The most critical development in African countries in recent years is the democratization of most of the continent in the 1990s, in which multi-party regimes replaced military or single-party rule in almost all African nations. While some countries have experienced insecurity during the democratization process (for example, Côte d’Ivoire), there are other countries in which democracy seems to have taken root after experiencing one or more successful free and fair elections (Kenya, Zambia, for example). With regards to civil wars and unrest, again, while countries are experiencing chronic war (in recent years, Liberia, Burundi, etc.), other countries have experienced a certain degree of success in national reconciliation after the cessation of conflicts (for example, Rwanda).
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, a sharp decline in democracy and democratic institutions has been underway in Sub-Saharan Africa. As of May 2022, most Africans live fully under or partially-under authoritarian states today than at any measurable point in the 21st century.
The current COVID-19 Pandemic is not the cause but a catalyst for the continuance of unconstitutional government changes in Africa. A significant number of African Heads of State had moved to undermine term limits or rig elections to remain in power before the beginning of the Pandemic. The Pandemic has only helped to increase the power of these Heads of State, giving them more justification for delaying elections in Somalia and Ethiopia, silencing critics in Tanzania and Uganda, and placing restrictions [PDF] on media across the continent. Security forces have brutally applied pandemic restrictions, setting up protests in Kenya and even in more developed countries like South Africa.
Africans will continue to grow more distant from people purporting to speak for them as authoritarian governments across the continent, with some exceptions, become more prevalent. As is currently happening in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Nigeria, political instability can result in violent outbreaks. This unrest will intensify as elites vie for control and people rebel against repressive governments, which will ultimately impede social and economic progress to the detriment of the continent’s fast-expanding population. When these factors are combined, they also cause internal movement and migration abroad to Europe and other African nations. It will be necessary to deal with long-standing complaints that have gone unresolved and are frequently made worse by the subpar, occasionally harsh government that is all too typical across the African continent.
The current situation in Africa is largely attributed to overthrowing constitutionally recognized or elected governments by military coups. The resulting governments manifest in the appointment of military leaders to top governing positions, traditionally held by civilians, including the President, Prime Minister, and executive cabinet posts.
A Brief Overview: The Situation in Mali
The overthrow of Mali’s government and transition back towards a democratic government has been the primary focus of several world powers such as the United States and France, as well as the United Nations as a whole, due to the ongoing United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). In May in 2021, the military of Mali overthrew the acting president, Bah N’Daou, and his prime minister, Moctar Ouane. This coup was the second in nine months and sent Mali further into crisis. As a result of the May 2021 coup, Colonel Assimi Goïta, who was additionally the leader of the 2020 coup, became the transitional president.
President Goïta appointed Choguel Maïga as a civilian Prime Minister in what seemed like progress. Maïga was a leading figure in the June 5 Movement–Rally of Patriotic Forces coalition, which led protests against the regime of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Following several failed plans to transition to civilian governance, the military administration announced the elections scheduled for February 2022 would be delayed for up to five years.
The string of chaos in Mali drags along a series of unconstitutional actions—for example—The president, who is the head of state, is normally elected by popular vote and may serve up to two five-year terms, but as of recent such constitutional guidelines have been ignored in favor of military coups.
A Brief Overview: The Situation in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso’s constitutional fate is tied much to Mali and reflects a similar story. Growing violent extremist groups in the region, particularly Jihadist groups, have put pressure on Sub-Saharan governments to act in the face of their rise to power.
In Burkina Faso, President Roch Kaboré, the popularly elected president, faced a coup from his own security forces due to growing discontent among them towards the President’s response to extremists, which they deemed ‘inadequate’. While the military pursued the coup, the overthrow of President Kaboré came after months of protests by his people—a referendum on his popularity and the people’s perception of him.
Uncertainty continues to surround the whereabouts of President Roch Kaboré after the Burkinabe leader was deposed in a coup. The former prime minister and one-time president of the National Assembly, Kaboré, had been in power since 2015, the second civilian to hold the country’s highest office following Blaise Compaore’s twenty-seven-year dictatorship and his flight into exile in October 2014. But now, even as the overall situation in the country remains fluid, it seems safe to say that the military is back in the saddle in Burkina Faso. The Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR)-led takeover makes the poor West African country the fourth in the region to fall under the military’s jackboots in less than two years. Mali reopened the floodgates in August 2020 (again in May 2021), with Chad and Guinea following suit in April and September 2021, respectively.
A Brief Overview: The Situation in Chad
The position of Chad’s government has seen progress in recent months, but the country still faces uncertainties similar to those seen in Mali and Burkina Faso. After President Idriss Deby Senior died fighting insurgents, his son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, was made the transitional President of Chad with the support of notable allies such as France. The transitional President’s first acts were to dissolve parliament, sack government officials, and repeal the constitution.
Despite his decisions to upend the government, the President committed to ‘free and fair elections’ after 18 months—a timeline that can be extended once—and he additionally announced he would not run for President in the next election. These promises, while welcomed, have not come to fruition.
As of now, the Chad government and several rebel groups, including the one that is blamed for the killing of President Idriss Deby Itno, are engaged in reconciliation negotiations in Qatar to find a resolution that leads to a new democratically elected government. With the 18-month transition reaching its end, pressure has been placed on the key players to find a path forward and preserve democracy in Chad.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
- How can the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) implement stronger measures to deter further unconstitutional changes of government on the African continent? What more can be done to strengthen the body’s authority over this issue?
- Should the UNSC adopt specific protocols for handling issues of unconstitutional changes of government? How can the body do this while managing cultural competency and sensitivity?
- Should the UNSC be more supportive of regional organizations and actors that are affected by this issue? If so, how?
- How do colonial roots and the African continent’s political culture shape the current state of affairs? What about religious and ethnic rivalries?
- Considering the widespread support of democracy and term limits on the continent, what can be done to hold African leaders and their governments accountable?
This committee will operate as a specialized committee with full front-room crisis elements. There will be no backroom crisis elements. Delegates assuming the roles of the Permanent Five will also retain veto power. Action will be taken on a committee level through directives. The committee can communicate with the public through press releases and with other bodies or individuals through communiqués.
|Federative Republic of Brazil|
|Kingdom of Norway|
|People’s Republic of China||Permanent Member|
|Republic of Albania|
|Republic of Burkina Faso|
|Republic of Ghana|
|Republic of India|
|Republic of Ireland|
|Republic of Kenya|
|Republic of the Sudan|
|French Republic||Permanent Member|
|Russian Federation||Permanent Member|
|United Arab Emirates|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||Permanent Member|
|United Mexican States|
|United States of America||Permanent Member|