Tue. May 21st, 2024

Navigating Africa’s Turbulent Waters: Resurgent Coups and the Shadowy World of PMCs

The 3rd edition of Geopolitics Series, themed: “Resurgent Coups, Private Military Companies (PMCs), and the Eroding Influence of Inter-Governmental Organisations (IGOs),” illuminated critical global issues as they affect Africa. Senator Iroegbu, Gift Wada and the Global Sentinel team in this article, highlighted the discussions and insights from GS3.0, which underscored the complex dynamics shaping modern conflicts, emphasising the importance of addressing root causes, promoting local solutions, and reevaluating the role of powerful states in geopolitical affairs.

Overview

In recent years, Africa has experienced a disconcerting resurgence of coups, with notable incidents in Egypt (2013), Burkina Faso (2015 and 2022), Zimbabwe (2017), Sudan (2019 and 2021), Mali (2020), Chad (2021), Guinea (2021), Niger (2023), and Gabon (2023). These events underscore the pressing demand for transformative leadership. This troubling pattern has emerged in the context of governance challenges, corruption, economic difficulties, and security concerns that have precipitated military interventions in several African nations.

During the Geopolitics Series 3.0, experts delved into the complexities of civic support for coups, recognising the need for a nuanced examination of public sentiment and the intricate social and political dynamics at play. The theme of the series, “Resurgent Coups, Private Military Companies, and the Eroding Influence of Inter-Governmental Organisations,” shed light on the latest coup trends in Africa and the apparent legitimacy that some of these military takeovers seem to garner

The Station Manager of West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR), Mrs. Agnes John-Thomasi, highlighted that coups often undermine democratic principles, resulting in human rights abuses, disregard for the rule of law, economic stagnation, and instability. Surprisingly, there seems to be civic support for coups in recent times, which she attributes to a complex mix of social, political, economic, and historical factors. John-Thomasi pointed out that the widespread corruption, electoral fraud, and leaders’ disregard for term limits contribute to dissatisfaction with civilian governments.

Additionally, security challenges caused by groups like Boko Haram, Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in the Sahel region have eroded public trust, leading people to turn to the military for solutions. The failure of civilian governments to address these challenges has fueled the narrative that military intervention is a viable alternative. One central issue is the lack of accountability in many African governments–a pointer that weak institutions and a lack of consequences for those in power have left citizens frustrated. The absence of press freedom and attacks on media institutions also contribute to support for coups. This has been particularly evident in West Africa, which has a history of coups as a means to end conflicts or address governance issues.

Also highlighted is the fact that the PMCs have played a controversial role in this dynamic. PMCs have filled security gaps, providing services ranging from training to military operations. However, their unregulated nature and associations with human rights abuses have raised concerns.

It was on this premise that an Indian Army veteran, Maj-Gen. AK Bardalai (rtd), explained that PMCs operate in a gray area, as they often act on behalf of state actors. According to him, they have been both a force for stability and instability, depending on their employment. Bardalai noted that the lack of international legislation to regulate PMCs and reluctance from states to employ them further complicates matters.

Similarly, the Director-General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Dr. Joseph Ochogwu, asserted that some PMCs are involved in manufacturing military hardware, while others engage in direct combat. The absence of convictions under international humanitarian law has allowed PMCs to operate with impunity.

“In the first two editions, we interrogated the African Union’s six-decade journey and investigated resource mismanagement in Africa. With this third edition, examined the resurgent coups in Africa, exposing their dynamics within an ever-evolving geopolitical landscape, showcasing the intricate interactions of states and non-state actors.”

Senator Iroegbu

On his part, the Special adviser to the Executive Director of the Open Society Foundation-Africa in charge of the Africa Union Advocacy, Mr. Ibrahima Kane, shed light on the complexities of the Sahel region’s conflicts, suggesting that they are rooted in historical inequalities, climate change, and control over natural resources. Kane criticised the media for misrepresenting these crises. He highlighted that foreign countries involved in counter-terrorism often pursue their interests, leading to a disconnect between their objectives and regional stability.

