Are we coming to the end of the cycle of democratization in West Africa? With the coup in Guinea, which follows those that took place in Mali, and the tensions surrounding the elections in many other countries in the sub-region, supporters of liberal ideas are worried. Weak institutions, worsening presidentialism, security challenges, complacent Western partners and unrestrained authoritarian regimes … The root causes of crises are several. To talk about it, François Mazet joined Senegalese Aljoner Tine, founder of the think tank Afrikajom Center, which works with organizations and institutions in Africa.
RFI: Coups d’état in Guinea, Mali, not very inclusive elections or pre-selection contexts that are strained in other countries … Do you think the democratization of West Africa is in danger??
Alione Tine:Right down at the moment, where we really experience situations, where we have election fraud. These are also forms of coups that we talk very little about, about which neither the African Union nor ECOWAS nor the international community say a word. We also have forms of constitutional coups, we are changing the constitution to stay in power and now we have military coups. Military coups are noisy, they are the stripes, you can see it right away. Now a military coup is a symptom of democratic dysfunctions, it is the symptoms of democratic pathologies. People take them as medicine, but they are not the right answers! We must be careful that we have institutions that are strong institutions, because we have hyperpresidentialism, absolute powers, powers that limit absolutely nothing. This was indeed the case in Guinea and the result is what we have just seen.
The Guinean situation and the situation of Alpha Condé actually remind us that democracy does not end with elections. It is also governance and the rule of law.
Exactly! Because today, when I talk about Mali, because I am an independent expert, I say that Mali is the mirror for all countries, practically, in West Africa, but it is a distorting mirror. In reality, these are completely different degrees of crisis. There are some that are much exacerbated, others less so … And crises, both in democracy and security, are regional crises, which require regional responses that do not yet exist. Now, in the field of administration, to be honest, the problems and crises are everywhere, with the corruption that is there, in all the countries, with also a weakness in all the institutions, the legal institutions that are under control. also executive and legislative institutions that are weaker and weaker.
So why do you think this democratic model is coming to an end in West Africa?? If it is a generational problem, it is a problem with education, of the political culture of the local elite?
I think it’s a cycling issue. We are in a period of the end of the cycle where we lived with the fall of the Berlin Wall and La Baule, with the correct democratic transition. Afterwards, however, the change in security at the global geopolitical level took place with the attacks on the World Trade Center – and yet – the problem of jihadism that has invaded us … All this means in practice that the powers have been tightened. And the supervisory bodies – whether it is ECOWAS, the African Union and even the EU – have been weakened, including the UN. For there is indeed the emergence of countries that today are cooperating with African countries – whether it is China, whether it is Turkey or Russia – that are not vigilant on human rights issues. Then Europe said to itself: But hey! They’re all taking business, now we’ll close our eyes.
The international decline of multilateralism makes autocratic models increasingly attractive …
We are in a situation where it is at the endogenous level that the awakening must take place. We cannot expect the outside world to say today: we will improve the situation in Africa. It is obvious that the people – the putschists – will move forward! I think if there had not been a coup in Mali, there would not have been a coup in Chad or a coup in Guinea. So you have to be extremely careful. As they say, pollution is really possible in some countries that will continue in authoritarianism, tense up, retain power, not respect the term limits … Either it is a coup, or, it is rebellion. It is inevitable!
There are special situations that will worry?
There are also situations of uncertainty, where people are not, neither for the limitation of mandate, etc., which are also looking at the third mandate, especially in countries like Senegal. All of these are worrying situations. But it seems that the whole of West Africa – the leadership – really needs to learn from what happened in Guinea.
There are still counterexamples. Niger and Burkina have succeeded in organizing elections and seem to have taken a path towards democratization that these countries did not know before.
Okay, Niger has organized elections, Issoufou has left … That’s very good. I believe that today we must think – whether in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso – of strategies for achieving peace. Today, security strategies take precedence over strategies for moving towards peace. And without peace, it is obvious that these countries will remain fragile on all levels; economic, political, secure and even democratic.