Coups!

I’m following a class at Harvard, on The Governance and International Politics of World Regions. I have to write a number of articles for this course, each connected to a particular class, also meaning each connected to a particular region. 
I had been keen on writing a response to the readings on Africa, but before that, the class on the Middle East demanded I put some thoughts on paper. Somewhat thankfully, the readings on Africa turned out to be primarily focused on the AU, meaning I didn’t think them that arousing.

But, as I also had to write a final, longer, paper, and because particularly West Africa, but not only West Africa, has been seeing a large number of coups in a short period of time, I decided that that was a worthy line of investigation to take for this final paper.

The text below looks at the recent series of coups in Africa, as well as some recent elections, and what outside forces, if any, are orchestrating, or involved in, these events, or their aftermaths.

Background

Already, the 2020s have seen a large number of coups, and coup attempts, in Africa; nine at the last count, and many in short succession. U.N. chief Antonio Guterres referenced this spate of coups, calling it, in late 2021, “an epidemic of coup d’états”.

Nevertheless, the 2010s also saw a good number of coups and attempts in Africa, 25 total, though these included those sparked by the Arab spring, and its aftermath.

The western mainstream media has reported that several of the coup leaders were trained by US forces. Specifically, Damiba, Goita, and Doumbouya, of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, respectively. This made me wonder whether the US is, once again, exerting clandestine influence in the global south, through the installation, or facilitation, of autocrats favourable to its policies.
There is plenty of historical precedent for this, while, more recently, with the removal of Imran Khan as president of Pakistan, there is also contemporary suggestive evidence for ongoing radical US involvement in foreign politics, at the highest level.
To my knowledge, there is no broad comparative analysis of the contexts of the recent coups, and attempts, in Africa.

International politics can change rapidly, brought home by, in just the last 12 months alone, the US withdrawing from Afghanistan, the introduction of the AUKUS deal, and Russia invading Ukraine.
So, it’s not straightforward to determine a reasonable cutoff date for what coups, and attempts, should be included in this analysis for a better understanding of the current situation. A reasonable ‘low end’ could be el-Sisi’s election in 2014, following the military coup he was involved in, in 2013, as a mark of a kind-of normalisation of (north-)African politics. 2014 also saw two attempted coups in Libya, as well as attempted coups in Lesotho, and Gambia. Libya saw another attempted coup in 2016, while 2015 saw attempted coups in Burundi and Burkina Faso. 

I decided for a cutoff in 2017. This results in a 5-year timespan from today, starting with the successful coup in Zimbabwe in 2017, the first successful African coup since Egypt in 2013. 

In my research, I found that outside influence was also present in at least two elections. The first following the coup in Zimbabwe, the other the Madagascar elections in 2018. As a consequence, I chose to include Madagascar in the list of analyses for this paper.

Coups in Africa

I was hoping to identify indicators for foreign involvement, even though suggestive evidence of foreign involvements in African politics in the last few decades shows influence is often fairly low key, opportunistic, and facilitated by comparatively small budgets and fairly low stakes. An excellent example of this is the well-documented failed coup in 2004 in Equatorial Guinea, partially funded by the son of Margaret Thatcher, Mark Thatcher.

Coups in more detail

To my knowledge, very little academic research exists on the background of these recent coups. So, I’ve tried to synthesise contemporary journalistic resources. For each coup, or attempt, to the extent possible, I provide background and context, after which I try to analyse whether indications exist for outside influence. I close with attempting to draw overarching conclusions for foreign influence in these coups, and coup attempts, in the countries investigated for this paper.

I look at these events in reverse chronological order.

2022 Guinea-Bissau coup attempt

A coup d’état was attempted in Guinea-Bissau on 1 February 2022. After only a few hours, president Umaro Sissoco Embaló declared the coup over, stating the attempt may have been linked to drug trade and was also an assassination attempt: “It wasn’t just a coup. It was an attempt to kill the president, the prime minister and all the cabinet.” He went on to say that the army was not involved.

Drug trafficking is a major challenge in Guinea-Bissau, and in the 2000s, the country became known as a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe. Western governments believe members of the country’s military are complicit in the drug trade.

