The Truth About Africa’s Coups

Issue Date April 2024
Volume 35
Issue 2
Page Numbers 93–107
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The recent coups in Africa do not portend a return to praetorian politics in the region. They are the outcomes of country-specific historical processes associated with the underdevelopment of state capacity, the decay of political institutions, and the failures of electoral politics to improve citizens’ material conditions. At the same time, the coups are an important warning regarding the state of democracy in Africa. Surveys show that majorities of Africans harbor both a deep dissatisfaction with democracy and an openness to military interventions to address civilian political dysfunction. While coup contagion is a remote possibility due to strong norms against military rule in much of the region, popular dissatisfaction with democracy and permissiveness towards military interventions in politics present a real risk of autocratization through elections.

About the Author

Kennedy Ochieng’ Opalo is associate professor in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is the author of Legislative Development in Africa: Politics and Postcolonial Legacies (2019). He is author of the Substack newsletter An Africanist Perspective.

View all work by Kennedy Ochieng’ Opalo