Accra Civil Society Forum identifies entry points for preventing coups

November 2, 2023

Accra, 27 October 2023 – In response to the resurgence of coups and unconstitutional changes of government in Africa, a civil society forum has mapped specific actions that could contribute to stability across the continent.

On 26 and 27 October, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), collaborated with Ghana's Mission to the African Union (AU) and Ethiopia to host the Accra Civil Society Organisation Forum.

The event convened over 70 representatives from African civil society, the media, the AU and other key actors, to discuss the persistent challenge of Unconstitutional Changes of Government (UCG) in Africa.

Since 2019, the continent has witnessed a worrying resurgence of coups, despite a series of high-level meetings and declarations aimed at countering this trend, necessitating a comprehensive reevaluation of existing strategies.

The Accra CSO Forum sought, among other objectives, to examine regional and continental responses to identify areas for further action. In his opening remarks, Tunji Namaiko, Programme Lead for the AU Support Programme at International IDEA, emphasized that most of the existing regional and continental strategies are operationalized at official track 1 or multilateral level; this forum provides a platform for CSOs to effectively contribute to ongoing processes aimed at mitigating the resurgence of UCGs.

Participants in the Forum reflected on CSOs’ role in addressing the resurgence of coups in Africa, despite challenges like limited civic space and media influence. Proposals included closer and more formal engagements with the AU, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and policymakers, advocating for more flexible accreditation criteria for attending high-level meetings, promoting anti-coup norms, bolstering judicial systems and focusing on early warning. By helping to curtail the resurgence of coups, these actions could contribute to stability across the continent.

Root causes of coups are always evolving. We need to work closely with all relevant stakeholders, especially CSOs, to adjust our approaches.
Andrews Atta-Asamoah, Head of Africa Peace and Security Governance at the ISS in Addis Ababa

The forum also examined the changing dynamics and complexities of post-coup situations. ‘Root causes of coups are always evolving. We need to work closely with all relevant stakeholders, especially CSOs, to adjust our approaches,’ noted Andrews Atta-Asamoah, Head of Africa Peace and Security Governance at the ISS in Addis Ababa.

Since 1952, 100 successful coups have occurred across the continent, 51 of them in West Africa. Drivers include leadership changes, security concerns, civil-military tensions, corruption, failure to address violent extremism, economic challenges and political instability, and governance dysfunction. 

While the combined effects of systematic democratization in the early 1990s and continental anti-coup norms contributed to the dwindling trend of coup occurrence in the first two decades of the new millennium, manipulation of elections and term-limit provisions by sitting leaders and inconsistent application of these norms created favourable conditions for coups resulting in the current resurgence.
Issaka Souaré, UNDP’s Consultant and expert on Governance issues in Africa

During his presentation, he explained the trends surrounding the resurgence and military coups in Africa, reflecting on the Soldiers and Citizens  published by UNDP Africa in 2023. Moreover, he presented the Africa Facility to Support Inclusive Transition in Africa (AFSIT), an innovative  co-created by UNDP and the African Union Commission, which seeks to respond to complex political transitions.

State-citizen relations are becoming increasingly strained in Africa, marked by a rise in public demonstrations as an expression of frustrations and aspirations. ‘The region has witnessed a significant number of violent governance-related protests, with 4,551 recorded between January 2018 and July 2022, according to AfDB’, noted Kwasi Asante, Deputy Head of Mission at the Ghana Embassy in Addis Ababa. ‘It is imperative to prioritize accountable governance to address these pressing challenges,’ he added.


The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) works with partners to build knowledge and skills that enable sustainable peace, development and prosperity in Africa. Established in 1991, the ISS is Africa’s leading multidisciplinary human security organisation, with a unique operational model that combines research, policy analysis, technical assistance and training. The ISS has also developed a powerful forecasting capability to identify future risks and opportunities in fields as diverse as development, industrialisation, demographics, technology and climate change. Learn more at or follow us @issafrica on Twitter and Facebook.

UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet. Learn more at or follow us @undpafrica on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is an intergovernmental organization that supports democracy worldwide. International IDEA advances, promotes and protects sustainable democracy worldwide in consideration of human rights commitments through policy-relevant knowledge, capacity development, advocacy, and the convening of dialogues. Learn more at or follow us @ideaafricaa on Twitter and Facebook.

The Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, are the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. We approach this mission through the illuminating principles of justice, equity, and expression—defining characteristics of any truly open society. Learn more at or follow us @OpenSociety

Media contacts:

Elizabeth Sirengo, ISS, 

Ayda Labassi, UNDP Africa, 

Sami Ahmed, International IDEA, 

Levison Kabwato, OSF,