Embaló, a former army general, compares himself to Lee Kuan Yew and Rodrigo Duterte, and was educated in Lisbon and Madrid, and studied in Brussels, Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Japan, and Paris. In the 2019 elections, Embaló came in second in the first round for the presidential vote, but won in the second round. The results were contested by the runner-up, Domingos Simões Pereira, after which Embaló organized his own swearing-in ceremony to announce himself as president of the country. The prime minister accused Embaló of arranging a coup, but the outgoing president stepped down, effectively recognising the transition of power.

Before the elections, Embaló split off from the party he had been a member off, to effectively run against his former allies.

A few days after the coup, Embaló said three soldiers who were arrested by U.S. drug authorities in a 2013 sting operation and pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking, had been detained in connection with the attempted coup.
Though the details are contested, most people in the country’s capital believe the five-hour gun battle, the coup attempt, was, in one way or another, tied to narcotics and the drug trade.

Analysis

No background information is available on those who attempted the coup. There appears to be a reasonably firm consensus the attempted coup was connected to players in the drug trade. There’s no documented indication that outside political actors played a role.

2022 Burkina Faso coup

The coup d’état against President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré on January 23 was led by military officer Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who is now interim president of Burkina Faso. This followed a planned coup in August 2021, and a thwarted coup in early January.

Damiba graduated from the École Militaire in Paris. He holds a master’s degree in criminology from the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers in Paris, and a defense expert certification in management, command and strategy. In 2015, he declined to support a coup attempt which failed after 7 days.

Damiba took part in “numerous” American military courses and exercises between 2010 and 2020, and, according to a spokesperson for US Africa command, received instruction on the law of armed conflict, civilian control, and respect for human rights. After the coup, supporters of Damiba called for Russia to step in, and, earlier, Damiba himself had asked the now ousted president to call in Wagner, Russian mercenaries, twice, which Kaboré, the president, had declined.

Damiba has close ties with army colonels Assimi Goita and Mamady Doumbouya, the military rulers of Mali and Guinea respectively, both of whom seized power from civilians leaders in their countries in 2021 (see below). Damiba, Goita and Mamady participated in the same US-led military exercise ‘Flintlock’, an annual special operations exercise hosted by the US, in Burkina Faso.

Damiba’s relationship with Doumbouya dates back to 2017 when both men attended training at the École Militaire in Paris.

In March, a coalition of over 100 (or 72, depending on the source) “pan-Africanist” civil society organisations, which had formed after the coup, demonstrated and collectively asked the new government to ask Russia to step in; secretary general of the coalition of organisations, Somaila Nana, said “the authorities must diversify their partners in this fight against terrorism by allying themselves with countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea”.
At the demonstration, dozens of Russian flags were waved about.

Analysis

The connection between Damiba, Goita, and Mamady, and their military training under US direction, is suspicious. Yet, notwithstanding potential ‘4D chess’ played by the Americans, Damiba’s request for his former president to call in Wagner would fly in the face of US interests, suggesting that a connection between the US and Damiba is weak, if anything but opportunistic on Damiba’s side.

The rapid establishment of a very broad coalition of civil society organisations is very suspect. Their calling for Russian intervention, as well as their waving of numerous large Russian flags, feels like their actions and resources are funded by outside forces.

Related:  Tourists in Delft

2021/19 Sudan coup

Before Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a coup on 11 April 2019, he had called in the help of Yevgeny Prigozhin, “Putin’s chef”, to spread misinformation on social media, supposedly with the objective to protect Prigozhin and the Kremlin’s interests in Sudan, and to keep al-Bashir in power, supplying private contractors in return for commercial concessions.

After the coup, as part of a civilian-military power-sharing-deal, Abdallah Hamdok, a civilian politician, governed the country (supposedly to prepare a transition towards free and fair elections).

Hamdok was kidnapped in another coup in 2021, after being arrested by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, but was soon released, and reinstated as prime minister, only to resign in early 2022. Hamdok has a doctorate from the University of Manchester, and has had a career as a diplomat in several African institutions.

The second coup happened hours after Jeffrey Feltman, the US’ top regional envoy, had left the country, trying to dissuade the military leadership from seizing power, in the wake of Trump removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Al-Burhan has ties with Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. He studied in Jordan and Cairo, in the latter at the same institution as Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with Al-Burhan and el-Sisi being longstanding friends. Al-Burhan had been stationed as an attache in Beijing, and played prominent roles in South Sudan, Darfur, and Yemen, while describing Saudi Arabia as an ‘eternal ally’. Al-Burhan is considered “Egypt’s man”, where Al-Burhan’s co-conspirer,  Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo ( known as Hemeti) is closer to Saudi Arabia, with access to the profits of gold mines in Darfur.

