By Paul Mamattah
Since Mali’s military took over in August 2020, several neighbouring countries have seen a similar pattern emerge. Elected officials are overthrown amid growing dissatisfaction with the political regime, which is often accused of corruption and failing to fend off Islamic extremist groups operating in the region.
Recent political developments in West Africa have showcased a disturbing pattern of escalating corruption, exacerbating the existing security challenges in the sub-region. The seemingly coordinated coups in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have raised concerns about the fragility of democratic processes and the potential for further instability.
On July 28, 2023, the head of Niger’s Presidential guard, General AbdourahmaneTchiani, declared himself head of state after the military seized power tooverthrow President Mohamed Bazoum’s government which marks the fourth coup the country has experienced since gaining independence in 1960.
This state capture by the militaryshocked the country’s political landscape in Niger and the entire West African sub-region. The assailants, believed to be disgruntled military officers, stormed the capital city, Niamey to overthrow the government. This incident has heightened fears over the country’s vulnerability to power struggles and illicit activities linked to corruption.
The military coup led by Colonel AssimiGoita resulted in the removal of President Mohamed Bazoum and was fueled in part by the population’s frustration with widespread corruption that has plagued the country for years. Despite being rich in natural resources, Niger has struggled to translate its wealth into improved living conditions for its citizens due to systematic embezzlement, bribery, and mismanagement.
Similarly, Mali has experienced two military coups within the past year, with the most recent one occurring in May 2023. These coups were triggered, in part, by public outrage over the rampant corruption among the political elite and the perceived failure of the government to address pressing issues such as poverty alleviation and security challenges.
In Burkina Faso, the country is battling Islamist extremism and internal instability, corruption has contributed to the erosion of trust in the government’s ability to effectively address the root causes of these challenges. The ongoing violence and political unrest in the country have created an environment where corruption can easily flourish, undermining the efforts to restore stability and ensuring the challenges persist.
Corruption in West Africa not only undermines the socio-economic development of nations but fuels insecurity and political unrest. The diversion of public funds meant for essential services, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure, robs citizens of much-needed resources. Instead, these funds end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials, perpetuating a cycle of poverty, inequality, and social discontent.
Moreover, the security implications of these political crises should not be underestimated. Instability in one country has the potential to spill over into neighboring nations, exacerbated by transnational criminal networks, smuggling routes, and the proliferation of illicit weapons. The existing security challenges in the Sahel region, such as terrorism, organized crime, and intercommunal violence, are aggravated by weak governance and corruption.
To address these critical issues, West African Heads of State must prioritize the fight against corruption by implementing comprehensive reforms. This includes strengthening institutions responsible for oversight and enforcement, promoting transparency in public procurement processes, and ensuring the swift prosecution of corrupt individuals. Additionally, regional cooperation and collaboration efforts should be strengthened to share best practices and support anti-corruption initiatives collectively.
In conclusion, the string of coups in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso underscores the pressing need to tackle escalating corruption as a significant security threat in West Africa. Effectively addressing this challenge requires a comprehensive approach that integrates political, economic, and security measures. Failure to do so would risk perpetuating the cycle of instability and hindering the region’s development aspirations.