IFI governance


Coup d’états and political instability: The roles of national, regional, and international actors

12 October 2022 | Minutes

Organizer: Search for Common Ground 


  • Allassane Drabo, Regional Director, West Africa (Search for Common Ground) 


  • Hugues Martial Penda Ngbemboua, African Union 
  • Mamoudou Savadogo, Specialist in the Management of Risks, Consultant on Violent Extremism (Université Gaston Berger) 
  • Abdoulaye Seydou, Réseau Panafricain pour la Paix, la Démocratie et le Développement (REPPAD) 
  • Fatima Al Ansar, Founder (Tilwate Peace Network) 
  • Vikram Raghavan, Lead Counsel, Operations Policy, World Bank 


Allassane Drabo:

SCG has a Sub-Saharan African focus, it is the largest peacebuilding operation. It aims to: 

  1. Explore the role of WB and other orgs vis-a-vis responding to coups. 
  2. Risks of providing and not providing aid. 
  3. Recommendations from CSOs on how to navigate that space. 

Hugues Martial Penda Ngbemboua: 

We can look at Burkino Faso, changes were carried out in difficult contexts with a strong terrorist context rooted in Sahel region. The main challenges include governance and security issues. In Guinea there is a social and political crisis. In West Africa, these coups have often been supported by CSOs, youth, etc, who do not recognise themselves in the elected governments. 

Regulation mechanisms are important, but solutions are needed to prevent these phenomena. The second issue is an awareness of this phenomenon, and the changes that have taken place. On the national level, constitutional and nationalist movements are weak because of a weak balance of powers. Freedom and liberty and justice have to be respected. The difficulties of development have given rise to the frustration that has led to coups. 

Ecowas is an important regional actor. There is also another mechanism to regulate – the African Charter on Democracy. All of this adds on to the constitution, and this gives the AU the power to intervene diplomatically to reinforce its security. We have seen this is not enough to prevent coups, the sanctions have not been adapted. 

In Benin, should we defend the legal aspect of the transition, because it stems from a coup? Very little effectiveness and sometimes a selective effectiveness of the reports that have been adopted. The ECOWAS and AU principle of subsidiarity makes it difficult to work on these issues. 

A paradigm shift is needed to prevent coups on the continent. We need norms, safeguards etc on the ground that converge. We need to take into account the needs expressed by the youth. Today, we think in terms of security first, then elections. This is what we did in Mali and Burkina Faso. 

But we need to go beyond the micro-projects that focus on the youth, and instead look at the millions who are politically relevant. We also need to give meaning to early warning systems at a regional and continental level. There is a flow of information, but sometimes information is lost. Governments need to be more effective with the rule of law in the context of anti constitutional change. 

In Burkina Fasso, there was a 2022 consultation with the World Bank Group after a coup; we need to investigate this cooperation. Also we need a debate on aid in times of peace, and also an idea about strengthening cooperation between finance organisations, CSOs, etc. We need to improve public governance, also for the armed forces and within the armed forces. 

Fatima Al Ansar:

There is a focus on Mali, the conflict in Mali is multidimensional, so the solution is complex. There is drug trafficking in Mali in the north, the drug network extends to Europe. Terrorism and organised crime are also in the north; there is also the MLA movement of secession for indepedence since Mali’s independence. This goes back to French colonial policies as well. 70 percent of the youth are unemployed; 65 percent of the population are under 25. There is a general lack of access to education. More than 519 schools have been closed because of conflict, and this impact is increasing. The number of internally displaced are increasing, so far there are 326,000. 45 percent live under the poverty line. There is nepotism, and a lack of accountability. There were coups in 1968, 1991, 2012, 2022. Qaddhafi’s collapse empowered independence movements, it gave them arms as a spillover from Libya. Sanctions on the regime after the coup d’etat. We didn’t ask what caused the coup? 

There are experiments with new approaches to conflict resolution. After 2012, there was international intervention in conflict resolution. In 2013, elections were imposed on Mali by the international community without resolving the underlying problems. In 2019, there were tribal/terrorist attacks and ethnic violence. 175 people were killed. Malian civil society took to streets, they criticised steps taken to resolve the situation (for instance why the French military presence without any visible result?) 

The role of the int community should be to restore peace and security. International organisations are stepping back, because of the coups and violence… but this makes Mali less governable. They need to take civil society into account. 

Terrorist attacks in Mali are increasing. The WBG is working on education, health, etc in Mali… but must review its paradigm of not intervening in the security sector and politics… eg: conflict over poorly managed water resources led to clashes between farmers and herders and this has a political/ethnic dimension. 

In 2019, Imam Ziko mobilised the population and the military. People are looking for a solution. The social contract needs to be renewed. The international community could try to renew the social contract, an inclusive one. The WBG needs to stay engaged, especially with citizens and governance, to help citizens stay engaged with peaceful political processes. It must invest in youth employment. High youth unemployment makes terrorist recruitment easier, and makes their anti-establishment message stronger. Eg: building a school in North Mali, but comments from elders, was that neighbours won’t come… this tension between neighbouring groups dates to colonial times. Sustainable peace needs a viable state and viable livelihoods. 

Abdoulaye Seydou:

injustice, bad governance and dictatorship are responsible for the current situation. These people are often elected in very challenged election processes, and run highly politicised administrations… all these are used to justify the coups d’etat. 

Why does this situation appear? Though there are mechanisms to protect democracy and the rule of law. In most cases, international organisations are indifferent and don’t act on violations of human rights and bad governance, and that’s why populations can only yield to the coup d’etat. This is a violation of democracy, but in many cases many parts of a population support the coups. We must think about this before looking for a solution. 