In Yemen, Al-Burhan oversaw Sudanese fighters, operating on Saudi Arabia’s behalf. He’s involved in normalising ties with Israel, meeting Netanyahu in February 2020, which was followed by a call from Secretary of State??? Mike Pompeo, where Pompeo thanked Al-Burhan “for his leadership in normalizing ties with Israel”. Both Al-Burhan and Hemeti have a troubling record in violating human rights in the areas they operate in.

Some analysts suggests that Al-Burhan is worried that putting al-Bashir on trial will expose his own roles in the last few decades.

Analysis

A picture emerges where a number of external political actors are jostling for influence, mostly through opportunistic connections. Russia was more closely involved with al-Bashir. The US jockeys for influence, but seems to play second fiddle to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where the current Sudanese leaders have stronger connections.

2021 Guinea coup

On September 5, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya seized power from Alpha Conde. Doumbouya had attended the Ecole de Guerre in Paris in 2017-18, trained in Israel and Senegal, is a former member of the French Foreign Legion, serving in Afghanistan and Ivory Coast, and received training from the U.S. and in Israel, before being handpicked in 2018 by Conde to lead the nation’s elite military unit.
In 2019, Doumbouya participated in the U.S.-led military exercise, ‘Flintlock’, in Burkina Faso, with Assimi Goita, the man who led the Malian military coup in August 2020, and Damiba, of Burkina Faso, above.  Doumbouya stated that, at Flintlock, “We learnt from each other”.
More salient, Doumbouya, and fellow officers, were being trained by US green berets, on the border with Sierra Leone, when they ‘skipped class’ to stage a coup.
He’s a French citizen. He’s been looking towards Russia for military support.

Guinea is a major exporter of bauxite, used to produce aluminium, and the biggest bauxite exporter to China. Of the two largest bauxite producers, one is a joint venture with a Chinese company, which is the largest aluminium producer in the world. The other is co-owned by the Guinean government, Alcoa, and Rio Tinto.

Before the coup, a former Russian ambassador who praised the country’s then-president, backing a constitutional change to allow the president to run for a third term, was named head of a major Russian aluminum company, in Guinea.

Analysis

As with Burkina Faso, above, the American connection is suspect, specifically because of Doumbouya’s ‘skipping class’ during military exercises.

However, Doumbouya’s interest in involving Russian support, as well as Chinese and Russian economic interests and influence, paints a picture where multiple political actors are looking for opportunities to increase their political and economic influence, one way or the other.

2021 Chad soft coup

After three decades of rule, president Idriss Déby, trained as a pilot in France, and supported by France and the US, died of wounds sustained in a battle with rebels allegedly trying to overthrow his government in April 2021. Quickly, and unconstitutionally, his son, who briefly trained at a military school in France, and worked closely with French troops in 2013/14, was installed as the head of a transitionary military council, in preparation for elections in late 2022. This was followed, in late April, by installing a Déby ally Albert Pahimi Padacke as prime minister of a transitional government.

Upon his death, Macron called Déby a ‘couragous friend’, despite numerous human rights violations. Analysts say it appears his death was a “self-inflicted error by France”; The rebels accused of killing Déby are based in Libya’s south, under Khalifa Hifter (or Haftar) who has received French, US, and Russian support in the past. The US has hosted counterterrorism exercises in Chad drawing in up to 2000 participants, both African and western.

Between 2005 and 2019, Timan Erdimi, the (former) president’s nephew, oversaw multiple incursions, from Libya, into Chad, making it to the capital in 2008 and 2009.  Erdimi has been supported by Sudan in the past, which supported Déby, and Erdimi and his twin brother, when they first took control of the country in 1990.

Erdimi, living in Qatar, talked to Wagner, to start a rebellion to overthrow the current transitional government. Wagner is also supporting the interim president of the country. Erdimi’s brother, now MIA, was based in the US for a period, where he is said to have received some support from American players, particularly operating in oil extraction.

Analysis

The events in Chad seem, in part, a consequence of France’s desire to decrease its responsibilities in its former colonies, with other players looking for opportunities to fill the gaps that open up.