Map 1 | Africa Centre Map 2 | Channels Tv

Accordingly, the President of the White Ink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER), Brig-Gen. Saleh Bala (rtd), shared the perspective that democracy is faltering due to the absence of accountability and transparency in civilian administrations. Bala highlighted that military interventions are occasionally viewed as a counterweight to the actions of African leaders. However, he cautioned that without a shift in their behaviour, these interventions might intensify the existing unrest.

At the same time, the Founder of Scutarii Advisory, Mr. Hilly Cookey-Gam’s conclusion underlined the prevalence of foreign interference and covert operations in today’s geopolitical scenario. Cookey-Gam pointed out that at times, influential nations are either indirectly or directly linked to coup attempts. He highlighted that these situations occur because of the fragmented response from the international community, as evident in recent coup endeavors.

In the end, however, the guest speakers who are renowned professionals and experts in their fields, all agreed that in the face of these challenges, it is essential to pursue locally crafted solutions. They stressed that while foreign interventions persist, regional organisations like ECOWAS must assert their influence and prioritize the interests of the African continent over those of external actors.

It is to this end, that the Geopolitics Series continues to serve as a vital platform for exploring global issues and their impact on Africa, fostering a deeper understanding of the continent’s evolving role in international affairs. According to the Convener, Senator Iroegbu, this underscores the urgency of addressing the root causes of conflicts to achieve lasting peace in Africa.

Rising coups call for revolutionary leadership in Africa

The resurgence of coup d’état incidents across Africa has drawn attention to the pressing need for revolutionary leadership in the continent. Recent events, including the coup in Gabon, just a month after a military takeover in the Niger Republic, and the two coups in Burkina Faso in 2022 as well as Mali, along with failed attempts in Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, and Sao Tome and Principe, underline the gravity of the situation.

Agnes John-Thomasi, the Station Manager of West Africa Democracy Radio, offered insights into this concerning trend. She reiterated that Africa’s persistent challenges, ranging from bad governance to corruption, economic hardships, and security threats, have created an environment conducive to military takeovers.

“The greed of leaders at the expense of the nation, politics marred by ethnicity and religion, the incessant disregard for the rule of law, economic hardship such as inflation, high unemployment rates, and poverty that is deeply affecting the majority of the populace are contributory factors leading to dissatisfaction with civilian governments,” she explained.

John-Thomasi opined that military takeovers are gradually gaining legitimacy in Africa owing to defaults in the system of government. She deplored the fact that most African countries report high levels of corruption and mismanagement of state resources and this, she noted, has eroded public trust in the supposed “government of the people by the people and for the people.”

She acknowledged that while coups may sometimes seem to gain civic support, they often undermine democracy and the rule of law. The perplexing support for coups in recent times begs the question of its underlying factors, which she suggests could be influenced by a variety of complex elements.

She said: “Consequently, it is evident that like in other regions, public support could be influenced by a complex mix of social, political, economic, and historical factors.”

“It is pertinent to state here that coups often undermine democratic principles and, in most cases, can lead to human rights abuses, total disregard for the rule of law, economic stagnation (because of sanctions that might follow), and instability in our countries. This notwithstanding, it is evident that there is civic support for coups most especially in recent times. Why is this so? This could be influenced by a variety of factors,” John-Thomasi argued.

Since 2013, Africa has witnessed over nine coups with four in West Africa (Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Niger), two in North Africa (Egypt and Sudan), two in Central Africa (Chad and Gabon), and one in Southern Africa (Zimbabwe). Image1 | Legit and mage2 | African Arguments

According to her, the resurgence of coup incidents serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for transformative and revolutionary leadership in Africa. She insisted that addressing the root causes of discontent, promoting good governance, and fostering economic stability are vital steps towards steering the continent away from the troubling cycle of coups and instability.

The Dakar, Senegal-based WADR Manager, noted that in addition to these factors, the suppression of press freedom and attacks on media institutions and journalists, who have the power to shape public opinion, have contributed to public discontent. The media professional also stressed the significance of accountability as a central issue driving these reactions to coups. Many feel that civilian leaders are shielded from the consequences of their actions, further fueling support for military intervention as a means of holding them accountable.

Also read | At 60, is AU fulfilling the vision of its founding fathers?

