struggling to maintain stability in the face of widespread grievances, in addition to few resources to confront crises, such as deepening poverty in relation to the world economy, factional and regional conflicts, economic repercussions from COVID-19, climate degradation, and damage to the agricultural sector. Governments have not been able to resolve conflicts as security forces often resorted to violence and blunt force, increasing popular anger.
Second is the emergence of a new generation of young populist leaders in a young African continent. For example, nearly half of Mali’s population is under 14 years of age.22 Young Africans naturally aspire for better jobs and more responsive governments. Countries grappling with violent extremism and military coups are those where educational systems, economies, and power structures have weakened opportunities for advancement and failed to meet the hopes of young people for a brighter future. Some Sahel youth have been vulnerable to recruitment into violence through factional conflicts, jihadist movements, or military coups. Most coup leaders in the Sahel are young officers in their thirties and forties, and are supported by younger people, both military and civilian.
The entire African Sahel has fallen under military rule, a far cry from a decade ago. Internal circumstances are driving the coups. But there is also international involvement in confronting violent extremism in Mali, and the participation of France, the United Nations, and the United States has not led to building real stability.23 And despite the expenditure of billions of dollars there and across the region, the foreign approach has not stopped extremist tendencies and insurgencies that feed on people’s despair at governance that does not provide the basic necessities for communities. Rather, money has only improved the military efficiency of armies and security forces in facing security challenges.
Domestic Causes of Coups: Niger as a Model
As in Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War in 1989, the wave of democratic transitions that spread in Africa in the 1990s had limited impact. Democracy was unable to establish strong roots in Africa after several countries fell into the grip of dictatorships, both civilian and military.24 What happened in Niger is a new episode in the struggle between democracy and dictatorship on the African continent. Former President Mohamed Bazoum assumed power on April 2, 2021 through the ballot box, which was a turning point in the country’s political history as it was a peaceful transfer of power since independence from France in 1960. But this experiment did not continue, as the Presidential Guard intervened to remove the president and seize power.
Many domestic factors played a major role in Niger’s coup. The most notable was the change in the balance of power within the political system and the complexities of the social fabric of the country, in addition to the deteriorating economic situation, with government debt increasing from $6 billion to $9 billion between 2020 and 2023. Niger was also placed at the bottom of the list of countries on the Human Development Index (out of 189 countries). More than half the population has fallen below the poverty line while the security situation in neighboring countries has deteriorated further (as in Mali and Burkina Faso).
Former President Bazoum survived a coup attempt on March 31, 2021, and another a year later when he was on an official visit to Turkey. Then came the coup of 2023, putting to rest the silent struggle among the different circles of influence in the country as the president found himself challenged by more than one party within the regime while he sought to exercise his constitutional powers.25
The now deposed president had tried to weaken the old guard by implementing a gradual “purification” campaign in state institutions, during which he worked to reduce the influence of his predecessor, Mahamadou Issoufou, in the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism and in the presidency (2011-2021). He also appointed Abdou Sidikou Issa as the new commander of the armed forces to succeed General Salifou Modi, and there were reports that he was going to replace the head of the Presidential Guard and leader of the coup, General Abdourahamane Tchiani.
Many within the state institutions saw Bazoum’s efforts as an attempt to build new centers of influence within the regime that would challenge the existing balance of power. The doubts of those opposed to him increased when he announced an additional number of military recruits, which was understood as expanding influence by weakening the wings loyal to the former president.
There were different interpretations of President Bazoum’s intentions after he took power in the name of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism. Many observers said that he was exchanging roles with Issoufou,26 especially since Bazoum did not have the ethnic and racial strength of his predecessor.27 Bazoum comes from the Arab tribe of Ould Suleiman, which is a minority in Niger (one percent), in contrast to his predecessor’s affiliation to the Hausa ethnicity (more than 50 percent of the population).28 In other words, there was speculation that Bazoum could not have run for president and won the election without Issoufou’s approval and support.
