Coast to coast, a corridor of coups brings turmoil across Africa

Coast to coast, a corridor of coups brings turmoil across Africa

The New York Times reports:

Africa’s coup belt spans the continent: a line of six countries crossing 3,500 miles, from coast to coast, that has become the longest corridor of military rule on Earth.

This past week’s military takeover in the West African nation of Niger toppled the final domino in a band across the girth of Africa, from Guinea in the west to Sudan in the east, now controlled by juntas that came to power in a coup — all but one in the past two years.

The last leader to fall was Niger’s Mohamed Bazoum, a democratically elected American ally who disappeared on Wednesday when his own guards detained him at the presidential palace in the capital, Niamey. His security chief now claims to be running the country.

“We have decided to intervene,” Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, Niger’s new self-appointed ruler, said in a televised address on Friday.

The coup instantly reverberated far beyond Niger, a sprawling and impoverished country in one of the world’s toughest neighborhoods. African leaders sounded the alarm over the latest blow to democracy on a continent where decades of hard-won advances are slipping away.

“Africa has suffered a serious setback,” Kenya’s president, William Ruto, said on Friday.

For the United States and its allies, the coup raised urgent questions about the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel, the vast semiarid region where groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are gaining ground at an alarming pace, moving from the desert toward the sea. Much of the Sahel overlaps with Africa’s newly formed, coast-to-coast coup belt.

“I’m very worried that Sahelian Africa is going to melt down,” said Paul Collier, a professor of economics and public policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government.

The Sahel has surpassed the Middle East and South Asia to become the global epicenter of jihadist violence, accounting for 43 percent of 6,701 deaths in 2022, up from 1 percent in 2007, according to the Global Terrorism Index, an annual study by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Until this past week, Niger was the cornerstone of the Pentagon’s regional strategy. At least 1,100 American troops are stationed in the country, where the U.S. military built drone bases in Niamey and the northern city of Agadez, one at a cost of $110 million. Now, all of that is in jeopardy. [Continue reading…]

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