When the military forcibly takes over the incumbent government without warning, often using violent methods, it is called a military coup or a coup d’état. Africa has seen around 200 military coups since the 1960s. There are many reasons that could lead to a military coup.
Recently, on 14th November 2017, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces took over Harare, the capital city. They placed the president, Robert Mugabe under house arrest. Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced him as the leader of ZANU-PF Party on 19th November, even as Mugabe refused to step down as President. This coup took place amid tensions between the ruling ZANU-PF and the former Vice President, Mnangagwa.
36% of the coups that have taken place in the world since 1950 have taken place in Africa.
Let’s look at the factors that could be responsible for these military coups:
1. Rampant corruption
When the British colonies left Africa, their militaristic milieu and sudden departure left the continent underdeveloped and the political systems in most countries on tenterhooks. A few of them are still yet to recuperate. The GDP growth rate has been stagnant for the past many years. The mismanaged economy has led to rampant corruption. For instance, Zimbabwe is known to lose $1 billion to corruption every year. In such cases, the military considers it their duty to intervene to stop the corruption from swallowing the country.
2. Frustrated and dissatisfied public
The government has been unable to handle the various warring factions that have emerged in different parts of Africa, which has led to discontentment among the citizens.
The political systems have been weakened by the world dependency theory. The theory talks about how developed countries use resources of underdeveloped countries and use it for their further development at the latter’s expense. Africa, already reeling under the pressure of innumerable hardships, suffers at this exploitation by first world countries, leaving the people dissatisfied and angry. This anger makes people lose faith in the government and they expect a change in the form of a successful military coup.
3. Rapid increase in ‘Third-termism’
Another reason for military coups is the illegal extension of Presidential terms to help them remain in power. The coup d’état in Niger was a result of this. The President, Mamadou Tandja extended his two-year term beyond December 2009 by setting up a new constitution and got away by stating that certain economic projects had to be overlooked. This infuriated the opposition and the military resulting in a military coup.
4. Friction between ethnic minorities
Slaves that returned from America, exercise dominance over ethnic groups that are already settled there. This has created warring factions, resulting in military coups.
The biggest example is the military coup that took place in Liberia in 1980. Liberia consists of Americo Liberians (minority) and Indigenous Liberians (majority). For decades, the place was under the Americo Liberians, the descendant of American slaves who had settled in Africa. Even though they constituted 1% of the population, they controlled the economics and politics of that area majorly. Fearing the loss of their own ethnicity, the military coup was carried out by the Indigenous Liberians who wanted to get rid of the Americo – Liberians.
5. Lesser allocation of funds to military
Due to weak economic growth in most African countries, the government has less money to allocate to various institutions. This, in turn, means fewer funds allocated to the military making them dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction results in military coups.
It is important to holistically understand the adverse effects of the coups. As a result of these coups, a vicious cycle of poor economic growth can be seen in Africa further stunting its development, making it nearly impossible for them to come out of it.