It’s probable that, via Sudan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are looking to extend their influence, but, at the moment, the best cards seem to be held by the Russians, through Wagner.

2021 Niger coup attempt

On 31 March, 2 days before the planned inauguration of the newly elected president Mohamed Bazoum, Sani Saley Gourouza attempted to stage a coup. Gourouza was captured in Benin in April, and handed over to Nigerien authorities.

Gourouza was a minor figure in Niger’s armed forces.

Bazoum is a sunni muslim, and has filled prominent political positions since 1991, when he served as Secretary of State for Cooperation.

Niger’s most important export is uranium.

The previous president, Mahamadou Issoufou, had completed the constitutional limit of two presidential terms (and received the Ibrahim Prize shortly after leaving office). The Economist at one point described Issoufou as a ‘staunch ally of the west’.

Bazoum’s opponent was Mahamane Ousmane, a former president, who was deposed in a military coup in 1996.

Turkey has a, seemingly small, strategic interest in Niger, particularly around Niger acquiring Turkish weapons.

Analysis

There appears to be practically no information on details of who played a role in this coup attempt.

2021/0 Mali coup

Assimi Goïta emerged on Aug. 18, 2020, when he teamed up with Russian-trained army colonels Malick Diaw and Sadio Camara, training which was sponsored by the Russian armed forces, launching a coup against elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, following weeks of mass protests over perceived corruption. 

A month later, he set up a transitional government with himself as vice president, but he seized power again in May 2021 after accusing the president, Bah N’Daou, a retired military officer and former defence minister, who was appointed in October of 2020, of failing to consult him regarding a cabinet reshuffle. 

Goita invited the Wagner Group to take an increasingly prominent role in the country. Oumar Cissé, a Malian peace campaigner said that “Russia has no interest in Malian politics unlike France, which manages the conflict according to its economic and political interests”, pointing to a more widely held belief that, because Russia is only being hired for their services, they can be trusted more than the French.

Analysis

The invitation of Wagner, by Goita, seems to dovetail with Mamady’s and Damiba’s actions following this coup. Russia’s involvement seems to be primarily ad-hoc, or, reactive, even if, from a Russian perspective, promising.

2020/13 CAR coup and elections

The country has been embroiled in civil unrest since President François Bozizé was overthrown in 2013. Faustin-Archange Touadéra, in power since a 2016 election, had struggled to defeat rebel forces despite the presence of French troops and a UN force, and the CAR government believes the Russian mercenaries, now also stationed in the country, have had more success. 

Touadéra studied in Bangui and Abidjan, receiving doctorates in France and Cameroon. After Touadéra was sworn in for his first term, France confirmed that it would end its military intervention in the country and France withdrew its forces in 2016.

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Wagner is believed to have started working in the CAR in 2017, after the UN Security Council approved a Russian training mission there and lifted the arms embargo imposed in 2013.

In 2017, Touadéra travelled to Russia, to request for military support, in exchange for access to the CAR’s significant deposits of diamonds, gold and uranium. He met with Russia’s foreign minister, Lavrov, and signed a military cooperation agreement. Specifically, Touadéra involved Russia to wrest control of its diamond trade from rebels, and Russians have struck deals with the government to mine diamonds.

Elections were held in the Central African Republic (CAR) on 27 December 2020 to elect the President and National Assembly. Voting was not able to take place in many areas of the country that are controlled by armed groups, resulting in 14% of the polling stations not opening. President Touadéra won reelection with 54% of the vote.

Before the election, Facebook suspended 500 troll accounts associated with both Russian and French authorities.

In March 2018, Wagner sent 170 advisors to the CAR to train government forces, and to provide a security detail to the president and to protect the country’s gold mines, augmenting these in July with an additional 500, on the Sudanese side of the border, in Darfur, and adding another 300 in December 2020. In a direct response to Russia’s involvement, France came back on its decision to withdraw and, in November 2018, announced its own delivery of arms to the CAR, as well as new bilateral aid.
A Russian, Valery Zakharov, is Touadéra’s national security advisor. This, after Touadéra fired his own top adviser after a video was leaked showing the adviser displaying piles of hundreds of diamonds, leading to his arrest.

Rebel factions are combating state forces, mobilised by the former president François Bozizé.

