King Coup

Article excerpt

"African Military Coups d'Etat, 1956-2001: Frequency, Trends and Distribution" by Patrick J. McGowan, in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Sept. 2003), Cambridge Univ. Press, 100 Brook Hill Dr., West Nyack, N.Y. 10994-2133.

Military coups seem pretty much a thing of the past in most of the world. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, only a few coups have succeeded (notably, in Haiti and Pakistan) since the mid-1980s. But sub-Saharan Africa is another story altogether: Between 1985 and 2001, it experienced 21 successful coups and 41 failed attempts, reports McGowan, a political scientist at Arizona State University.

Coups d'etat began to become frequent and widespread in sub-Saharan Africa during the 1960s, he says. Between 1956 and 2001, the 48 independent African states experienced 80 coups, 108 failed attempts, and 139 coup plots. Eighteen countries suffered more than one coup, and Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso had six apiece. West Africa, with one-third of the states but 45 percent of the coup attempts, is the most coup-prone region.

Only six African countries have been completely free of coup plots and attempts, but three of those (Namibia, Eritrea, and South Africa) became independent or majority ruled only in the 1990s. …