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'Corrective' coups in Africa introduce policy dilemmas

Friday, June 5, 2015


Trends in approaches to coups in Africa.


Following the introduction of multi-party politics in the 1990s, Africa gradually developed an anti-coup norm. This was institutionalised by the African Union (AU): regimes that came to power unconstitutionally were automatically suspended from membership. More recent trends are challenging this principle. Coups in Mali (2012), Burkina Faso (2014) and a recent failed attempt in Burundi have seen military leaders claiming to have intervened to 'save democracy', usually removing from office presidents failing to respect term limits.


  • The role of African armies in peace-keeping can embolden military elites who do not have the same priorities as their Western funders.
  • Dependence on African armies for peace-keeping acts as a bargaining chip for elites to neutralise external criticism of domestic issues.
  • Donors still prefer African-led missions, given cost savings and the utility to bolster diplomatic relations with African states.

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