6 African Nations Now Form a Continent-Wide 'Coup Belt'

From Sudan in the east to Guinea in the west
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2023 11:52 AM CDT
6 African Nations Now Form a Continent-Wide 'Coup Belt'
Nigerians participate in a march called by supporters of coup leader Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, pictured, in Niamey, Niger, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

Take a map of Africa, shade in the nations that have had military coups over the last few years, and you'll see the pattern: It's what Declan Walsh in the New York Times calls a "coup belt" stretching across the entire continent. It goes from Guinea on the west coast to Sudan on the east coast, with Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and, most recently, Niger, filling in the belt. Coverage:

  • The Sahel: This six-nation band "has become the longest corridor of military rule on Earth," writes Walsh. The line roughly corresponds with what's known as the Sahel region of Africa, described by the AP as a "vast arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert"—and one that has become increasingly linked to extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

  • One big worry: Terror groups have been gaining ground throughout the Sahel in recent years, particularly in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger, notes an analysis by Mohammed Yusuf at Voice of America. The democratically elected Mohamed Bazoum of Niger had been a US ally in fighting such groups, and his overthrow vastly complicates that effort—particularly if Western and UN troops are asked to leave Niger, as they have been elsewhere in the Sahel. The US currently has about 1,100 troops stationed at two bases in Niger, per Reuters. If the military coup holds—the situation is very much in flux—they would have to leave under US law.
  • Russia: The BBC notes another parallel within the band: Russian influence. One fear in the West is that a new military regime in Niger will embrace Vladimir Putin. "If it does, it would follow the path of two of its neighbors—Burkina Faso and Mali—which have both pivoted towards Moscow since recent military coups of their own," writes Yusuf Akinpelu. There's no evidence Russia has fomented the coups, but Moscow has positioned itself to take advantage of the movements.
  • Meltdown? The Sahel "has surpassed the Middle East and South Asia to become the global epicenter of jihadist violence," writes Walsh, and that has analysts worried. "I'm very worried that Sahelian Africa is going to melt down," says Paul Collier of Oxford's Blavatnik School of Government.
(More Africa stories.)

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