Military Takeovers in Africa: Drawing the Line Between Politics and the Army


Africa has seen three successful military takeovers in countries such as Mali, Chad, Zimbabwe, and Guinea. The most recent military takeover of junta Colonel Mamady Doumbouya overthrew Alpha Conde on September 5th after claiming that Guinea’s current government was invalid and corrupt.

The incident in Guinea comes months after Chadian President Idriss Deby and the army installed General Mahamat Idriss Deby as interim president, promising to hold elections within eighteen months after the military suspended the constitution and dissolved the National Assembly.

While the country experienced its third coup in ten years, following military takeovers in 2020 and 2021, the Malian Army, led by Vice President Colonel Assimi Goita, captured and detained President Bah N’daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on May 24th. Colonel Assimi also stated that powers had been removed from N’daw and Ouane, and elections would be held in 2022.

Reasons for the Military takeovers

According to Col. Mamady Doumbouya, the leader of Guinea’s recent coup, he cited poverty, corruption, and the concentration of power in the hands of one individual as reasons for deposing Guinea’s President Alpha Conde. This action was condemned by many leaders and organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others.

However, the Malian Army shares similar reasons for the takeover, claiming bad governance and theft fueled the decision to take over.

Who’s to blame?

African organizations such as the African Union, ECOWAS, and the international community have been chastised for turning a blind eye to some issues that fuel the dissolution of governments by military coups.

For example, the Africa Union Peace and Security Council noted in 2014 the unconstitutional changes in African governments that had resulted from; “Deficiencies in governance, greed, selfishness, mismanagement of diversity, failure to seize opportunities, marginalization, human rights violations, unwillingness to accept electoral defeat, and manipulation of constitutions.”

Despite these highlighted issues, the African Union, the international community, and ECOWAS regional blocs remained deafeningly silent and unresponsive.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc has performed relatively well compared to other organizations. However, military takeovers have recently weakened its authority.

The reactions of the regional bloc and other states to the takeovers show the organizations would do less to oppose the coup.

Concerning elections, the African Union and other regional organizations rarely challenge official results, even when independent observers observe irregularities. Their actions appear to be aimed at preserving the status quo.

Results of Military takeovers 

Regardless of whether military coups bravely take over current governments, much speculation surrounds whether these groups will succeed.

According to Michela Wrong’s book “Do Not Disturb“, the author states, “Most of these rebel movements cannot transition to civilian governments… The truth is usually simpler: no transition is attempted at all: the habits, mindset, and structures of a military guerrilla movement simply shift wholesale from the forest dugout to the capital city.”

For instance, Zimbabwean former President Robert Mugabe was deposed in November after ruling the country for three and a half years. According to activists, little has changed since the takeover, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa centralized power and authority from his predecessor.

A sign that some military or guerrilla groups resemble the previous governments that dissolve once in power. Elections, for example, are rarely held, and if they are, they are far from “free and fair.”

According to Mr Mukalazi, country director of Every Child Ministries, civilians are the biggest losers because innocent people suffer the most. Civilians are killed because of the gunfire exchange. Those who survive are subject to human rights violations, such as rape, torture, starvation, and a lack of adequate shelter.

Mr Mukalazi ended his remarks by saying military takeovers endanger human lives and jeopardize the recent democratic gains made by many African countries. He also urged African organizations to assess their root causes and develop preventive or corrective strategies to deal with them.


Guinea Coup Attempt: Soldiers Claim to Seize Power from Alpha Condé

The African Union Suspends Guinea after Coup


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