Rising Military Coups in Africa: Defying People’s Sentiments has Disastrous Consequences

by Eli Mshomi
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The weak political infrastructure in Africa is the breeding ground of coups in the continent where military leaders often decide to throw out civilian governments.

Since the late 1950s, over 200 attempts have been made in Africa to overthrow the civilian government, which is the epitome of the fact that no country in the continent is absolutely safe from military debacles.

Military coups are rising in Africa, the primary reason of which is the weak economic development in the continent and the lack of accountability that encourages dictators to violate laws.

Military coups are rising in Africa, the primary reason of which is the weak economic development in the continent and the lack of accountability that encourages dictators to violate laws.

Coup Attempts in Africa: Greater than Any Other Continent

Sudan, the latest country which faced a coup in Africa, saw seventeen coups attempts since its independence. While six of them remained successful, the rest of them also depicted the sheer power which the military enjoys in Sudan.

The interesting thing is that sometimes these attempts are made against the erstwhile military leaders. For instance, Omar al-Bashir overthrew the civilian government in 1989, but he himself was also removed by a coup in 1989.

A wave of military coups in Nigeria between 1966 and 1993 made the suffering worse for the African nation.

Since 1952 the following African countries have faced coups:

Country Total Coup Attempts
Sudan 17
Chad 7
Niger 7
Benin 8
Mali 8
Burkina Faso 8
Guinea Bissau 8
Sierra Leone 10
Burundi 11
Ghana 10
Comoros 9

 

Comparing Africa with other continents portrays the weak face of the troubled continent. Since 2017, ten out of eleven recorded coups have happened in Africa. Only Myanmar is a non-African nation which faced a military uprising since 2017.

Robert Mugabe was overthrown by the military dictators in Zimbabwe after a long rule which signifies that the despite ruling for so long, he failed to curb military uprising in the country.

Robert Mugabe was overthrown by the military dictators in Zimbabwe after a long rule which signifies that the despite ruling for so long, he failed to curb military uprising in the country.

Poor Political, Economic, and Social Infrastructure: Genesis of African Coups
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The weak institutional framework in the country, coupled with the lack of accountability, are the primary reasons for the military intervention in politics in Africa.

With deteriorating economic conditions, the civilian governments are unable to maintain checks and balances on the military leadership, which ultimately translates into them overthrowing the same powers.

The only solution, in the long run, is to introduce specific provisions in all the constitutions of Africa that military intervention in politics will be responded to by the life imprisonment of the dictator or the death penalty.

The food shortage is at an all-time high which is ultimately creating a hunger crisis across the continent.

When people do not get to eat, they never back the civilian leadership at all. The practical example of this was demonstrated in Zimbabwe when the public celebrated the coup in 2017 when the long rule of President Mugabe was neutralized.

Military coups can only be stopped if leaders try to win popular support in the time of chaos. When the military in Turkey tried to overthrow Tayyib Erdogan, the civilians made the coup attempt unsuccessful.

Military coups can only be stopped if leaders try to win popular support in the time of chaos. When the military in Turkey tried to overthrow Tayyib Erdogan, the civilians made the coup attempt unsuccessful.

Public Sentiments: People’s Opinions Matter More than Anything Else

Most of the time, the military coups are favored by the civil society, as the public does not support the civilian leadership in the continent due to their continuous poor performance after coming to power.

When the public, in general, is enjoying a healthy lifestyle, the coups are bound to fail. A recent example of this is the failed coup attempt in Turkey, where the ordinary citizens captured the tanks of the military which tried to overthrow Tayyib Erdogan’s government in 2016.

When a small faction of the Turkish armed forces flooded the roads, Turkish citizens were first to respond and forced the military to retreat in a matter of hours.

The visuals of people lying down in front of tanks went viral, which depicted the sheer will of people to defend the civilian government.

African leaders can also enjoy this sort of moral support if they decide to pursue the economic stability of their respective countries instead of trying to exploit power every time they come to the top.

Omar Al-Bashir, the Sudan's leader who himself was an erstwhile dictator was also overthrow by the new military leadership once he denied embracing authoritative decisions.

Omar Al-Bashir, the Sudan’s leader who himself was an erstwhile dictator was also overthrow by the new military leadership once he denied embracing authoritative decisions.

Sentiment Analysis: A Prominent Way to Stop Future Coups

Sentiment analysis is perhaps the most important aspect which is needed to study deeply before analyzing the reasons for the coups in Africa.

Militaries are mostly regarded as sacred cows in these nations, and questioning them is considered an unpatriotic approach. No one is allowed to criticize those with weapons, as doing so can lead them into trouble.

When these people become immune to criticism, they start controlling media as well, through which they control information tightly. The critical voices are either scrutinized through censorship or killed brutally. With no one to scrutinize them, the military finds it easy to intervene in politics.

Even the non-coup times can easily be characterized by military intervention in elections. For instance, Omar al Bashir of Sudan had a military background and ruled the country for decades. When he decided to part ways from the military, the same forces decided to throw him out.

Nonetheless, enacting a strong constitution is the only way to safeguard political interests in the continent. However, this must be followed by economic growth and the promotion of human rights, as curbing the coups without people’s help is never a viable option.

After the military coup in Zimbabwae, people were seen celebrating with the armed forces, which signifies that the dictators had enough public support to maintain their rule.

After the military coup in Zimbabwae, people were seen celebrating with the armed forces, which signifies that the dictators had enough public support to maintain their rule.

US-Sponsored Coups in Africa Must Stop to Save Human Rights

The rising military coup attempts in Africa depict sorrowful loopholes in the US foreign policy in Africa. Despite the fact that democracy is considered as an internationally accepted best practice of governance, more military leaders are ousting civilian governments, and the world has no clue.

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The president in Guinea, an African country, was ousted by a military coup recently. However, this is not the only example.

The army in Mali tried to choke the civilian government twice within a year. Similarly, in Niger, an attempted coup failed just before the presidential inauguration.

The US is currently supporting many militaries globally in tackling the persisting dangers that these countries face in the form of extremism and terrorism.

However, after training from the US military, these same militaries are launching coups, which depicts that the US needs to stop going this route.

The military officer who led the latest coup in Guinea was taking active training from the US, and using this training, he captured the country.

While the United States condemned the episode, it must refrain itself from aiding these sorts of countries in the first place.

The US needs to see the pattern in all these coups and must adopt preventive measures instead of shedding crocodile tears in the end.

Countries like Tanzania and Kenya can also provide a favorable playing field to military dictators, and if the US does not stop military aid to all African countries, chaos will prevail in the province.

Ilhan Omar’s SAHRAA act can be extended to these sorts of countries that are misusing the US funding to kick-off coups in their territories.

 

Final Thoughts

The situation was worst in the cold war, where this phenomenon was at an all-time high, primarily because Africa was most vulnerable to the expansionist ideologies of communism and capitalism, and dictators there had no choice other than to capture the country altogether.

While there is pervasive discussion in global politics about the new cold war and the US and China emerging as imminent adversaries, the new wave of military coups in Africa is sweeping across the continent once again.

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