If we only change the head of state, this practice will persist. There will be ongoing violations of human rights, etc. Social and economic rights are neglected because of the government. We have to make sure the intervention of CSOs is aligned with real needs… access to drinking water, food, health. Fiscal resources are usually diverted. 

There have to be dialogues to hold those with power accountable. The role of the authorities in Niger today… We are in a fragile situation because there was a lot of challenges to the election process. Society in Niger is very fragile. The results of elections are highly disputed. We have to appease the political climate. 

We need a candid dialogue between political and civil society actors. It is difficult to respect laws and rights. Non civilian regimes establish a lack of freedom and justice is totally biased, There is no transparency when this type of system is set up and all mechanisms to allow the population to express itself are stifled. 

It is important to prevent rather than cure, to ensure there is proper governance, by the people, for the people; and that public policies take into account the difficulties of the population. 

Infrastructure development, etc, and the population’s concerns must be taken into account. These measures should support populations, not regimes. Public policy and development programmes must be aligned with the population’s needs. Today we have more civic-based regimes, democratic regimes based on the rule of law, civic-based regimes based on elections. This governments sometimes destroy pillars of civic governance, and some think just in terms of a coup to address their own particular grievances. Public policies are not aligned to the needs of the people. Often the size and demands of the opposition are marginalised. 


The coups are a consequence of the failure of the governments of these countries. 

Vikram (WBG): 

Look at the Bank’s mandate, history and evolution. The Bank has had to face coups and instability from the 1950s, even before creation of IDA in the 1960s. Nasser’s coup, Pakistan, the Bank formulated its policies to these coups from earliest days. 

The Bank was originally for reconstruction and development, it was faced with the reality that the world is messy and the Bank has to deal with these issues. Practical judgements had to be made. 

And the Bank’s overriding legal framework, the articles of agreement (its charter) are clear. 18 out of 19 development banks, their articles of agreement specify they should be non-political and not interfere in the affairs of member countries. The Bank must not be influenced by its attitude to the politics of states, they must be economic in the basis of their decisions. 

OP730 (operations policy) read together with the Bank’s policy on development and instability – the FCV policy – these two policies guide the Bank’s practical responses. These cover most number of cases where policies have been triggered in cases of political instability. Simply put, the FCV framework for bank engagement has two interesting principles: 1 FCV policy has a strong emphasis on country ownership… but who is that? The government? The people? CSOs? 

But the Bank must remain engaged, the IDA window, its FCV strategy, the Bank must work to mitigate spillovers, particularly on the most vulnerable. These cases are instructive. Policy also calls on the Bank to act nimbly. Its portfolio must be calibrated to respond effectively to these shocks. 

OP730 provides a framework for how decisions must be made. The bank must remember it is not an international institution. It can’t be in the business of recognising governments. The de facto government is defined as getting into power but by unconstitutional means. This is not a judgement call, but a straight recognition of reality. 

The overriding principle is no political intervention! Should the Bank pause its investments? Watch what is happening? How long this pause should be is not stated. Also the Bank halts new financing, it can’t disburse money in an uncertain situation. Specific criteria determine the lifting of the pause. This includes de facto government having effective control, and whether it will honour its previous arrangements. Is there an adequate framework for projects to be carried out? Can projects continue? Other criteria, OP730 and Bank procedure 730 are considered for the resumption of operations after a political shock. 

If the Bank determines that no govt is in power, and sometimes that is not clear, for instance when there is contestation for the capital, that poses problems. The bank’s policies for 25 years, and in its new FCV policy, the Bank may provide assistance to a country at the request of the international community with approval of the Bank board. This is the basis of Bank involvement in Yemen, when it was ruled that no government was in power. This has been the model for the Bank that has served the most vulnerable. The Yemen case is an operational judgement. There is the question of membership and attendance at annuals: who takes Yemen’s seat? This is determined by the article’s non-interference clause. Membership depends on recognition of the other members, so the bank looks at what other members think. 

A pause in disbursements doesn’t mean a project is on hold, but the project is not ended. Legal arrangements are still in force. Project teams can still work with the Bank, even if there is a funding pause. This can also include third parties. 

So the question is what can the Bank do with third parties? In Yemen, there is no de facto government operationally, but projects are not paused. This is an extreme situation, but can it be applied in other cases? 


The military have governed Burkina Faso for 56 years, which explains the number of coups.  The symptoms of the pathology of democracy and its institutions have all been clearly indicated for a while now. 

There is an illness of democracy… a social, political and economic deterioration. The main challenge is the legitimacy of the leadership, we don’t have legitimate leadership. Some of the population doesn’t recognise its representation. There is no way to prevent the coups, the governance crisis, and the security issue is something the country isn’t prepared for. There is a lack of resilience and strong institutions that prevent an effective response. The international community must stop helping militaries that are in power, it must use targeted sanctions to punish those who take power illegitimately. Army personnel must be replaced and links with politicians must be replaced, and it must be made apolitical. 


Questions & Answers:

Fatima: How can we improve governance? How can we improve civil engagement, consultation, and discuss with youth instead of imposing a model… and create a dialogue with civil society and govt? There is a gap in leadership from religious leaders. We need a dialogue, a new social contract. Governance must be tailored for each country, not a one size fits all approach. 

Allassane: The African diaspora can lead on education and outreach to influential groups. They can use their influence to make sure communities are being heard. There is a lot of appetite to continue this conversation.