Thus the struggle between the elite institutions (the army, the administration, the parties), mixed with the ethnic sensitivity factor, is an appropriate explanation for the Niger coup. Ethnic shares and the ambitions and interests of politicians and the army are pivotal considerations in the drive to suppress the nascent democratic experiment in the country.
Impact of International Competition over the Sahel
The return of coups to the Sahel region and to more parts of Africa—after everyone thought that they were a thing of the past—is evidence of the centrality of Africa to the reging international conflict between an old western camp (France) that presents itself as better than all others, and a new camp (China-Russia) that presents itself as a viable alternative, with all that it promises in terms of partnerships, development, and prosperity.
Before the coup, Niamey was France’s main strategic partner in the Sahel region and the venue for French forces participating in Operation Barkhane after they left Mali in August 2022. This is in addition to French President Emmanuel Macron’s bet on Niger for reconfiguring his country’s strategy toward the Sahel region.29
France’s bet on Niger goes beyond the military aspect to the search for a new legitimacy that depends on focusing on development, which it can market to the rest of Africa. The French Development Agency (AFD) has committed to investing €100 million to support development projects in the region in the form of loans.30
Additionally, Niger represents an important strategic point for the United States and a number of European countries, as it hosts western military bases—three French, two American—and training centers for Germany, Italy, and Canada, among others that train special forces in Niger.31 The country’s geographic location between the Sahel and North and West Africa places it at the forefront of a dual struggle against extremist groups active in the Sahara Desert and Russian influence in more than one country (Central African Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso, and others).
France remains the country most negatively affected by what is happening in Niger. Niamey is the fourth capital it has lost to a military coup over the last four years in West Africa, where an unprecedented wave of popular hostility is spreading against everything French. This coincides with a time of a serious economic recession in France that has culminated in energy conservation policies after frequent power outages. The irony is that uranium mining in Niger, which represents seven percent of global production, contributes to lighting one out of every three electric lamps in France, while darkness engulfs large parts of Niger’s cities and villages.32
The cautious American approach to the Niger coup, in contrast to France’s quick threat of military action,33 and later its urging the ECOWAS nations to use force to restore the Nigerien president,34 weakened trust between Washington and Paris.35 At the height of French agitation against the coup, the American administration dispatched Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to hold talks with leaders of the Military Council. The talks ended with the US declaring its preference for a diplomatic solution, which dampened the prospects for a military intervention.36 These were the first indications that the White House was not concerned about changes in Niger.
Russia, on the other hand, appears to be the most prominent winner in Niger.37 The course of events is in the interests of Russia, which has been waging a soft, and sometimes harsh, war against France regarding the re-sharing of influence in the African continent.
The Emergence of Russia and China as International Players in the Sahel
For years, Russia has been working to expand its influence in the region, using the rhetoric of political realism and the language of interests.38 Moscow, which aspires to contribute to the formation of a new world order, is exploiting the growing wave of discontent and tension against the West’s failed security and development policies on the continent.
Russia has gained a strong presence in several regions of Africa, starting in the Central African Republic and moving to Libya in the north, and is currently working to strengthen its influence in the Sahel region with its geopolitical status as a depository of mineral resources. After Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, Niger’s turn has come to join those moving away from France and the United States. The coup leaders may not necessarily express their bias toward Russia, but the removal of two major French allies from government (Issoufou and Bazoum) is a victory for Moscow, which has adopted a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs while providing assistance in arms, security, and food.39
China, Russia’s ally, is applying the same approach, as it is the largest foreign investor in Africa. It was the first to break into the region through its successful investment in extracting Sudanese oil at the end of the twentieth century. This was an incentive that pushed it to penetrate Chad and Niger until it came to control the oil market in the Sahel region.
