As coups d’état have swept West Africa, the United States and its partners have struggled to reverse this negative trend. From Mali in 2020 to Niger and Gabon in 2023, overthrows of power have been driven predominantly by internal issues. Frequently, Russia has actively encouraged coup incidents, leveraging them as opportunities to erode U.S., French, and Western influence and presence, while deploying its military forces, including the Wagner Group, to further its own strategic objectives. Meanwhile, jihadi militancy in West Africa and its international consequences have intensified acutely since 2022. Washington will increasingly face tough dilemmas of upholding its democratic commitments; losing strategic, economic, and counterterrorism access; or attempting to cultivate new allies and bases. In yet another challenge to democracy, on February 3, Senegal’s president suspended the country’s presidential elections three weeks before their set date.
On February 13, the Brookings Africa Security Initiative and Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors brought together leading experts to delve into the escalating challenges posed by coups d’état in West Africa, examining the region’s vulnerability to internal issues driving political upheavals. The discussion also explored the role of external actors, particularly Russia.
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Panel discussionAdele Ravidà Country Director and Senior Election Systems Advisor for Senegal - International Foundation for Electoral Systems
ModeratorVanda Felbab-Brown Director - Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors, Co-Director - Africa Security Initiative, Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology