Who is Responsible for Corruption? Framing strategies of social movements in West Africa mobilizing against presidential term amendments


Since 2011 youth movements have staged large protests in African countries for presidential term limits. These have been discussed as struggles against de-democratization. Looking at the movements Y'en a marre in Senegal and Balai citoyen in Burkina Faso we argue that these protests were just as much triggered by socio-economic grievances linked to a corrupt patronage system. Indeed, corruption has been a major issue for both campaigns. We ask how the movement leaders linked the fight against corruption with their struggle against third term amendments in a way that sparked mass mobilization. We use the framing approach as our theoretical framework and show that a framing based on the concept of citizenship enabled both movements to link the issue of corruption to the issue of presidential term amendments and at the same time create a sense of agency in the constituency. This explains at least partly why both Y'en a marre and Balai Citoyen succeeded in their mobilizing efforts.

Keywords: Citizenship; corruption; presidential term limit; social movements; West Africa


Armstrong B. (2011), Ne Touche Pas Ma Constitution: Pressures and Presidential Term Limits, Unpublished PhD Thesis. Northwestern University.

Benford R.D. (1993), “"You Could Be the Hundredth Monkey": Collective Action Frames and Vocabularies of Motive within the Nuclear Disarment Movement”, The Sociological Quarterly, 34 (2): 195–216.

Benford R.D., D.A. Snow (2000), “Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment”, Annual Review of Sociology, 26: 611–639.

Bonnecase V. (2016), “Ce que les ruines racontent d’une insurrection”, Societes politiques comparees, 38 : 2-36.

Bryson D. (2014), "The Rise of a New Senegalese Cultural Philosophy?", African Studies Quarterly, 14 (3): 33-56.

Bratton M., N. van de Walle (1994), "Neopatrimonial Regimes and Political Transitions in Africa", World Politics, 46 (4): 419-442.

Bueno de Mesquita B. (eds. 2005), The Logic of Political Survival, Cambridge: MIT Press.

Chouli L. (2012), “Peoples’ revolts in Burkina Faso”, in F. Manji, S. Ekine (eds.), African Awakening. The emerging Revolutions, Oxford: Pambazuka Press, pp. 131-146.

Collier M. (2002), “Explaining Corruption. An Institutional Choice Approach.”, Crime Law& Social Change, 38(1): 1–32.

Della Porta D. (2015), Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back Into Protest Analysis, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Della Porta D., M. Diani (1999), Social Movements. An Introduction, Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

Della Porta D., Y. Mény (1997), Democracy and Corruption in Europe, London: Pinter.

Diop A. B. (2010), "Les Mouvements Sociaux sous l’Alternance", Alternatives Sud, 17: 139-145.

Dulani B. (2011), "Democracy Movements as Bulwarks against Presidential Usurpation of Power: Lessons from Third-Term Bids in Malawi, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia", Stichproben. Wiener Zeitschrift für kritische Afrikastudien, 20 (11): 115-139.

Engels, B. (2015a), “Contentious Politics of Scale: The Global Food Price Crisis and Local Protest in Burkina Faso”, Social Movement Studies, 14 (2): 180-194.

Engels B. (2015b), "Political Transition in Burkina Faso: the Fall of Blaise Compaoré", Governance in Africa, 2(1): 1-6.

Ferree, M. M. (2003). "Resonance and Radicalism: Feminist Framing in the Abortion Debates of the United States and Germany." American Journal of Sociology, 109(2): 304-344.

Frère M.-S., P. Englebart (2015), "Briefing: Burkina Faso – The Fall of Blaise Compaoré", African Affairs, 114 (455): 295-307.

Goffman, E. (1974), Frame Analysis, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Gueye M. (2013), "Urban Guerrilla Poetry: The Movement Y’en a Marre and the Socio-Political Influences of Hip Hop in Senegal", The Journal of Pan African Studies, 6 (3): 22-42.

Harsch, E. (2009), "Urban Protest in Burkina Faso", African Affairs, 108 (431): 263–288.

Harsch, E. (1993), “Accumulators and Democrats: Challenging State Corruption in Africa”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 31 (1): 31-48.

Hartmann C. (2012), "Machtwechsel im Senegal – Neue Chance für die Demokratie", GIGA Focus Africa, 2.

Harvard, J.-F. (2001), Ethic “Bul Faale” et Nouvelles Figures de la Réussite au Sénégal, Politique Africaine, 82 (6): 63-77.

Holmes L. (2006), Rotten States? Corruption, Post-Communism, and Neoliberalism, Durham: Duke University Press.