She concluded by pointing out the urgent need to proactively address governance issues in Africa, stating; “Coups can lead to disruptions to democratic processes, and long-term instability rather than bringing about the desired change. This is why there is an urgent need to look at the governance system in West Africa. This is why ECOWAS; AU and the international community should be active in checking the effectiveness of the governance structures and systems rather than rising after the damage is done.

The media executive stressed: “Fighting against coups should be a last resort, working on ensuring that the governments are accountable, elections are free and fair from campaigning to the ballot box and counting, term limits are respected and the socio-economic situation of the countries are growing and blooming is what these institutions should be working on amongst many others.”

“The greed of leaders at the expense of the nation, politics marred by ethnicity and religion, the incessant disregard for the rule of law, economic hardship such as inflation, high unemployment rates, and poverty that is deeply affecting the majority of the populace are contributory factors leading to dissatisfaction with civilian governments

Agnes John-Thomasi

Speaking, the President of the White Ink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER), Brig-Gen. Saleh Bala (rtd), echoed the sentiment that democracy is faltering due to the lack of accountability and transparency in civilian governments.

According to Bala “the only true guardians of democracy are the civilians, for the very essence of democratic philosophy grants them an exclusive mandate. “It is a paradox, yet a stark reminder that the worst form of civil democracy surpasses the best military rule, challenging our moral perceptions.

The military veteran urged the stakeholders to explore “deeper into the realm of morality and question the hierarchy of human life within the context of democracy, a concept deeply rooted in history since its ancient origins.”

He stressed that military interventions are, in some cases, viewed as checks against the actions of African leaders. However, he cautioned that as long as leaders in the region continue to act in certain ways, these interventions may lead to further chaos.

The former Chief of Infantry Corps, Nigeria Army noted: “…the responsibility for resolving a nation’s internal issues lies squarely within that nation’s borders, in compliance with international laws, protocols, and principles upheld by the international community. International organisations play a vital role in overseeing good governance, the rule of law, and human rights practices among their member states.

“We have heard of the AU Principle, which envisions the Council of the Wise and peer reviews, but we have yet to witness the presidents of nations taking action against abusive governance, extending presidential terms, and violating democratic principles within the continent. True civilian-led sovereign states must uphold constitutionality, and sanctions should be imposed when this isn’t achieved.”

PMCs: Navigating the role of stability and instability

The security landscape in West Africa has also played a pivotal role in driving support for military interventions. The region grapples with severe security challenges, including the presence of militant groups such as Boko Haram/ISIS in Nigeria, Al-Qaeda in the Sahel, Jama al Nasr al Islam Wal Muslimin (JNIM) in Mali, and branches of the Islamic State (IS) operating in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Additionally, armed rebel movements in northern Mali, like the Coordination of Azawad Movement (CMA), have further destabilised the region. The inability of civil governments to effectively combat terrorism has prompted many to turn to the military for solutions.

Historically, West Africa has witnessed a cycle of coups and counter-coups, often employed as tools to resolve conflicts or address governance issues. The struggle for leadership and attempts to cling to power beyond prescribed term limits have led to disillusionment among the populace, driving some to either rise or support military takeovers as an alternative.

L-R: Station Manager of West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR), Mrs. Agnes John-Thomasi; and President of the White Ink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER), Brig-Gen. Saleh Bala (rtd)

Speaking on the topic: “PMCs and Contemporary Conflicts: Actors of Stability or Instability,Maj-Gen. AK Bardalai (rtd), Distinguished Fellow at the United Service Institution of India (USI), explained the multifaceted roles played by PMCs in today’s conflicts.  Bardalai amplified the fact that PMCs have historically addressed security gaps in various countries, dating back to the 15th century.

He noted that PMCs serve a range of functions, from providing training and advisory services to offering logistical support, intelligence acquisition, static guarding, personal protection, and even participating in military operations independently or alongside host country security forces. However, Bardalai underscored a significant challenge: the absence of internationally accepted legislation to regulate PMCs due to the reluctance of both employing and providing states to establish such regulations. Consequently, the impact of PMCs on stability or instability hinges on their deployment.

Bardalai who was a former Infantry Commander and UN Military Observer in Angola, cited historical examples, such as Executive Outcomes’ (EO) involvement in Angola during the civil war and the utilisation of South African mercenaries by the Nigerian government to combat Boko Haram in 2014. African nations, he noted, including Nigeria, have continued to enlist PMCs for training and security purposes. Notable instances include collaborations with Starter Point Integrated Services (SPIS) and Israeli firm HLSI Security System and Technology Limited.

