1. Introduction:

The African continent has long grappled with the specter of military coups, a recurring feature in its post-independence history. While there appeared to be a decline in such incidents after 2000, recent years have witnessed an unsettling resurgence of military takeovers in various African countries, raising concerns about the fragility of democratic institutions and regional stability. This article delves into the growing trend of military coups across Africa, analyzing their causes, implications, and the challenges they pose to governance, development, and global security.

2. Tracing the Evolution of Coup d'État:

Throughout history, the phenomenon of coup d'état, characterized by the sudden and often violent overthrow of a government or ruler, has been evident in various civilizations, dating back to ancient times. The desire to seize political power and influence has driven individuals and groups to orchestrate coups, showcasing the persistent and enduring nature of this method of political change. Interestingly, the term "coup d'état" itself didn't emerge until later centuries. The word "coup" comes from the French language and translates to "blow" or "strike." The phrase "coup d'état" directly translates to "stroke of state." It's believed that the term was first used in the late 18th century during the French Revolution to describe sudden, decisive actions that changed the political landscape. The French Revolution itself, with its series of revolutionary changes and power shifts, laid the groundwork for the modern understanding of a coup as a swift, often violent overthrow of a government or ruler.

The concept of a coup d'état, as observed throughout history, involves a faction within a state's military, government, or ruling elite attempting to seize power. The motivations behind coups can vary widely, ranging from discontent with the current leadership, ideological differences, power struggles, economic factors, to addressing perceived national crises. 

3. Niger's Recent Coup: Source and Causes.

The recent military coup in Niger, orchestrated by the presidential guard on 26 July 2023, exemplifies the escalating political instability in Africa due to a complex interplay of internal and external factors. Positioned in the volatile Sahel region, Niger confronts heightened insecurity from extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The military's concerns about the government's handling of security threats, alongside public discontent over corruption and socio-economic issues, have created fertile ground for such coup. The Presidential Guard's actions led to the detention of President Mohamed Bazoum, prompting the formation of a junta. This junta, composed of high-ranking officers from various branches of the defense and security forces (FDS), took shape as the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP). These events underscore the intricate balance between stability and turmoil in regions grappling with multifaceted challenges.

This coup follows a recurring pattern seen in certain African countries, where a combination of governance shortcomings, security concerns, and public grievances converge to create an environment ripe for military intervention. The Sahel's volatile security landscape, characterized by insurgent violence, has elevated the military's role in governance. While the coup may have been an attempt to address these challenges, it raises concerns about the region's long-term stability and the efficacy of counterterrorism endeavors. It also highlights the intricate interplay between democratic progress and security imperatives in vulnerable states like Niger.

Niger's democratically elected president prior to the coup, Mohamed Bazoum, had been making notable strides against militant groups in the Sahel, rendering his leadership pivotal for regional stability. However, the coup led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani disrupted this trajectory and prompts uncertainty about the country's democratic future. The junta's control over Niger, a critical partner in counterterrorism efforts, holds substantial implications for regional security and global anti-terrorism cooperation. These events reflect a broader challenge of striking a balance between addressing security threats and upholding democratic institutions in a region grappling with political and economic vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, the coup's origins are linked to multiple factors beyond security and governance. The debate surrounding Bazoum's ethnicity and legitimacy during the election campaign played a significant role. As a member of Niger's ethnic Arab minority, Bazoum's foreign origins were often contested, especially within a military dominated by larger ethnic groups. The presence of numerous foreign military troops and bases within Niger was also a source of contention for the military, who felt that this presence undermined their authority. Additionally, the failure of regional organizations like ECOWAS and the African Union to firmly address military takeovers in neighboring countries further emboldened the Nigerien military's actions.

4. Global Response to the Niger Coup: Regional and International Actions.

The military coup in Niger, which unfolded in July 2023, sent shockwaves across Africa and prompted swift responses from both regional and international actors. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a bloc representing 15 West African nations, played a pivotal role in the response to the coup. In an emergency summit held in Nigeria, ECOWAS leaders condemned the coup and demanded the immediate restoration of constitutional order. The bloc imposed a series of measures, including closing borders with Niger, banning commercial flights, freezing financial transactions, and ending aid to the country. Military officials involved in the coup were targeted with travel bans and asset freezes. Additionally, ECOWAS leaders warned of possible military intervention if the ousted president, Mohammed Bazoum, was not reinstated within a week. This response underscores the region's commitment to preserving democratic norms and stability, though it remains to be seen how effective these measures will be in restoring the elected government.