Honwanda A. (2015), "Enough is enough!: Youth Protests and Political Change in Africa", in K. Tall (eds.), Collective Mobilisations in Africa. Enough is Enough!, Leiden: Brill, pp. 45-65.

Jaspers, J. M. (1997), The Art of Moral Protest, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Johnston, H. (2002), ”Verification and Proof in Frame and Discourse Analysis”, in: B. Klandermans and S. Staggenborg (eds.), Methods in Social Movement Research, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 62-91.

Kubbe I. (2017), "Elites and Corruption in European Democracies", in: P. Harfst , I. Kubbe, and T. Poguntke (eds.), Parties, Governments and Elites, Wiesbaden: Springer VS Verlag, pp. 249–279.

Lebas A. (2016), "Term Limits and Beyond: Africa’s Democratic Hurdles", Current History, 115 (781): 169-174.

Manji, F. and S. Ekine (eds. 2012), African Awakenings: The Emerging Revolutions, Cape Town, Dakar, Nairobi, Oxford: Fahamu.

Mayring, P. (2014), Qualitative content analysis: theoretical foundation, basic procedures and software solutions, Klagenfurt: Genesis.

Médard J.-F. (2002), “Corruption in the Neo-patrimonial States of Sub-Saharan Africa”, in A. J. Heidenheimer, and M. Johnston (eds.), Political Corruption: Concepts and Contexts, New Brunswick: Transaction, pp. 379 - 402.

Mungiu-Pippidi, A. (2013), “Controlling Corruption Through Collective Action”, Journal of Democracy, 24(1): 101–115.

Niang, A. (2015), “Dialectics of Subversion: Protest Art and Political Dissidence in West Africa”, in: P. Ugor, P., L. Mawuko-

Yevugah (eds. 2015), African Youth Cultures in a Globalized World, Farnham: Ashgate.

Norris, P. (2012), Making democratic governance work: how regimes shape prosperity, welfare, and peace, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Poletta, F., J. J. Jasper (2001), "Collective Identity and Social Movements", Annual Review of Sociology 27: 283-305.

Prause, L. (2013), „Mit Rap zur Revolte: Die Bewegung Y'en a marre“, PROKLA, 170: 23–42.

Putnam R. D., Leonardi R., and Nanetti R. Y. (1994), Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Reyntjens F. (2016), "The Struggle over Term Limits in Africa: A New Look at the Evi-dence", Journal of Democracy, 27 (3): 61-68.

Ryan C. (1991), Prime Time Activism, Boston: South End Press.

Snow D. A., R.D. Benford (1988), “Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization”, in: B. Klandermans, H. Kriesi, and S. Tarrow (eds.), International Social Movement Research, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, pp. 197-217.

Snow D. A., R.D. Benford (1992), “Master Frames und Cycles of Protest”, in: A.D. Morris and C.M. Mueller (eds.), Frontiers in social movement theory, New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, pp. 133–155.

Snow D. A., R. D. Benford (1999), “Alternative Types of Cross-national Diffusion in the Social Movement Arena. Social Movements in a Globalizing World”, in D. Della Porta, H. Kriesi and D. Rucht (eds.), London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 23-39.

Snow D.A., E. B. Rochford, S. K. Worden, and R.D. Benford, (1986), “Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation”, American Sociological Review, 51 (4): 464-481.

Tarrow, S (2010), “The Strategy of Paired Comparison: Toward a Theory of Practice”, Comparative Political Studies, 43 (2): 230-259.

Welzel C. (2013), Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipa-tion, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Welzel C., R. F. Inglehart, F. Deutsch (2005), "Social Capital, Voluntary Associations and Collective Action: Which Aspects of Social Capital Have the Greatest ‘Civic’ Payoff?", Journal of Civil Society, 1 (2): 121-146.

Yarwood J. (2016), "The Power of Protest", Journal of Democracy, 27 (3): 51-60.

You J.-S., Khagram S. (2005), “A Comparative Study of Inequality and Corruption.”, American Sociological Review, 70 (1): 136–157.

Zeilig L. (2016), "Burkina Faso: from Thomas Sankara to popular resistance", Review of African Political Economy, 1-10.

Wienkoop, N.-K. (2017), “It takes more to tango” – cross-movement alliances of youth-led movements in West Africa , Open Democracy / ISA RC-47: Open Movements, Revised 14 August, 2017, retrieved 18 September, 2017 (https://opendemocracy.net/nina-kathrin-wienkoop/it-takes-more-to-tango-cross-movement-alliances-of-youth-led-movements-in-west).

Yin R. K. (2009), Case study research: Design and methods, Los Angeles: Sage Publica-tions.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.