In two years, 4 West African countries have attempted coup d’états. 3 of these have been successful and one has failed.
First Niger, whose coup attempt was foiled in March 2021, followed by Mali in May 2021, Guinea in September 2021 and then the latest, Burkina Faso which was officially announced on Monday, January 24, 2022.
Prior to the transitioning and swearing-in of the president-elect, Mohamed Bazoum in March, after having won an election over his opponent, Mahamane Ousmane, a military unit tried to seize the presidential palace in Niger’s capital, Niamey.
In a statement from the government, it noted that “On the night of March 30-31, an attempted coup was thwarted,” it said in a statement, condemning “this cowardly and regressive act which sought to threaten democracy and the state of law”.
On May 24, 2021, Mali’s President, Bah N’daw, Prime Minister, Moctar Ouane and Minister of Defence, Souleymane Doucoure were captured by the Malian Army led by Vice President, Assimi Goita as the head of the junta. They subsequently announced that N’daw and OUane were stripped of their powers pending new general elections to be held in 2022.
Barely 4 months after, Guinea experienced a coup, on September 5, 2021, when its President, Alpha Condé, was captured by the country’s armed forces after gunfire in the capital, Conakry. Special forces commander Mamady Doumbouya released a broadcast on state television announcing the dissolution of the constitution and government.
And Burkina Faso: recorded a coup as the most recent on Monday, January 24, 2022. The country’s Army, led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba confirmed that it had dissolved the government and the national assembly, as well as closed the borders.
In all of these, one thing was prominent, the closeness of these countries to each other, the escalation of political instability and the abuse of democracy.
How close are these countries to Ghana as far as geography is concerned and what does this mean for the country as far as security is concerned?
We explore this in this article.
Ghana and Niger:
Niger is located on the North-East side of Ghana and shares a boundary with Burkina Faso. It is approximately 1,450km from Ghana and about 904 miles away.
Ghana and Mali:
Mali is located on the North-Western side of the West African Map and to Ghana. The country shares a direct border with Burkina Faso which equally shares a border with Ghana. The distance between both countries is approximately 1200 km.
Ghana and Guinea:
Guinea is located nearly West-side of Ghana. The country shares a direct border with Ivory Coast and Mali and is approximately 970km to Ghana.
Ghana and Burkina Faso:
Ghana is bounded on the north by Burkina Faso. In effect, Burkina Faso shares a direct border with Ghana in the Upper East Region. The distance between the two countries is approximately 470 km and the main border crossing is at Paga although some other lesser-used crossings include Bawku in the Upper East and Tumu and Hamile, all in the Upper West Region of Ghana.
Proximity and its translating effect on Ghana’s security:
GhanaWeb sought the expertise of some security analysts on the possible impact of these coups on Ghana, considering their proximity to the country.
Adib Saani, Vladimir Antwi-Danso and Irbard Ibrahim all shared their respective thoughts.
For Adib Saani, there could be some serious effects of the coups in these neighbouring countries, on Ghana. According to him, terrorist groups take the chance to establish themselves in neighbouring countries when coups occur.
These groups, he says, wait for the right chance to strike and attack after establishing grounds during these periods. Adib believes Ghana’s porous borders even make it a more vulnerable country in that regard.
Citing a UN department of state report published in 2002, he said,
“It says that usually, terrorists take advantage of political upheavals in countries to establish foot forward like it happened in Sudan in the 1990s where Al-Qaeda established its base there and of course, it happened in Somalia when for the good part of the 1990s when Al-Shabab established a foothold there.
“So in the midst of all the chaos terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, ISIS in the Greater Sahara would take advantage of the confusion to reorganise, resupply logistics and of course move around and Ghana certainly is part of the whole area in which you could have movements of terrorists from Burkina Faso into the country, particularly owing to how porous our borders are, not coming to stage attacks but perhaps to establish sleeper cells for maybe attacks in the future.
“We cannot afford to act like this is another person’s domestic issue. Because of the closeness of countries in West Africa whatever happens in one country has the possibility of spilling over into another country. So obviously this poses a bigger and potential threat to the security of Ghana than it was some few weeks back,” he said in an interview with GhanaWeb.
For Irbard Ibrahim, Burkina Faso which is the closest in terms of bordering, poses more of a threat to Ghana than the other countries which have experienced coup d’etats. According to him, Ghana will suffer the most if there is a spill-over from the effects of the coup.
“On a case by case basis, Burkina Faso would sound scarier than other countries we’ve seen suffer from turbulence.
“These countries to our East and West, have had their own fair share of turbulence but why I find Burkina Faso trickier is because it is grappling with militancy and already, Ghana has had to deploy heavily in our Northern frontiers to shield us from a possible spillover. Now that there is no consensus, between an emerging coup leadership in Burkina Faso, will they continue to share intelligence with Ghana? No, so Burkina Faso degenerating into instability will weaken Ghana’s counter-terrorism efforts and would open us up to a potential terrorist attack,” he said.
“Already we’ve seen Ghanaians from certain parts of the north volunteer to be suicide bombers in some of these conflict zones. And so if our unguarded frontiers are now going to be without cooperation, and collaboration between our intelligence agencies, if we do to Burkina Faso what we’ve done to Mali to Guinea, by suspending their membership of ECOWAS, they won’t collaborate with Ghana again. And to make their voice heard, this is geopolitics, they can facilitate the infiltration of Ghana by some of these militant organisations to send home a strong message that turning our backs on them may have devastating consequences.”
Security Expert, Vladimir Antwi-Danso on his part believes the risk lies in the similar patterns that run through all these countries as far as governance is concerned.
He believes miscreants and terrorists have proven over time to take advantage of dents in governance and democracy to operate and these should be identified and dealt with.
“What is happening in Burkina Faso is akin to what happened in Mali in 2011, 2012 where there was a coup.
“The things happening in these countries are similar and when I say bad governance, it is when a government is unable to get a foothold on the totality of the country. When you leave ungoverned spaces, you are likely to have those spaces filled by miscreants filled by ISIS, al-Qaeda, because terrorism is festering and they want places they can stay. If you give them the space, and the francophone countries in the Sahel have allowed this to happen,” he indicated.