Coups: Why Africans like them – BBC Africa Editor

Analysis – Some prominent countries across Africa have recently seen coups.

Photo: AFP

Senegal got its fourth coup since 2016, as President Macky Sall was ousted.

Liberia had been enjoying its first democratic transition since 1944, but then saw the country’s first coup since 1944.

The latest coup in Nigeria, less than a week ago, was also a military uprising.

If leaders here should have hoped to get a break after 2017, it appears they are going back to business as usual.

Why does Africa have a tradition of coups?

One reason coups are still common in Africa is that a lot of dictators are still in power.

Take for example South Africa: Jacob Zuma is in office but his successor will have to deal with the problems caused by an extremely corrupt system.

Eritrea president Isaias Afwerki also has to deal with tensions between his warring Asmara.

Given the unstable state of many African governments, military mutinies are not uncommon.

It is also worth considering that coups tend to be violent, and that in some cases the violent overthrow of the country’s leadership can provoke an outbreak of civil war.

Related: Why has Nigeria’s recent coup attempt seen little protest?

Has it got better?

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, peaceful change of government has become more of a norm across Africa. But while citizens have been able to protest for change, coups aren’t going to go away.

For example, Ghana has seen several coups in the past two decades.

But overall, citizens generally feel better off. Large amounts of aid and investment in Africa have boosted the economy over the past decade.

So why is the trend of coups back?

Part of the reason is that some young African leaders who overthrew their predecessors are falling out of favour with their own people.

The leaders often live extravagant lifestyles, while the governments they rule are plagued by corruption and mismanagement.

Related: Why Africa’s old kingdoms must be recovered

In cases like the current one in Senegal, President Sall has recently been forced to make some unpopular decisions that many people would like to see him oppose.

For example, he raised taxes – he also privatised government enterprises, which were deemed wasteful by many, and cut back on wasteful spending.

Then the president was forced into a televised speech announcing his decision to sack 100 officials, in a move that is highly unpopular with many in his own party.

In recent days, many journalists have published the names of these 100 officials, a measure which could increase dissatisfaction in Senegal further.

If a new leader has no popular support and doesn’t have the backing of the army, coups remain an option.

The number of coups may appear high compared to most other countries in the world, but it is down from the highs reached after the 1960s and early 1970s, when coups were seen in most African countries.

Back then, when African people were relatively poor, coups were seen as their only chance to get an elite from the rest of the world.

Now, rising African standards of living mean coups are not as appealing for African youth.

Elections are much harder to manipulate, especially for younger African leaders. This opens the way for politicians to become president with relatively little public support.

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