The Ethnic Army and the State: Explaining Coup Traps and the Difficulties of Democratization in Africa

By Kristne Harkness, Journal of Conflict Resolution
August 31, 2016

Cameroonian soldiers

Since the independence era of the 1960s, there have been more than 215 coup attempts in 43 of the 54 countries of Africa. Though the numbers were mostly concentrated in the early years, coups attempts are still a feature on the continent. Where early leaders tended to form militaries based on ethnicity, coups attempts were four times as likely to happen. Likewise, because of the patronage system in place in many fragile states, when elections bring in a leader that is not of the same ethnicity as the army, coup risk spikes dramatically.

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Security Topics: Preventing and Reversing Military Coups