Despite their contributions, Bardalai stated that the PMCs face persistent allegations of human rights violations and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). These allegations often go unaddressed due to a lack of compelling evidence and a dearth of binding regulations compelling PMCs to adhere to established norms while operating in foreign territories. The military veteran highlighted instances of PMCs’ involvement in human rights violations in the Central African Republic (CAR), Angola, Sierra Leone, and Mali, bringing renewed global attention to the risks posed by unregulated PMCs.

One of the most notorious examples of PMCs misconduct is the Nassour Square massacre in Baghdad, perpetrated by Blackwater employees. This incident resulted in the death of 17 Iraqi civilians and injury to 20 others. Four Blackwater employees were convicted in the United States, only to be pardoned by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2020.

“We have heard of the AU Principle, which envisions the Council of the Wise and peer reviews, but we have yet to witness the presidents of nations taking action against abusive governance, extending presidential terms, and violating democratic principles within the continent. True civilian-led sovereign states must uphold constitutionality, and sanctions should be imposed when this isn’t achieved.”

Gen. Saleh Bala (rtd)

Bardalai concluded by arguing that while PMCs may contribute to stability in some cases, the odds are stacked against them being agents of stability. To change this equation, he called for the commitment of member states and the UN to achieving sustainable peace in conflict zones. Additionally, he said, host states must focus on security sector reform to reduce their reliance on PMCs. The international community should address these challenges proactively to preserve international peace and security.

“Despite any positive contributions on the part of the PMC to maintain stability, the odds are so heavy that the PMC is an actor more for instability and less for stability. This equation can change if member states, and the UN are serious in their commitment to find sustainable peace in the conflict zone. On the other hand, the host states with capacity gaps are committed to security sector reform, and a situation wherein the host states are forced to employ PMC would not arise. Since security sector reform is a sensitive subject and is seen as intrusive, it seems that the international community would continue to grapple with the challenges that face its core objective for some time,” said Bardalai who was the Deputy Head of the Mission and Deputy Force Commander in UNIFIL (Lebanon) from 2008 to 2010.

In the same vein, the Director-General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Nigeria, Dr. Joseph Ochogwu, offered valuable insights into the role of PMCs. He reinforced that PMCs operate with state support and are not independent entities. Ochogwu raised concerns about PMCs being employed not only for national security but also for regime protection and occasionally to undermine traditional state powers.

Also read | Rich in Resources-and Instability: Exploring Africa’s resource mismanagement and global power dynamics

Ochogwu differentiated between private security companies, which provide security services and protection, and private military companies, which engage in direct military combat. He noted that machine-terrorism activities, common in developing societies like Africa due to resource extraction issues, often involve PMCs.

He underscored the difficulty of convicting PMCs under international humanitarian law and laws of war due to their status as private entities. Consequently, they have become tools not only for state security but also for regime preservation and the erosion of traditional state powers. Ochogwu also highlighted that the limitations on the use of nuclear weapons have made PMCs an alternative tool for warfare.

Ochogwu pointed out that the governance deficit in Africa, with leaders attempting to maintain power contrary to democratic principles, reinforces the role of PMCs on the continent. He emphasised that these profit-driven private military companies generate revenue through mineral concessions granted by state authorities, whether legitimate or illegitimate, which often benefit their host countries. He called for Africa to find a way out of this dilemma by addressing both the resurgence of military coups and the expanding roles of PMCs.

“The excessive use of private military companies by bigger powers threatens the international system’s stability and security. Instead, we should prioritise strengthening state institutions and their military to safeguard nations, protect their people, and maintain sovereignty. Promoting private military companies undermines the relevance of states and leads to an anarchic international system, which would be detrimental to international organizations like the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, and other regional bodies,” he said.

In conclusion, Ochogwu stressed the need for PMC regulation to prevent a shift towards an anarchic world order and the diminishing relevance of state institutions. He underlined the importance of promoting state institutions and military forces to protect state sovereignty and cautioned against allowing PMCs to take center stage in international affairs. Instead, he advocated viewing PMCs through the lens of state actors, as they often act as hidden hands for more powerful states.

