Diverging perspectives: Legitimizing regional interventions and local perceptions

African regional organizations have far-reaching powers to intervene in their member states not only for humanitarian reasons but also when military coups happen. By means of various instruments such as sanctions, mediation, diplomacy and military intervention, they have extensive power to influence the political order of a country. After the fall of a government, regional actors enter into a power vacuum in which the legitimacy of their intervention no longer only has to be negotiated at the level of the member states, but above all with local - political and social - actors.

Ethnographic studies show that the local perception of international peace interventions is decisive for their legitimacy and thus for their success in creating long-term peace and stability. Political and social actors are not simply 'recipients' of external interventions; they interpret and evaluate them from their own local perspectives. How African regional organizations and their interventions are perceived locally - by political and social actors in the countries in which they intervene - has not yet been researched.

Using the interventions of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Burkina Faso 2014 and 2015 as examples, the PhD project examines the mutual process of legitimizing regional interventions by the participating organizations on the one hand and their local perception on the other. While studies of international relations and peace and conflict research usually take a normative perspective in order to assess the legitimacy of international organizations and/or their interventions, the project focuses on frictions and ambivalences of (de-)legitimization 'from above' - i.e. of the organizations - and 'from below' - from local perspectives.