In 2019, the government cancelled a Canadian company’s licences for the Ndassima gold mine in order to hand them to a Malagasy company that reportedly has links to Russian interests.

Analysis

Well documented, the events in the CAR seem to have been the initial ‘battleground’ for French and Russian influencers in the region, after which Russia appears to have worked on expanding their influence to other countries; France withdrawing, then Russia stepping in and gaining ground quickly, followed by France, in part, going back on their initial decision.

The arrival of the Malagasy company is interesting, in the light of the events surrounding the elections in Madagascar in 2018, explained below.

2019 Gabon coup attempt

On 7 January 2019, military officers claimed that they had ousted President Ali Bongo, who was re-elected in 2016 after a controversial election and protests. The day before, Donald Trump had sent 80 US troops to Gabon amid fears of violent protests in the nearby DRC.

At the time of the coup, the president was in Morocco for medical treatment, after he had suffered a stroke while visiting Riyadh.

The coup was neutralised the same day. There is speculation the coup was orchestrated to increase support for Ali Bongo.

Ali Bongo, with two short interruptions, has been president since 2009, following a short interruption after his father had been president since 1967. Ali Bongo was educated in France and China (and released a funk album in 1977, and also orchestrated a visit by Michael Jackson in 1991).

Gabon’s economy is entirely devoted to the production and export of natural resources. The country is run by Bongo as well as members of his direct family, though with 52 recognised brothers and sisters, this is not necessarily a smooth ride.
Gabon is important to France because it has a pliant political elite, whose primary role is to facilitate the exploitation of natural and mineral resources. The country has been called a ‘neo-colonial’ entity.

Analysis

France’s connections with Gabon are still strong. Virtually no information appears available on the context of the coup, or the source of support of the coup plotters, if it happened.

2018 Madagascar presidential elections

A team of at least 30 Russians published their own newspaper in Malagasy and hired students to write fawning articles about the president to help him win another term. Skirting electoral laws, they bought airtime on television stations and blanketed the country with billboards.
They paid young people to attend rallies and journalists to cover them. They showed up with armed bodyguards at campaign offices to bribe challengers to drop out of the race to clear their candidate’s path, started a troll-factory, and recruited an apocalyptic cult leader, Pastor Mailhol, in a strategy to split the opposition vote.

Interference started in Madagascar a few weeks after Putin sat down with Madagascar’s president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, in Moscow in 2018, and included Yevgeny Prigozhin, in the talks.

Some sources suggest Prigozhin might have gone to Madagascar, solely for profit, a company said to be owned by him acquiring a stake in a Chromium mine. Either way, a fact is that the president quickly showed little chance of winning, with the Russians shifting their support to Andry Rajoelina, the eventual winner, and formerly Hery’s opponent. Hery came in a distant third, the cult leader fourth, and despite worker protests, Prigozhin’s company maintained control of the Chromium mine.

Analysis

Russia’s influence after the visit of the president of Madagascar is revealing in that it suggests a strategy of opportunism on Russia’s side, in terms of jockeying for influence on the African continent. 

Because this occurred after the Russian arrival in the CAR, the move into Madagascar could have been triggered by the successful entry into the CAR, which showed that relatively small expenditures can have disproportionally positive outcomes.

2017 Zimbabwe coup

In November 2017, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was removed as president and party leader of ZANU-PF, and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa. Shortly before, in a conflict over whom should succeed the 93 year old Mugabe, Mnangagwa had just been fired as ‘first’ vice president, and had fled the country, to China, essentially conceding the succession battle to Grace Mugabe, Mugabe’s wife. Grace might have attempted to poison Mnangagwa in 2017.

A week prior to the coup, Zimbabwean army chief General Constantino Chiwenga was on an official visit to China, meeting generals Chang Wanquan and Li Zuocheng, and Mnangagwa. Here, Chiwenga was advised by the military intelligence wing that Mugabe had ordered his arrest upon his return to Zimbabwe. But, soldiers loyal to Chiwenga, disguised as baggage handlers, overpowered the police at the Harare airport and cleared the way for his arrival. 

Both men, Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, had been trained at China’s Nanjing Military School. 

After Mangagwa assumed presidency of ZANU-PF, and the country, Chiwenga is now ‘first’ vice president.