The Future of the Sahel in Light of Military Coups
The Sahel region has seen many military coups in the last few years that elicited little noise, contrary to the remarkable western interest in the Nigerien coup, to the point of advocating for a military intervention to “save Nigerien democracy” under an international or regional umbrella became part of the solution despite the serious cost of the endeavor.40
Over a month after the Niger coup, and after more than one attempt to restore the deposed president, ECOWAS is still weighing the prospect of a military intervention, despite the announcement from the “National Council for the Protection of the Homeland” that it will include civilians in the government, appointing a technocratic prime minister and a cabinet of 21 ministers, in which the council reserved the defense and interior portfolios for itself. But ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security Abdel Fattah Mousa announced the organization’s rejection of the council’s plan.41
The ECOWAS military option has more than one obstacle. First and foremost, ECOWAS member states have different opinions regarding the use of force to restore President Bazoum to power.42 In addition, West African countries do not have sufficient military means for a quick solution if they decide to intervene militarily, which will require external support, in addition to the group’s lack of previous real military intervention experience upon which it can call to deal with the changing situation in Niger.43
The threat to use force in Niger raises important questions, compared to the coups in Mali and Burkina Faso, where ECOWAS was content with a traditional list of measures such as suspending membership, imposing economic and trade sanctions, and giving coup leaders some time to return to the democratic government.
It appears that the group’s leadership rushed before it could carefully read the geopolitical dimensions of the crisis, even before doing enough consulting following the threat with military action, hoping that would halt the contagion of coups in the region. From its side, the Nigerien Military Council tried to absorb the domestic and external responses by forming a government, neutralizing some states, and calling for dialogue and mediation, among other things.
The succession of coups shows that the Sahel region has become the focus of international competition between the world’s major powers. In addition to the old camp led by Washington and Paris, and the newer one headed by Moscow and Beijing, there is an emergent third one (India, Turkey, Iran) that is seeking a foothold in the region. Each axis is trying hard to find allies who can represent it locally and supporters who can serve its agenda and defend its interests in a given country.44
The region is undoubtedly becoming an arena of international competition for a multipolar world, despite the local nature of these conflicts among elites. The West, specifically the United States, is keen to overcome the negative image of French colonialism in the region, which necessitates the adoption of a strategy that takes conditions on the ground into consideration if and when it wants to exploit the vacuum following France’s withdrawal.45
Despite obvious differences in behavior, Russia and China are most assuredly working on having a presence in an area that is moving, for different reasons, toward holding strategic importance for the world. The alignment of the new rulers in Mali and Burkina Faso, like the Central African Republic before them, to an alliance with Russia is proof that Africa will play a role in a new world order. But Moscow, in addition to its geographic distance, does not have much to offer the economies of African states. It is also incapable of making much of a difference against extremists who control Mali’s north, and half of Burkina Faso, which means that the Sahel region and West Africa will be exposed to fragmentation and chaos.
The Sahel region remains a changing and volatile area in political and security affairs, and its future democratic transition is uncertain in light of the escalation of international competition that has become the primary driver in shaping the region’s future. The challenge remains in trying to reconcile the geopolitical interests of global powers and the aspirations of the region’s peoples for stability, development, and democracy. As many experiences have proven, the quest to maintain stability in the region without achieving sustainable development that paves the way for a true democratic transition that, in turn, limits the role of the military in the political process will simply remain in a vicious circle of unachievable goals for the foreseeable future.
This policy analysis paper was first published in Arabic on September 13, 2023, by Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, Qatar.
The views expressed in this publication are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab Center Washington DC, its staff, or its Board of Directors.
2 “Why are Military Coups Returning to Africa?” ADF Magazine, June 2, 2023, https://adf-magazine.com/2023/05/why-are-military-coups-returning-to-africa/.
3 Emily Cole, “Five Things to Know About Mali’s Coup,” The United States Institute of Peace, August 27, 2020, https://www.usip.org/publications/2020/08/five-things-know-about-malis-coup.
4 “Burkina Faso Coup Leader Ibrahim Traore Named Transitional President,” France 24, October 15, 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20221015-burkina-faso-coup-leader-ibrahim-traore-named-transitional-president.
5 “Effectively Fighting Corruption Without Violence,” The United States Institute of Peace, August 30, 2017, https://www.usip.org/publications/2017/08/effectively-fighting-corruption-without-violence.
