Frequent African coups — Does it lie within political fault zone?

BY: Lawrence Mantey

For the past months, the continent has recorded a number of coup d’états.

Coup leaders always try to create a sense of inevitability around the change in government, while claiming their action will bring long term stability.

We have had our own experience in this regard with some being glorified as revolutionaries, with their underpinning principles of probity and accountability.

The outcome of coup d’état is hard to predict.

If most or all of the military go along with the coup, civilian leaders are generally helpless to stop it.

But if most of the military officers follow the existing chain of command, the coup is doomed.

That was the case in Philippines in the late 1980s, The top general Fidel Ramos remained loyal to the civilian president Corazon Aquino in seven coup attempts by subordinate officers.

In each case, the bulk of the Philippines' military forces stayed loyal to Ramos and the coup failed.

In 1992, Ramos himself was elected President with the backing of a grateful Aquino.

Coups may also be put down by outside military forces.

A government threatened with a coup may call on a foreign friend for a military assistance.

But because coups are considered largely internal affairs and because they are over quickly, direct foreign intervention in coups is relatively rare.

An exception to this rule was in 1996 when Paraguay's larger neighbours, Brazil and Argentina put pressure on a General to cease an attempted coup against Paraguay's President.


Coup d’état, French for "blow against the state”, is an action that can hardly be justified and also lacks legitimacy.

Most of the time, military coup draws progress backwards and takes away individual freedoms and choices.

Nobody likes to live in a society where laws are customised towards identifiable groups and interests within society.

This is the challenge in most African countries where the military rules.

Today most reasons coup leaders give for their action resonate well with the civilian population and this fuels most of the military adventurism on the continent.

Corruption, the leading culprit, the recent attitude of most African leaders to disrespect term limits prescribed by state's constitutions, and also failure by leaders to respect the people's will are very glaring, and many a time, civilians get fed up before the military itself think about a coup.


Unlike faulty continental plates, Africa's political fault lines can be repaired if leaders build trust in established institutions, respect constitutions and the will of the people whose power they hold in trust.

That is what everyone is looking up to. Where hope for the future will be secured without disruptions, where African societies will remain peaceful and stable, and where dreams and development that have taken years to build will not be reversed or collapsed completely by an earthquake of a coup .

The writer is with the Institute of Current Affairs and Diplomacy (ICAD). E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.