Local perceptions of regional interventions: AU and ECOWAS in Burkina Faso and The Gambia

African regional orga­ni­za­tions such as the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have become central actors in the area of peace and security in Africa: for instance through mediation in political and consti­tu­tional crises (such as 2014 in Burkina Faso and 2016 in The Gambia) or through the deploy­ment of peace­keeping missions (as for instance in Mali and South Sudan). With this, African regional organi­za­tions increasingly shape order(s) and politics in African states and thus the conditions under which Africans live today.

In their peace-making activities both organi­zations are guided by a ‘people-centred’ discourse, which is for instance reflected in norms of ‘local ownership’ and ‘inclusive peace-making’. Yet contrary to this rhetoric, the perspectives of those affected by these norms and inter­ventions have hitherto received scant attention in the scholarly debate. Against this back­ground, this research project seeks to turn the hitherto dominant top-down perspective on African regional orga­ni­za­tions upside down, by scrutinizing how people in societies affected by regional inter­ventions perceive and evaluate both the intervention and its responsible regional orga­ni­za­tion. More concretely, we seek to gauge reflections on concrete inter­vention experiences, the knowledge people hold about African regional orga­ni­za­tions, as well more general expectations towards them. On the one hand, this aims at establishing a new analytical perspective on African regional orga­ni­za­tions. On the other hand, reconstructing concrete experiences and perceptions of inter­ventions will allow us to generate new knowledge on the legitimacy and effectiveness of African intervention politics.

The project is drawing on case studies from regional interventions Burkina Faso (2014/15) and The Gambia (2016/17), two countries in which AU and ECOWAS intervened in the midst of a political crisis and thus decisively shaped how this crisis came to be resolved. Methodically, the project is based on focus group discussions, interviews as well as media analyses. The project is carried out in close cooperation with (junior) scholars from both countries, with whom field research in teams and the joint publication of the project results are planned.


Insights into politics and practice – Report on the Workshop „African Peace­making Seen from Below: Experiments, Experiences and Alternatives“.

Taking Intervention Politics Seriously | 2020

Witt, Antonia/Schnabel, Simone (2020): Taking Intervention Politics Seriously. Media Debates and the Contestation of African Regional Interventions ‘from Below’, in: Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 14:2, 271-288, DOI: 10.1080/17502977.2020.1736415.

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Where Regional Norms Matter | 2019

Witt, Antonia (2019): Where Regional Norms Matter. Contestation and the Domestic Impact of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, in: Africa Spectrum, 54:2, 106–126, https://doi.org/10.1177/0002039719848513.

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Whose Charter? | 2019

Witt, Antonia (2019): Whose Charter? How civil society makes (no) use of the African Democracy Charter, PRIF Spotlight 5/2019, Frankfurt/M.

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African Regional Organizations Seen From Below: Theorizing Legitimacy Beyond the European Nation-State | 2018

Schnabel, Simone (2018): African Regional Organizations Seen From Below: Theorizing Legitimacy Beyond the European Nation-State, PRIF Working Papers No. 42, Frankfurt/M.

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African Peace Interventions Seen ‘from Below’ | 2018

Witt, Antonia (ed.), (2018): African Peace Interventions Seen ‘from Below’. Politics and Disconnects, (Special Issue “South African Journal of International Affairs” 25:1), Table of Contents at Taylor & Francis.

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Studying African Interventions ‘from Below’ | 2018

Witt, Antonia (2018): Studying African Interventions ‘from Below’. Exploring Practices, Knowledges and Perceptions, in: South African Journal of International Affairs, Special Issue, 25:1, 1–19, DOI: 10.1080/10220461.2018.1417904.

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Towards Studying African Interventions ‘from Below’ – A Short Conclusion | 2018

Witt, Antonia/Khadiagala, Gilbert (2018): Towards Studying African Interventions ‘from Below’ – A Short Conclusion, in: South African Journal of International Affairs, Special Issue, 25:1, 133–139, DOI: 10.1080/10220461.2018.1438917.

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Point Sud
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)