6 “Burkina Faso: Ibrahim Traoré Takes Office as President,” Atalayar, October 6, 2022, https://www.atalayar.com/en/articulo/politics/burkina-faso-ibrahim-traore-takes-office-president/20221006122802158516.html.
7 “Burkina Faso President Accuses African Leaders of ‘Beggary’,” Anadolu Agency, July 29, 2023, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/burkina-faso-president-accuse-african-leaders-of-beggary-/2957088.
8 “Guinea’s Lesson for Strengthening Democracy: Use ‘Peer Power’,” The United States Institute of Peace, December 9, 2021, https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/12/guineas-lesson-strengthening-democracy-use-peer-power.
9 “Guinea President Conde Vows to Tackle Corruption During Third Term,” Reuters, December 15, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/guinea-politics/guinea-president-conde-vows-to-tackle-corruption-during-third-term-idUSKBN28P27F.
10 It is true that Niger, like its neighbors, faces violence from extremist groups, including factions with links to Boko Haram and the Islamic State, but experience in those countries has shown that military rule also exacerbates such security crises.
11 “Gabon Coup Leaders Name General Brice Oligui Nguema as New Leader,” BBC, August 31, 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-66666585.
12 “Gabon Military Officers Declare Coup after Ali Bongo Wins Disputed Election,” The Guardian, August 30, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/30/gabon-coup-military-takeover-gabonese-election-disputed.
13 “Gabon’s Military Coup has Overthrown a Powerful Political Dynasty. Here’s What to Know,” CNN, August 31, 2023, https://edition.cnn.com/2023/08/31/africa/gabon-military-coup-explainer-intl-hnk/index.html.
14 “Niger coup: List of recent military takeovers in West and Central Africa,” Reuters, July 27, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/recent-coups-west-central-africa-2023-07-26/.
15 Nikolay Marinov and Hein Goemans, “Coups and Democracy,” British Journal of Political Science, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science/article/abs/coups-and-democracy/505910A86167FE82C8D7019FF6A829AB.
16 “Constitutional Referendum in Tunisia: Context, Results, and Repercussions,” (in Arabic) Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, July 28, 2022, https://www.dohainstitute.org/ar/PoliticalStudies/Pages/tunisia-constitutional-referendum-background-results-and-implications.aspx.
17 “Tunisia: from the July Coup to the Constitutional referendum,” (in Arabic) Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Report No. 6, August 2022, https://www.dohainstitute.org/ar/Lists/ACRPS-PDFDocumentLibrary/tunisia-from-the-july-revolution-to-the-constitution-referendum.pdf.
18 “A History of Wars and Conflicts: the Doha Chadian Peace Agreement,” (in Arabic) Aljazeera.net, August 8, 2022, https://tinyurl.com/bd88mrwn.
19 “Sudan’s Transition Period Agreement: Opportunities for and Obstacles in Front of Success,” (in Arabic) Situation Assessment, Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, August 22, 2019, https://www.dohainstitute.org/ar/PoliticalStudies/Pages/Sudan-Transition-Agreement-Opportunities-for-Success-and-Obstacles.aspx.
20 “Sudan Events,” (in Arabic) Deutsche Welle, April 15, 2023, https://tinyurl.com/34hr5s45.
21 “2022 Ibrahim Index of African Governance Key Findings,” Ibrahim Foundation, https://mo.ibrahim.foundation/iiag/2022-key-findings.
22 “The World Factbook-Mali,” https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/mali/.
23 Isabelle King, “How France Failed Mali: the End of Operation Barkhane,” Harvard International Review, January 30, 2023, https://hir.harvard.edu/how-france-failed-mali-the-end-of-operation-barkhane/.
24 See Baher Hussein, “The Uneven Wave of Democratization in Africa in the 1990s,” https://www.jesuisbaher.com/post/the-miraculous-and-uneven-wave-of-democratization-in-africa-in-the-1990s.
25 Bazoum’s challenge to the old system was a main reason for delaying the announcement of his cabinet for more than seven months after he swore his oath of office in April 2021.
