The ethnic army and the state: explaining coup traps and the difficulties of democratization in Africa

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Abstract

Military coups have posed a persistent threat to political stability in Africa, undermining democratization efforts, igniting insurgencies, and leading to years of devastating military governance. Initial cross-national studies found little consistent evidence linking ethnicity to coups, leading recent formal and statistical work on coup risk and coup-proofing to largely ignore ethnic politics. This article, however, argues that in two important contexts of African political development—decolonization and democratization—ethnic politics are critical to understanding the occurrence of coups. Both case study evidence and statistical analysis of original data on African military history and ethnic politics reveal that practices of ethnic manipulation within security institutions have driven coup attempts. When leaders attempt to build ethnic armies, or dismantle those created by their predecessors, they provoke violent resistance from military officers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-616
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Volume60
Issue number4
Early online date17 Sept 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

Keywords

  • Democratization
  • Conflict
  • Internal-armed conflict
  • Political Survival

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