The international community, too, weighed in on the coup in Niger. The United States, France, and other key nations condemned the takeover, emphasizing their support for democratic processes. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, welcomed ECOWAS's actions and called for the immediate release of President Bazoum and the restoration of legitimate government functions. France, as Niger's former colonial power, condemned the coup and suspended military cooperation with the country. The coup's repercussions reverberated globally, as Niger's strategic significance in the fight against extremist groups and its role as a key ally in the Sahel region came to the forefront. The coup's aftermath demonstrated the importance of a united and coordinated response from regional and international actors to address the challenges posed by military interventions and uphold democratic values in the face of political turmoil.

5. The Resurgence of Military Coups in Africa. 

In recent years, Africa has witnessed a series of coups that have significantly altered the political landscape and stability of affected countries. Burkina Faso, with its history of corrupt military rule, saw two coups in 2022, marked by a complex interplay of factors including jihadist insurgencies and a resilient pro-democracy movement. Chad, known for military leadership, experienced a 2021 coup after President Idriss Déby's death, aiming to consolidate power and align with counterterrorism efforts. Guinea's 2021 coup was driven by government corruption, underscoring democratic erosion, while Mali, with its history of military interventions, faced five coups since 1960, influenced by insurgencies and external actors. Sudan, amid decades of military rule and coup attempts, embarked on a path to democracy through mass protests, though ongoing coups fuel factional conflicts, posing challenges to lasting stability in the region. This unsettling trend prompts the question: Why are military coups on the rise again in Africa?

6. The Complex Causes.

The resurgence of military coups in Africa can be attributed to a complex interplay of factors. Historically, many African countries faced conditions conducive to coups, including poverty, economic struggles, and unstable governance post-independence. While the total number of coup attempts remained relatively steady between 1960 and 2000, the early 2000s saw a decline. However, this decline has been interrupted by recent spikes, partly attributed to popular uprisings against long-standing dictators. These uprisings create opportunities for military intervention, a phenomenon observed in Niger's recent coup.

7. Geo-Political Dynamics and Implications.

Geo-political factors further complicate the situation. The West African nations' response to the Niger coup highlights the regional alarm over the erosion of democratic norms. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions on Niger, indicating a willingness to employ both diplomatic and military measures to restore constitutional order. However, the effectiveness of such sanctions remains questionable. Past experiences in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea showed that while financial sanctions led to defaults on debt, they primarily impacted civilians rather than military leaders, often worsening existing crises.

8. Mitigating African Coups: Strategies for Stability.

Addressing the recurring challenge of coups in Africa requires a multifaceted approach aimed at fostering political stability, enhancing governance, and reducing the appeal of military interventions. This section explores several strategies that can be employed to mitigate the prevalence of coups across the continent.

8.1. Strengthening Democratic Institutions:

One key strategy is to reinforce democratic institutions and processes. By ensuring that elections are free, fair, and transparent, African nations can enhance citizens' confidence in their governments and reduce the inclination to resort to military takeovers. Strengthening the rule of law, promoting independent judiciaries, and safeguarding civil liberties create an environment that discourages coup plotters and encourages peaceful political transitions.

8.2. Fostering Socio-Economic Development:

Addressing the socio-economic disparities that often underlie coup-prone environments is essential. High levels of poverty, unemployment, and unequal wealth distribution can contribute to public dissatisfaction and instability. Investing in education, job creation, and social welfare programs can help alleviate these issues and enhance social cohesion. A stable and prosperous society is less likely to support or tolerate military interventions that disrupt progress.

8.3. Enhancing Regional and International Cooperation:

Collaboration among African nations and international partners is crucial for preventing and managing coups. Regional organizations such as the African Union and sub-regional bodies like ECOWAS, etc can play a pivotal role in mediating conflicts, promoting dialogue, and imposing sanctions on coup perpetrators. Strong international condemnation of coups and targeted diplomatic pressure can dissuade military interventions. Additionally, assistance in building capable and professional security forces can reduce the military's temptation to intervene in political matters.