26 See Sagheer al-Haidari, “Who is Mohamed Bazoum Facing a Coup in Niger?” (in Arabic), Arabic Independent, July 27, 2023, https://tinyurl.com/3nnmxmhn.
27 There is ethnic and tribal diversity in Niger (Tuareg, Toubou, Fulani, Gurma, Hausa, etc.) and this influences the political scene, even if politicians do not admit it publicly in order to protect the democratic image of the country. This is the case in many African countries where it is usual to talk of “ethnic democracy.”
28 Many of the political and military elites belong to the Hausa ethnic group in the southeast of the country, including coup leader Abdourahamane Tchiani, who took power in July under the pretext of restoring security and stability in Niamey.
29 It is important to mention that the first coup in Niger against President Hamani Diori (r. 1960-1974) was orchestrated by France. It came following the escalation of a political and economic crisis between the two countries over patent prices for uranium extraction in the Agadez region in northern Niger, where a French company, La SOMAIR, has held extraction and manufacturing rights since 1971.
30 Niger is in second place after Senegal on the list of AFD customers.
31 It is important to mention that during a visit to Niger in July 2020, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the possibility of establishing a Turkish military base near the border with Libya. Other news mentioned the United Arab Emirates as interested in doing the same.
32 “The World Bank in Niger,” https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/niger.
33 French President Emmanuel Macron headed a meeting of the Defense and National Security Council on July 29, 2023 in which all aid and development assistance to Niger was suspended.
34 ECOWAS gave the coup leaders in its meeting on July 30 a one-week period to restore Bazoum to his position, but it retreated from this demand in its second meeting to give “priority to diplomatic negotiations and dialogue,” with the possibility of deploying a reserve force.
35 “France, U.S. Relations Grow Tense over Niger Coup,” Politico, August 18, 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/08/18/france-u-s-relations-niger-coup-00111842.
36 Differences of opinion were clear from the beginning. The United States dealt with the development by holding the stick in the middle, and denied any Russian involvement in the coup. This was opposite to what France was saying, which exploited feelings of Russophobia prevalent in western circles because of the war in Ukraine.
37 “The Coup in Niger is about Power. Russia Will Exploit it,” The Atlantic, August 8, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2023/08/niger-coup-russia/674947/.
38 Russia’s presence during the Cold War was limited to countries in the socialist camp, and it had good relations with Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. In the north, it was close to Egypt, Algeria, and Libya.
39 According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia was the source of 44 percent of the weapons sold to African countries between 2017 and 2021.
40 Niger’s coup was the seventh in a series in West and Central Africa over the last three years.
41 Coup leader Tchiani announced the contours of a transitional period of three years in which the country will revert to civilian rule. He also promised a national dialogue within 30 days to discuss real proposals for a new constitutional setup in the country.
42 Differences in this context have led to threats by the leaders of Mali and Burkina Faso, two prominent members of ECOWAS, to fight alongside the Nigerien army if a military intervention takes place. Other states (Chad, Mauritania, and Algeria) refused the option of military action from outside ECOWAS.
43 Most ECOWAS interventions occurred in the 1990s, in the Liberian Civil War or in Sierra Leone to restore President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. That activism was originally related to Nigeria, whose president at the time, Ibrahim Babangida (r. 1985-1993) had ambitions to be a regional leader and had the means to pay the cost. On the other hand, ECOWAS’s intervention in Gambia in 2017 to depose President Yahya Jammeh—who refused to relinquish power after losing an election—was an exception that could not be replicated because of differences between Gambia and Niger related to geographic position and area.
44 The region is rich with natural gas, gold, and precious metals, and its strategic importance has been enhanced with new petroleum discoveries in Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal. For example, Niger exports some 20,000 barrels of oil per day, with expectations that it can produce up to 200,000 after a giant Chinese-built pipeline that connects the interior of the country with Benin’s Cotonou seaport on the Atlantic is finished.
45 The United States looks at the region from a strategic and economic perspective. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, it is closer to America’s East Coast, which means closer good crude compared to hydrocarbons coming from the Middle East.