Norms and Values
African Turbulence: An Internal Process or the Consequence of Neocolonialism?
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On October 26, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion dedicated to the protest movements in Africa. The moderator was Oleg Barabanov, programme director of the Club.

Aliou Tunkara, a Member of the Mali Parliament and former head of the African Unity club in St. Petersburg, noted that turbulence persists in many of the continent’s countries , despite all attempts by regional organisations to cope with it. He indicated that the main reasons are the separation of the authorities from the people, discontent caused by the low standard of living, the inability of the authorities to ensure peace and security, intra-elite conflicts, and the orientation of the elites and international organisations towards the interests of Western countries. The West greatly undermines the sovereignty of African countries and has contributed to initiatives in the economic sphere that are destructive and categorically unprofitable for Africa, Tunkara emphasised.

Elena Kharitonova, Senior Researcher at the Center for Civilizational and Regional Studies of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Member of the Board of the Strategic Agency for the Development of Relations with African Countries, stressed the need for a systematic view of the events taking place. With this view, the possible causes of protest movements and coups may exist simultaneously. The reasons may be related to the struggle of power groups in the country, and with the "fatigue" of the permanent government, and demographic factors (for example, the "youth hill"), and dissatisfaction with the government, which cannot ensure peace, security and a normal standard of living of the population, and with the pro-Western policy of the government, and therefore Protests and coups can be attributed to the anti-colonial struggle of African countries. Kharitonova stressed that the "turbulence" in Africa can be used in the strategic plans of major geopolitical players.

Marius Okoli, head of the organisation “Community of Nigerian Citizens” for the support and social adaptation of Nigerian citizens living abroad, sees what is happening as a consequence of the destruction of the unipolar world and the transition to multipolarity. Africa has long served as one of the Cold War arenas. On the continent, there was both an ideological struggle between the capitalist world and the socialist world, as well as competition for natural resources. In 1991, there was a transition to a unipolar world, with the primacy of the United States and NATO. Now it has been challenged, as evidenced by the emergence of such a structure as BRICS. The attempts to maintain a unipolar system and at the same time to control the resources cause the turbulence on the African continent.

Lassina Zerbo, Prime Minister of Burkina Faso (2021–2022), former executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), called for talk less about coups and more about building institutions and improving the quality of governance. He considers the key factor for the Sahel states the large number of young people who are dissatisfied with the current situation and feel alienated. He pointed out the importance of the gap between the promises of democracy and the actual behaviour of African governments, which leads to widespread scepticism in Africa about democratic values and the status quo in general. “We need to improve people's well-being and education, combat the devastating effects of climate change, and make people feel they have a future. We have gained independence, it’s about the right to vote, about being heard. It's time to change Africa,” Zerbo said.

Israel Nyaburi Nyadera, Kenya's Egerton University lecturer, believes it is necessary to consider the current crisis in Africa in the context of global processes associated with the collapse of the liberal political and economic order. At the same time, at the regional level, attempts to create a pan-African political structure capable of ensuring order on the continent have not yet been crowned with success. Ambitions aimed at organising a Pan-African movement have not been realized. Among the reasons for the coups, the expert also named the changing expectations of the African population associated with the change of generations on the continent. “Africans want to see transformation, they want to see real change,” he is convinced. These expectations create enormous pressure on new governments.

Konstantin Pantserev, a professor at the Department of Theory and History of International Relations of the Faculty of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University, noted that since African states first gained independence, more than 85 coups d'etat had taken place. Sometimes protests develop into protracted civil wars. Pantserev proposed a classification of African conflicts, identifying four groups: interethnic (due to the multinational nature of most African states), border conflicts (caused by the fact that state borders in African countries rarely coincide with the boundaries of tribes), religious conflicts and conflicts on socio-economic grounds. All these conflicts often lead to an increase in protest sentiments.