“Despite any positive contributions on the part of the PMC to maintain stability, the odds are so heavy that the PMC is an actor more for instability and less for stability. This equation can change if member states, and the UN are serious in their commitment to find sustainable peace in the conflict zone.

Gen. AK Bardalai (rtd)

He also highlighted that in some cases, more powerful states may indirectly or directly support coups, taking advantage of global geopolitical divisions and understanding that major powers may be unable to coordinate through IGOs to counter such actions effectively.

Complex nexus of PMCs, state actors, and global conflicts

The Founder of Scutarii Advisory, Mr. Hilly Cookey-Gam, delivered a thought-provoking discourse on the intricate interplay between PMCs, state actors, and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) in shaping contemporary global conflicts.

“PMCs cannot operate successfully without the support of a state actor. Rather than view the current spate of coups through the lens of mercenaries or private military companies, it is powerful state actors who utilised non-state actors to achieve strategic goals. IGOs are therefore ineffective in the age of great power conflict, and we should expect more of such events as the struggle over the international political and economic system intensifies in the months and years to come,” Cookey-Gam noted while making the under listed points.

Ambiguity of PMCs and mercenaries: Cookey-Gam commenced by addressing the ambiguity surrounding the classification of PMCs and mercenaries. He highlighted the challenge posed by the lack of operational success in curbing mercenary activities, primarily due to the absence of ratifications from Permanent UN Security Council Members, except for Italy. The central issue revolves around differentiating PMCs from mercenaries, a task made exceedingly difficult when scrutinising key aspects of the UN mercenary convention. He emphasised the complexity of establishing criminal liability, which necessitates proving that mercenaries are driven by financial gains substantially higher than those of regular soldiers and are not citizens, residents, or official representatives of the affected state.

State actors and PMC operations: Cookey-Gam delved into the symbiotic relationship between PMCs and state actors. He underscored that state actors wield significant influence over PMCs, as most of these private entities act on behalf of or in the interests of state actors. He further underlined that “most private military companies act on behalf of or in the interest of state actors.”  He cautioned that “PMCs that conduct operations independently of a powerful state actor are unlikely to do so successfully and risk being classified as a terrorist organisation by some or most states.”  This highlights the pivotal role state actors play in determining the actions and success of PMCs.

L-R: Director-General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Nigeria, Dr. Joseph Ochogwu; and Distinguished Fellow at the United Service Institution of India (USI), Maj-Gen. AK Bardalai (rtd)

The case of Wagner: The case of Wagner, a Russian PMC, was highlighted to illustrate the delicate balance between PMCs and state actors. Cookey-Gam noted how the Russian government intervened to curtail Wagner’s activities when its interests were at stake. This case serves as a testament to the capacity of state actors to assert control over PMC operations when their interests are jeopardised.

Successes and the lure of PMCs: Cookey-Gam acknowledged the efficiency and appeal of PMCs in accomplishing state actors’ objectives. He cited real-world examples, such as Executive Outcomes’ successful campaign against Boko Haram in Nigeria, to demonstrate how PMCs can swiftly and cost-effectively achieve missions aligned with state interests. He noted that “actors deploy PMCs for various reasons, including their capacity to deliver results efficiently”.

IGOs’ influence: Shifting his focus to intergovernmental organisations, Cookey-Gam referred to historical precedents, contending that these entities, “like the UN, the ECOWAS, and the South Africa Development Community (SADC) are less influential when great powers do not act in concert in support of resolutions and operations.” According to him, this historical perspective underlines the complexities faced by such organisations when powerful states pursue divergent interests.

Nuclear weapons and global conflict: Cookey-Gam challenged the conventional wisdom regarding the absence of a hot global war since World War II. He argued that the presence of nuclear weapons among great powers, rather than the actions of IGOs, is the primary reason for this absence. He suggested that “when a great power or a rising power or a group of powers challenge the international political system, it is near impossible for IGOs to exercise their powers or exert influence.”

