“Why have AFRICAN COUNTRIES been continuously experiencing Coup attempts”

“Why have AFRICAN COUNTRIES been continuously experiencing Coup attempts”

This article covers “Daily current affairs” and the topic details of “Why have AFRICAN COUNTRIES been continuously experiencing Coup attempts” This topic is relevant in the “INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS” section of the UPSC- CSE Exam.


Why in the news?


DR Congo’s Army thwarted a coup attempt that led to the three deaths and arrest of the perpetrators, including several foreigners, following attacks on the presidential palace.


More about the news:


  • The coup attempt occurred amid a political crisis that gripped President Félix Tshisekedi‘s ruling party. The crisis revolved around an election for the leadership of parliament, initially slated for 18 May 2024 but subsequently deferred.
  • The attempt was blamed on forces loyal to opposition politician Christian Malanga, the self-exiled leader of the United Congolese Party who was killed during the attempt.
  • The attackers were members of the Congolese military before it was found that they were linked to Christian Malanga, the self-exiled leader of the opposition United Congolese Party.

Where repetitive coups have been experienced by African countries in the past decades:


  • Coups have been observed in the following countries from the past century to till now. Here are some examples: Libya, Egypt and Tunisia in 2011, Burkina Faso in 2014 and 2022, Zimbabwe in 2017, Algeria and Sudan in 2019, Mali in 2020 and 2021, Guinea in 2021, Niger in 2023 and Gabon in 2023.


Reasons for the repetitive coup in Africa:


  • Failed to address the cause that led to the coup:  These coups have failed to address the circumstances that caused them by the governments that followed, which leads to further coups. Subsequent regimes often consolidate their hold on power through corruption and by sidelining their political opponents. Over time, the resulting increase in mass poverty leads to widespread political dissatisfaction. This political instability then triggers a coup, perpetuating the cycle.
  • Interference of foreign countries: Foreign countries such as France and the USA interfere in their issues, which contribute to the instability of the Sahel and West Africa region. The presence of the at least 13 countries, including the UK, US, France,, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Japan, and India, have a 3 comilitary presence.
  • Unconstitutional changes of government: The Accra Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government in Africa mandates the African Union to denounce any form of unconstitutional government transition, such as coups and the distortion of democratic procedures.
    • Nevertheless, several African leaders have remained in power for extended periods by manipulating constitutional amendments, engaging in electoral fraud, and suppressing opposition. Countries where this has been evident include Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Uganda, the Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Rwanda.
    • Foreign Armies in Africa: The Accra Declaration opposes ‘foreign interference’ in matters of peace and security, which includes financing coups and deploying mercenary forces to African states. Despite this, thirteen foreign countries maintain military bases on the continent, with over eleven bases situated in the Horn of Africa alone. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council is tasked with promoting peace, security, and stability.
    • Foreign armies often maintain their presence by aligning with sympathetic regimes, thereby expanding their influence without contributing to Africa’s development or security. This dynamic is exploited by authoritarian leaders in Africa.
  • Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune: The obstacles to Africa’s unity are largely due to ineffective leadership. In contrast to European unity, which followed the formation of well-established nations, African unity is hindered by the fact that the continent consists primarily of developing countries reliant on foreign assistance. This dependence not only perpetuates corruption but also undermines the ability of African governments to act independently.
  • The African Electoral Problem and Its Contribution to Coups: The African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance aims to foster democracy and encourage free and fair elections. However, electoral malpractice is rampant across Africa, with elections often plagued by fraud, discrimination, violence, and falsified votes.
  •                                                In nations with authoritarian histories or significant ethnic divisions, elections can be particularly tense. Poverty exacerbates the situation, making people vulnerable to vote buying and selling. Often, elections in Africa become tools for elites to secure power through intimidation, fraud, and manipulation of tribal and religious loyalties. Additionally, Western powers, in pursuit of their own interests, influence African elections, leading to the installation of puppet leaders who do not represent the popular will.
  • African Unity: In 1963, Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah contended that Africa’s challenges could only be addressed through genuine continental unity, rather than sporadic actions and well-intentioned declarations. Guinean president Sékou Touré posed insightful questions about whether the success of other continents stemmed from shared customs, language, or economic systems. Touré argued that the true value of a larger community lies in the continuous coordination of its activities.


 How to Reduce Coups in African Countries?


Reducing the incidence of coups in African countries requires a multifaceted approach, addressing both immediate and systemic issues. Here are several strategies that could help:

  1. Strengthen Democratic Institutions: Ensuring robust, independent, and transparent institutions is crucial. This includes a fair judiciary, independent electoral commissions, and legislative solid bodies that can hold the executive accountable.
  2. Promote Good Governance: Leaders must adhere to principles of accountability, transparency, and the rule of law. Public officials should be held accountable for their actions, and Anti-corruption measures should be enforced.
  3. Enhance Electoral Integrity: Implementing free, fair, and transparent electoral processes can help legitimise governments. This involves preventing electoral fraud, ensuring equal access to media, and protecting the rights of all political parties to participate.
  4. Foster Inclusive Politics: Encouraging political inclusivity and participation from all societal groups can reduce grievances. This includes addressing ethnic, regional, and religious divides and promoting policies that reflect the diverse makeup of the population.
  5. Support Economic Development: Addressing poverty and unemployment can reduce the discontent that often fuels coups. Economic policies should focus on sustainable development, job creation, and equitable distribution of resources.
  6. Strengthen Civil Society: A vibrant civil society can provide a check on government power and advocate for the rights of citizens. Supporting NGOs, community organisations, and the media can help promote a more engaged and informed citizenry.
  7. International Support and Cooperation: The international community can play a role by providing support for democratic processes, offering development aid tied to good governance, and sanctioning regimes that come to power through coups.
  8. Professionalize the Military: Ensuring that the military is apolitical and professional can prevent its involvement in politics. This includes appropriate training, fair compensation, and a clear separation between military and political roles.
  9. Conflict Resolution Mechanisms: Establishing effective conflict resolution and mediation mechanisms can address disputes before they escalate into coups. This involves both domestic and regional efforts to mediate conflicts and address grievances.
  10. Education and Civic Awareness: Educating citizens about their rights and the importance of democracy can foster a culture that resists undemocratic changes. Civic education programs can empower citizens to demand accountability and participate actively in governance.


Reducing the incidence of coups in African countries needs a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying political, economic, and social factors contributing to instability. Strengthening democratic institutions, promoting good governance, ensuring electoral integrity, and fostering inclusive politics are essential steps. 

           Additionally, supporting economic development, empowering civil society, and professionalising the military can create a more resilient and stable political environment. Through coordinated efforts within African nations and with the support of the international community, it is possible to build a foundation for lasting peace, stability, and democratic governance across the continent.


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Prelims base Question:

Q. Which of the following strategies is NOT effective in reducing the likelihood of coups?

  1. Strengthening democratic institutions
  2. Promoting electoral fraud
  3. Enhancing electoral integrity
  4. Supporting economic development




Mains based Questions:

Q. Why are African countries more vulnerable to the coup? Critically analyse.


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