Are coups re-emerging in Africa?

In 2017, between 14th and 21st November, there was a successful coup in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwean Coup d’état that toppled the government of former president Robert Mugabe. In the same year, between 27th and 28th December, there was a coup attempt at Equatorial Guinea. On 7th January 2019, there was a coup attempt at Gabon and on 10th April 2019, there was a successful coup in Sudan that saw the departure of Omar al-Bashir. The most recent coup in Africa was in Guinea resulting in the ousting of President Conde. There was also an attempted coup in Niger on 31st March 2021. The successful coups and the attempted coups in Africa begs the question, are coups re-emerging in Africa? And if they are, what are the reasons?

The justifications for coups in the post-colonial era were endemic corruption, poverty, the suffering of the masses, and the liberation of people from economic hardships. Have these reasons changed in any of the recent coups or attempted ones? Decades after independence, most African countries are faced with the stark reality that the freedom they fought for under their post-colonial leaders is the same freedom they demand under the current crop of leaders. The dark gloom of Africa’s past though refined remains. Citizens from African countries are no longer bundled and sold into slavery but most African countries are highly indebted to European countries. The debts which come in the form of loans, grants, and aids have conditions attached to them that force these countries to do the bidding of their erstwhile colonial masters.

In recent times, the issue of corruption in Africa seems to be wider than in the post-colonial era. According to a recent survey by Afrobarometer, out of nineteen countries, six in ten respondents say corruption is increasing in their country. In the case of Guinea where there was a recent coup, Sixty-three percent of the citizens say corruption is on the increase in the country. Two in three countries say their government is not fighting corruption and if they do at all, not in the right way.  There is a general mistrust in the leaders of most African countries by the citizens. This is partly because most African leaders and their families live affluent lifestyles while the masses suffer. This misrepresents the dynamic of scarce resources to the citizens who demand a fair share of the cake leading to anarchy and pandemonium.

Poverty, unemployment, high cost of living, and general lack of opportunities to improve upon living standards are the characteristics of most African countries. The leaders that rise up to the occasion can best be described as suffering from the messiah complex. These leaders believe that they have been ordained to rule and even when the people they rule demand a change, they force themselves on them accusing them of ungratefulness. This is the main cause of the re-emerging coups in Africa. Apart from a few African countries, the leaders that emerge after the post-colonial era in African countries lack the tenacity and the leadership skills needed to raise their countries out of the economic doldrums in which they find them. Being overwhelmed by the sheer number of challenges facing their countries, they resort to amassing wealth at the expense of the needy and poor masses in a bid to secure their future. This incurs the wrath of the people who see their actions as betrayal and demand their removal from office by every means possible.

The military jump to the occasion taking advantage of the apathy of the people for the government of the day to cement their authority. In most cases, their intervention is disastrous leading to chaos and anarchy. In situations where their intervention is successful, they become an irrelevant watchdog over subsequent governments which work to please the military junta instead of the citizens.

The solution then is to build strong institutions where individuals or groups find it difficult to abuse authority and work in the interest of all and sundry.



Amankwa Benjamin Kwame





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