There’s been speculation Chiwenga explicitly sought Chinese approval for the coup, that country being Zimbabwe’s largest foreign investor, and second largest trading partner.
Between the two political factions, one around Mnangagwa, the other around Grace, China has favoured the former. Already in 2012, there were suspicions that money was being siphoned off from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields, where China’s Anjin Investments is the largest diamond company, partly in exchange for Chinese weapons, and reports of Zimbabwean military commanders securing diamonds-for-guns deals with Chinese officials are publicly available.

China had refused to support Mugabe in his 2016 crackdown on the opposition, after protesting against Zimbabwe consolidating control of the Diamond mines through a legally enforced majority stake, while Mnangagwa’s involvement with the diamond trade goes back to at least 2002, when the UN accused him of profiting from illegally traded diamonds obtained through Zimbabwe’s involvement in the war in the Congo.

In 2015, some sources stated that Mnangagwa was urged by China to ensure that Zimbabwe maintains an investment-friendly climate and that Chinese interests and property rights remained secure.

An alleged coup attempt in 2007 was said to have planned to ask Mnangagwa to form a government.

In the 2018 presidential elections, Mnangagwa fairly narrowly beat Nelson Chamisa for the top spot. (Still a bit of a surprise, considering Mnangagwa’s role in the Matabeleland massacres of the 1980s.)
Chamisa represented the MDC, long the party of Morgan Tsvangirai, who had died a few months prior. The opposition stated, shortly after the vote, that Russia had interfered in the election. Although the new head of state rejected these charges, political strategists associated with Prigozhin allegedly participated in the election campaign, confirmed one of Prigozhin’s consultants.

This, after in early 2018, Zimbabwe’s electoral commission head Priscilla Chigumba and presidential advisor Christopher Mutsvangwa visited Moscow, as well as that, around the same time, Sergey Lavrov visited Zimbabwe, followed in April by Sergei Ivanov Jr., CEO of Russian diamond miner Alrosa.
“64 Russians in a suburb of Harare [were] working for […] Mnangagwa [during the elections]” and there are now indications that Russia facilitated ‘fake’ election observers during the presidential elections.
Meanwhile, according to Jonathan Moyo, also a presidential candidate and once a political star under Mugabe, claimed that Chinese-affiliated experts had hacked into biometric voter registration systems to manipulate turnout figures and votes for the ruling party’s candidates. 

Related:  Mole

After the elections, with Chiwenga as ‘first’ vice president, Chiwenga flew to Russia with a “special message” for President Vladimir Putin. Chiwenga took part in the closing ceremony of the International Army Games and met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Earlier, Mnangagwa had met with Putin in South Africa, and some analysts suggests that, at least in part, Zimbabwe welcome’s Russia’s involvement as a counterweight to China’s role.

Analysis

With its long, and politically relevant role in Southern African history, Zimbabwe has been a more important meeting ground for international political players for longer than most other African countries.

Mugabe’s alienation from the global political community briefly drove the country towards North Korea, before settling on China. It seems beyond a doubt that China was involved in the preparations for the coup, but perhaps less interested to provide support after the government takeover.

Russian and Chinese influence seems to have played a role during the elections, and it appears that Russia might have been more on hand than China.

Conclusions

One observation is that virtually all recent coup leaders have strong connections with institutions and political players outside of Africa, particularly with France and the US, but also with others, Russia, China, and less so, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. For historical reasons and an ever more globalist world, this can not be surprising.

With the intended withdrawal from its former colonies, we are also seeing a rising dissatisfaction with France’s current and former role. 

What is emerging is that other political actors have started to step into the void that is left behind, playing on dissatisfaction, geographical insecurity, and the potential of accessing raw materials. However, when this happens, activities seem, so far, to be mostly ad-hoc and opportunistic.

That said, particularly Russia’s desire to step in appears to be, in part, influenced by a wish to be once more seen as a global player, on par, in Africa, with France, and the US, and perhaps China. But, for all, pragmatic justifications exist, too, particularly in accessing extractive resources through exclusive access to the continent’s mining operations.

Revealing is that, in 2019, documents leaked from the office of Prigozhin’s political consultants showed Russia’s strategy for intervention in African politics; to incite anti-Western sentiment and revive old territorial disputes. But, they also showed that Russian expansion was hampered by unprofessionalism, corruption and alcohol.
The above underscores this campaign’s relatively low investments and lack of professionalism, which seems to be paralleled by the actions of the other foreign political players in the region.

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