Accepted paper:

West African Youth on the Move - How social movements mobilized for nonviolent resistance and hold on to nonviolent means


Nina-Kathrin Wienkoop (Leuphana University L√ľneburg / Institute for Social Moevement Studies Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Youth leaders in West Africa successfully mobilized for nonviolent action against presidential term amendments. The examples of the Senegalese and Burkinabe movements illustrate under which perceived conditions leaders and activists chose non-violent resistance despite violent repression.

Paper long abstract:

Over the last years, presidents in several African states tried to extend their constitutional term limit. The announcement of the presidents to run for another term led to broad mobilizations. In Burundi the protests were repressed by national security forces and escalated into a civil war, whereas in West Africa those movements resisted successfully non-violently, understood in reference to Schock (2003). Y'en a marre in Senegal and Balai citoyen in Burkina Faso are impressive examples of youth-led movements that combined classical street demonstrations with creative poetry guerilla within the urban and digital protest space. In both cases the protest stayed non-violent despite repressive and violent counteractions of the police and the military. This leads to the empirical puzzle of how protest movements are able to mobilize the masses for non-violent resistance and secondly, under which perceived conditions movement leaders decide for which forms of action. The aim of this article is figure out which (perceived) contextual shifts, processes, and actors influence the proceeding of contentious collective actions. I argue that the perceptions and following decisions at those turning points of movement leaders, activists, politicians, and security forces are decisive for the escalation of non-violent resistance. The article mainly based on semi-structured interviews conducted in Berlin, Dakar and in Ouagadougou as well as on protest event duration statistics based on the Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD). Furthermore national media coverages by archive research, international newspapers, and collected grey literature published by the movements themselves helped to gain more insights in their tactics.

panel P051
Youth-led leadership and participation in Africa