Africa in Perspective - Spotlight on West Africa

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In this Africa in Perspective webinar, panellists will discuss how to overcome the regional fragility and violence caused by weak state capacity, inter-group inequality and the legacies of historic conflict in West Africa.

The event considers measures to tackle the root causes of economic underdevelopment, climate change, insecurity and the ongoing violent conflicts between the state and non-state actors.  Particular attention will be given to initiatives to advance good governance as a means to consolidate democracy and secure sustainable regional peace.

Over the last few years, West Africa has seen a rise in violent extremism, increased levels of popular dissatisfaction as a result of bad governance, the negative impact of climate change, an increase in transnational organised crime, and shifts in the patterns of localised conflicts between communities. Of greatest concern is the rise in terrorist activity emanating from the Sahel, Sahara and the Great Lakes, involving groups such as Boko Haram, Islamic State (IS), Ansa Din and al-Qaida.

While a variety of approaches have been adopted to counter the rising insecurity, including peacebuilding, counter-terrorism, training local armies and development initiatives, progress across the region has been insufficient.  Violent instability is now spreading and threatening coastal West Africa. Even with the formation by west African states of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) aimed at confronting Boko Haram, and the French-led operations Barkhane in Mali and the newly established operation Takuba to tackle violence across the tri-border regions (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso), regional governments and international stakeholders are facing significant levels of violence and instability.

With the regional spread of violent extremism, many of the important democratic advances made in West Africa since the 1990s are now imperilled.  In August 2020 Mali experienced a military coup – the second in eight years.   While the action by the Mali military was condemned by the international community, it was celebrated by many in Mali.  The military have promised stability following years of violence due to Mali’s struggle with Islamist insurgency, and after months of political turmoil over contested legislative elections. 

The developments in Mali highlight a growing trend across the region. With governments and international actors apparently unable to stem rising violence, elections are becoming increasingly contentious with politicians using all means, including unfair tactics, to try to seize power.  There is a risk that this situation is creating the conditions for a return to the military coups of the 1970s and 1980s. With upcoming elections in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Niger there is a concern that regional tensions and instability will be exacerbated.

The event is moderated by  Dr Andrew E. Yaw Tchie, Senior Research Fellow and Obasanjo Fellow, RUSI


  • Introduction to the webinar by Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director General, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

  • The first session will explore how in recent years bad governance, corruption, the rise of terrorism, organised crime, and climate change have affected peace and stability across West Africa. Panelists will consider the ways in which inequity and inequality in resource distribution together with tribalism have contributed to conflict and instability. Finally, panelists will discuss ways to promote peace across West Africa.


    • H.E. Goodluck Jonathan, Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
    • H.E. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West-Africa and the Sahel
    • Professor Funmi Olonisakin, Professor of Leadership, Peace and Conflict at King's College London
    • Dr. Adeoye O. Akinola, Senior Researcher, University of Johannesburg's Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPATC), South Africa
  • This session will examine current ECOWAS and United Nations mediation initiatives to secure peace and socio-political development in West Africa, notably including in response to the recent military takeover in Mali. Particular areas for discussion will be the role ECOWAS is playing in advancing peace and good governance in West Africa and the organisation’s involvement in the use of military force to restore law and order in states affected by conflict and civil unrest. The experience of and lessons learnt from the MNJTF in tackling terrorism in the Lake Chad region will be a particular focus for the panel discussion.


    • H.E. Jean Claude Kassi Brou - President of ECOWAS.
    • Boureima Allaye Touré - President of National Council of Malian Civil Societies.
    • Dr Akinola Olojo, Senior Researcher, Complex Threats in Africa Programme at the Institute for Security Studies
    • Dr Linda Akua Opongmaa Darkwa, Senior Research Fellow of the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy, currently serving as Coordinator of the Secretariat for the Training for Peace Programme


    A message from Ann Iyonu Executive Director at Goodluck Jonathan Foundation.

Watch the recording


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