8.4. Enforcing Anti-Coup Norms and Strengthening Institutions:

Mitigating the prevalence of coups in Africa necessitates a comprehensive approach that encompasses both domestic and regional efforts. While the African Union (AU) has declared its stance against unconstitutional changes of government through articles such as Article 23 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, Article 4(p) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, and Article 7(g) of the Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council, its response to recent coups has exhibited some inconsistency. The AU's commitment to these principles must be fortified through resolute actions, including imposing sanctions and referring coup perpetrators for prosecution, in line with Article 25 of the African Charter of Democracy, Elections, and Governance. Without unwavering condemnation and tangible consequences, the AU risks undermining its own efforts and contributing to a regional democratic recession.

8.5. Fostering Socio-Economic Development and Term Limits:

Alongside bolstering institutional responses, addressing the underlying causes of coups is paramount. Socio-economic disparities often play a role in creating environments ripe for political instability. Investing in education, job creation, and social welfare programs can enhance social cohesion and reduce public discontent. Additionally, efforts to establish presidential term limits across the continent can help deter leaders from seeking to prolong their rule through unconstitutional means. While some regional economic communities (RECs) have taken steps towards term limits, more comprehensive and uniform adoption of two-term limits, such as that advocated by the East African Community (EAC), can provide a stable foundation for leadership transitions and discourage power consolidation.

8.6. Enhancing International Collaboration and Diplomacy

Combating coups requires collaboration among African nations and international partners. Regional organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have demonstrated their commitment to stability by adopting resolutions to limit presidential rule extensions. However, more RECs, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), need to take a clear stance on term limits to foster consistency and prevent power overreach. International partners should support and encourage these efforts through diplomatic pressure and targeted assistance to strengthen governance structures and promote democratic norms.

By integrating these strategies, African nations and regional bodies can collectively strive to mitigate the prevalence of coups and create a more stable political environment that supports sustainable development and progress across the continent.


Africa's coup resurgence underscores the complexity of the continent's political landscape. While some military interventions are met with public support, the consequences of such takeovers often outweigh their perceived benefits. The challenges posed by military coups extend beyond borders, affecting regional security, economic stability, and governance. As Africa grapples with this alarming trend, the path forward requires not only regional cooperation but also a renewed commitment to strengthening democratic institutions, fostering socio-economic development, and addressing the root causes that make military interventions an alluring option.

In the complex tapestry of Africa's history, the resurgence of coups serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges and aspirations woven into the continent's fabric. As we reflect on the political upheavals that have punctuated the region, it is vital to recognize that Africa's trajectory is not defined solely by its tumultuous past, but by the potential for transformation that lies ahead. The reemergence of coups underscores the delicate balance between democratic progress and persistent vulnerabilities, urging us to seek innovative solutions that mend the seams of fractured governance.

Amid the shadows of coups, a new dawn of resilience and determination emerges. It is a call to arms for African nations, regional bodies, and international partners to weave together strategies that strengthen democratic institutions, foster economic growth, and elevate the aspirations of millions who yearn for stability. The continent's journey forward hinges on nurturing the seeds of good governance, accountability, and equitable development, as these are the roots that can secure Africa's place on the global stage.

In the face of coup resurgence, Africa has the chance to craft a narrative that defies the confines of the past and forges a pathway towards a future illuminated by democracy, prosperity, and unity. The tapestry may be intricate, but its threads are woven by the aspirations of a diverse and resilient people. By embracing the lessons of history and embracing a shared vision for progress, Africa can cast off the shadows of instability and write a story that resonates for generations to come.

Thank you.

Written by Christopher Makwaia

Tel: +255 789 242 396

- _The writer, is a University of West London graduate (formerly Thames Valley University) and an expert in Management, Leadership, International Business, Foreign Affairs, Global Marketing, Diplomacy, International Relations, Conflict Resolution, Negotiations, Security, Arms Control, Political Scientist, and a self-taught Computer Programmer and Web Developer._

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