Challenges to the international political system: Cookey-Gam highlighted significant challenges and transformations in the international political system, including the rise of the BRICS bloc and the use of national currencies in trade. The security expert cautioned against equating the current geopolitical landscape with the economic blocs and ideologies of the Cold War era. He invoked George Orwell’s concept of the “cold war” to describe a world divided among superpowers armed with formidable nuclear arsenals, leading to proxy wars and covert measures as they vie for influence.

Foreign interference and state actors: The intelligence analyst concluded by stressing that foreign interference and covert actions define today’s geopolitical landscape. He noted, “sometimes more powerful states are not indirectly or directly involved in coups.” Military leaders, he contends, capitalise on the divided international community’s inability to respond effectively. This situation, he argues, is evidenced by the recent spate of coups.

“Promoting private military companies undermines the relevance of states and leads to an anarchic international system, which would be detrimental to international organizations like the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, and other regional bodies,”

Dr. Joseph Ochogwu

In a nutshell, Cookey-Gam stressed that PMCs depend on state actor support for successful operations. He urged stakeholders to view the current wave of coups through the lens of powerful state actors, maintaining that IGOs have limitations in an era marked by great power conflicts. This perspective suggests the potential for more such events as global power dynamics continue to evolve.

Also read | Sudan Crisis: Security threats and implications for Nigeria and beyond

Unearthing complex causes of instability in the Sahel

Ibrahima Kane, AU Programme Policy Head at OSF Africa Senegal, shed light on the multifaceted causes behind the crises in the Sahel region, challenging the simplistic labeling of these conflicts as mere terrorism. Kane emphasised that historical inequalities, exacerbated by severe slavery in the region, contributed significantly to the unrest. Furthermore, he identified climate change and the struggle for control over natural resources as pivotal factors fueling conflict, exemplified by the herder-farmer clashes driven by competition for grazing land and water.

Kane lamented the media’s failure to accurately convey the complexities of the conflict and instability in the Sahel, which have persisted since 2010. He criticised both regional and continental institutions for not addressing these deep-seated inequalities. He also highlighted that elites in the region have skillfully garnered support from foreign nations, using PMCs to combat so-called terrorists who are, in reality, nationals seeking recognition.

Kane cautioned: “Characterising this situation as terrorism is oversimplified and can serve as a convenient label for states to garner Western support, including military aid. It’s fundamentally rooted in class and generational inequalities, particularly in a region where the majority is young, yet leadership skews much older, resulting in a conflicting relationship. Moreover, gender inequalities persist due to various factors like tradition and religion, notably in Islamic regions.”

Furthermore, he pointed out the challenges posed by Western countries involved in the fight against terrorism, particularly France. He argued that these Western nations have their agendas, often driven by resource interests. The recent crisis in Niger highlighted how foreign involvement is often more about safeguarding their interests, such as access to uranium, than protecting the Sahel nations.

Kane pointed out, “A significant part of the problem in the Sahel is the self-serving agendas of Western countries engaged in the fight against terrorism. The French presence in the region, for example, isn’t primarily about protecting Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger; it is about safeguarding their interests, particularly in controlling access to resources like uranium and thwarting other nations, including China, from gaining access to these valuable assets. This highlights the complex motivations underlying external interventions in the region.”

In advocating for local solutions, Kane who is a renowned rights activist, stressed the importance of strategies crafted within African countries to address the region’s specific challenges. He commended ECOWAS for its recent interventions but cautioned against heavy involvement by Western powers, as their interests may not align with the region’s needs. He rather argued that regional organisations like ECOWAS should defend the interests of the Sahel region and accentuate solutions designed by and for African nations.

“PMCs cannot operate successfully without the support of a state actor. Rather than view the current spate of coups through the lens of mercenaries or private military companies, it is powerful state actors who utilised non-state actors to achieve strategic goals. IGOs are therefore ineffective in the age of great power conflict, and we should expect more of such events as the struggle over the international political and economic system intensifies in the months and years to come.”

Hilly Cookey-Gam

In his closing remarks, the senior lawyer maintained that addressing the root causes of Sahel conflicts, such as inequality and agrarian issues, is essential for restoring peace in the region. He highlighted the futility of solely relying on military interventions without addressing these fundamental issues.

