Shattered Security: Gender And Coups In Guinea, Mali, And Burkina Faso

June 2024

A coup d'état, or coup, is the seizure of physical and political control of state machinery by a small group of people. This is often a forcibly military-imposed rule which has a goal of replacing the government. Coups have a long and widespread history in Africa. Since the independence of most African states during the 1960s, there has been an upsurge in Unconstitutional Changes of Government (UCGs) which in many cases, lead to coups. The number of coups across the continent’s fifty-four countries has ranged between eight and twenty-six every decade.

In recent years, the West African region, which has been referred to by policymakers as “the coup belt” in Africa, has experienced a notable increase in such coups. Between 2020 and 2023, nine separate instances of attempted or successful coups, were reported, with Guinea (2021), Mali (2020 and 2021), and Burkina Faso (2022) as significant examples. Six of the coups were successful. This resurgence reflects deep-seated governance challenges in the region with wider implications also for regional and global security governance.

Analysts often attribute the coups to an outcome of autocratic overreach, poor governance and economic mismanagement which erode democratic norms. Coups have far-reaching implications beyond immediate political changes, particularly on the security of women and girls. The arising instability disrupts law enforcement and social services, leading to increased vulnerability to violence, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Women and girls often become primary targets. Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso share common socio-economic challenges and have recently experienced significant political upheavals. This is despite their unique historical contexts. Guinea, rich in natural resources, grapples with poverty and governance issues. Mali has faced prolonged conflict and insurgencies, especially in its northern regions. Burkina Faso deals with political instability and militant activities. These countries serve as case studies to explore the gendered security crises caused by coups and highlight the urgent need for policy interventions.

This GGI Policy Brief examines pre-existing gender inequalities in these countries highlighting specific impacts of coups on women and girls as well as  international responses to these crises. It provides actionable policy recommendations to mitigate the adverse effects of coups on the female population.

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