In the 1990s, a wave of democracy and multiparty politics offered a ray of hope for civilian government in Africa. This was bolstered by the African Union's and other African regional entities' promises to reject unlawful government changes.
However, power grabs, unlawful military takeovers, and coups d'états have all returned to Africa. There has been an increase in the number of successful coups in the last five years in Africa.
These coups threaten to undo the democratic advances gained by African countries in recent decades. These coups are eroding existing democratic institutions, inciting political violence and heightening the risk of civil war.
Coups have become more successful in recent years as a result of widespread popular backing, particularly at the local level. In September 2021, People in Guinea flocked into the streets to celebrate the removal of Alpha Conde from power. The fact that Guineans celebrated the military takeover reflected how low democracy had sunk in Africa.
African Coup d’état in the past five years
• Burkina Faso Coup d’état, January 2022
• Sudanese Coup d’état, October 2021
• Guinean Coup d’état, September 2021.
• Malian Coup d’état May 2021.
• Malian Coup d’état, August 2020
• Sudanese Coup d’état, January 2019
• Zimbabwean Coup d’état, November 2017
Why are Coup d’état back in Africa?
Coup d’état in Africa are occurring in tandem with three broad trends:
• A surge in foreign interest in Africa, dubbed the "New Scramble" for resources and influence on the continent. Political analysts also argue that recent coups are being sponsored by outside powers. Russia has been notorious in this regard, and its mercenary groups played a role in Mali and Libya. The participation of the United States has also been called into question. There have been accusations that Malian coup plotters were receiving training and help in the US.
• A democratic recession in Sub-Saharan Africa, marked by the weakening of democratic institutions and civil society. According to political commentators, the failure of democracy to offer development to Africans has encouraged them to welcome coups d'états. Coups reflect a growing perception that elections and democracy are failing to deliver on their promises and do not reflect the will of the people.
• The emergence of new and subtle methods of circumventing constitutionally mandated presidential term limits and winning rigged elections. The coups in Guinea and Mali were fueled by public discontent with democratically elected presidents who had overstayed their welcome.
The present coup leaders, like their predecessors in the 1990s, frequently cite the same reasons for overthrowing governments. Corruption, poverty, and mismanagement are frequently mentioned.
Although such explanations appeal to Africans, seizing power by force and violating the same rules is inherently self-defeating. With all of their anti-corruption rhetoric, coups have failed to deliver social and economic development. In almost every case, African coup leaders have been shown to be just as corrupt as the regimes they deposed. Their attempts to improve the lives of ordinary people have failed.
António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, asked the Security Council to take action to effectively discourage coups in Africa. The African Union, on the other hand, has imposed few or no sanctions on the coup leaders. Because of the disparity between the values they are promoting and their attitudes toward those norms, the AU has lost credibility.
People are fed up with the African Union's post-coup reactions. They argue that why don't you react when elected officials are creating instability, destroying institutions, and rewriting constitutions?
Both African leaders and their external partners will have to play a critical role in reversing the trend of increasing coups in Africa. For their part, African countries must quantitatively democratize and truly decolonize.
Civil society must be effectively engaged by African regional organizations. It would not be enough to pay lip service to core values like accountability, transparency, and civic responsibility in order to prevent future coups.
Developed countries, on the other hand, must reconsider and review their long-standing policy of guiding Africa's engagement. To develop productive and feasible medium and long-term benefits, it is critical to recognize and work with African states.