Key Takeaways and Recommendations

The Sahel instability tooted in inequality: The crises in the Sahel, often labeled as terrorism, are deeply rooted in historical inequalities, including severe slavery, climate change, and competition for natural resources, leading to conflicts such as herder-farmer disputes. It is essential to recognise the underlying causes beyond terrorism to address these complex challenges effectively.

Foreign interference in geopolitical conflicts: Foreign powers’ interests often drive their involvement in conflicts, sometimes creating further complexities. A prime example is the West Africa and Sahel, where Western nations like France pursue resource protection and geopolitical interests under the guise of counterterrorism efforts. This underscores the need for transparency and clarity in international interventions.

Local solutions and the role of ECOWAS: Rather than relying on foreign interventions, the importance of locally crafted solutions cannot be overstated. ECOWAS has taken a step toward revising its Sahel strategy, and it should play a more active role in resolving regional conflicts. To be effective, international organisations like the ECOWAS and African Union must assert their independence from powerful external actors.

L-R: Founder of Scutarii Advisory, Mr. Hilly Cookey-Gam; and AU Programme Policy Head at OSF Africa Senegal, Ibrahima Kane

PMCs and accountability: The use of PMCs in conflicts highlights the complex nature of these entities and the need for international regulation. The absence of such regulation allows PMCs to play both stabilising and destabilising roles in conflicts. Developing a framework for regulating PMCs’ operations and ensuring their adherence to international norms is crucial.

Challenges of IGOs: Intergovernmental organisations, like the UN, AU and ECOWAS, are limited in their effectiveness when powerful states do not act collectively in support of resolutions and operations. This presents significant challenges for IGOs in addressing global conflicts and maintaining international peace and security.

Addressing root causes of conflict: To achieve long-term peace, addressing root causes such as inequality, agrarian issues, and generational divides in African states, especially West Africa and the Sahel region is crucial. Reforms and solutions must go beyond military actions and extend to socioeconomic and political areas.

“A significant part of the problem in the Sahel is the self-serving agendas of Western countries engaged in the fight against terrorism. The French presence in the region, for example, isn’t primarily about protecting Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger; it is about safeguarding their interests, particularly in controlling access to resources like uranium and thwarting other nations, including China, from gaining access to these valuable assets.”

Ibrahima Kane

Relevance of state institutions: The significance of state institutions and military forces in maintaining global order cannot be understated. Promoting the growth and efficacy of state institutions and military structures is essential to protect sovereignty and uphold international stability.

Reevaluating the role of democracy: The prevailing understanding of democracy needs to evolve to accommodate the realities of different nations’ needs and contexts. A reevaluation of the democratic philosophy is vital, considering the balance between civil and military governance.

Also read | IPCR, Geopolitics Series to partner on global peace, security, and development

Conclusion

Geopolitics Series 3.0 highlighted the need to address the root causes of conflicts, including inequality and agrarian issues in the West Africa and Sahel region, and the importance of local solutions over foreign interventions. The influence of powerful states in conflicts and the complex role of PMCs raised concerns about the need for international regulation in this area. The effectiveness of inter-governmental organisations also requires collective action from powerful states. Additionally, the role of state institutions in preserving international peace and the evolution of democratic philosophies were amplified throughout the discussions. These takeaways and recommendations serve as a guide for addressing the challenges of resurgent coups, PMCs, and the eroding influence of IGOs on the global stage.

L-R: Convener, Geopolitics Series, Senator Iroegbu; and Co-convener, Geopolitics, Ayanda Ngwane

These aligned with the vision, mission, aims, and objectives of the Geopolitical Series as a vital platform for exploring global issues and fostering forward-looking perspectives, with a particular focus on Africa. This edition explored the intricate dynamics of geopolitical shifts and their impact on peace, security, economy, governance, and development in an African context.

“In the first two editions, we interrogated the African Union’s six-decade journey and investigated resource mismanagement in Africa. With this third edition, we examined the resurgent coups in Africa, exposing their dynamics within an ever-evolving geopolitical landscape, showcasing the intricate interactions of states and non-state actors,” explained the Geopolitics Series Convener, Senator Iroegbu. This is as the Co-convener, Ms. Ayanda Ngwane informed the participants that the forthcoming edition will be a postmortem of the 2023 BRICS and G-20 Summits and the place of Africa.

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