Category Archives: Preventing and Reversing Military Coups

What Went Wrong in Mali?

Mali’s reputation as a relatively stable democracy was upended by a military coup launched by junior officers in March 2012, raising questions about the strength of Mali’s democratic system. In actuality, the previous regime had centralized authority and harassed some journalists while a culture of corruption and institutional sclerosis had flourished in the military, judiciary, and other key sectors. A vibrant press and popular expectations for legitimate and representative governance persist, but institutional fragmentation will complicate the revival of democratic governance.

China and the Coups: Coping with Political Instability in Africa

China typically does not see coups in Africa as major threats to its interests but rather follows a strict policy of conservative restraint, unilateralism, and mercantilism. At times China has even seemingly ignored criticism of or sanctions imposed on military regimes by African regional organizations. China’s approach, however, may have to evolve as its interests and reputation on the continent will benefit from the stability provided by transparent and legitimate governance.

Unconstitutional Changes of Government – New AU Policies in Defense of Democracy

The African Union has a well-defined set of norms and approaches to address unconstitutional changes of government among member states. However, existing policy scripts that include suspension, stakeholder coordination, and sanctions have been applied unevenly following recent military coups. The AU should more consistently execute its pre-defined response schemes, collaborate with Regional Economic Communities to enhance joint leverage, and continue to strengthen democratic norms in order to promote constitutional compliance.

Democracy and the Chain of Command: A New Governance of Africa’s Security Sector

As many African countries continue down the path of democratic reform, Africa’s defense and security forces must make fundamental changes to adapt to a democratic model of governance. In this paper, General Djindjere puts forward five priority reforms Africa’s defense and security forces should pursue to facilitate this transition. In addition to building professionalism, the legitimacy and trust security forces will gain in the eyes of their compatriots from this process will lead to greater effectiveness and popular support for national security efforts.

Toward a Structural Understanding of Coup Risk

Military coups d’état often appear in the wake of particular crises, whether a contested election, a surging conflict, or an economic downturn. However, a cross-country analysis of structural attributes of state-society relations such as the quality of civil society, regime type, and past history of coups provides a robust predictor of coup risk. This, in turn, suggests that strengthening civil society and democratic reforms lowers coup risk more than efforts to fragment armed forces and shuffle military leadership, which are common “coup-proofing” strategies in weak states.