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Why has Africa seen so many military takeovers in past years?

Supporters of Niger's ruling junta gather at the start of a protest called to fight for the country's freedom and push back against foreign interference in Niamey, Niger, Aug. 3, 2023. Nigeriens are preparing for war against regional countries threatening to invade, three weeks after mutinous soldiers ousted the nation’s democratically elected president. Residents in the capital, Niamey, are calling for the mass recruitment of volunteers to assist the army in the face of a growing threat by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, which says it will use military force if the junta doesn’t reinstate the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. (Sam Mednick/AP)
Supporters of Niger's ruling junta gather at the start of a protest called to fight for the country's freedom and push back against foreign interference in Niamey, Niger, Aug. 3, 2023. Nigeriens are preparing for war against regional countries threatening to invade, three weeks after mutinous soldiers ousted the nation’s democratically elected president. Residents in the capital, Niamey, are calling for the mass recruitment of volunteers to assist the army in the face of a growing threat by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, which says it will use military force if the junta doesn’t reinstate the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. (Sam Mednick/AP)

The African continent has seen at least seven successful military coups in the last two years in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, Mali, Sudan.

The most recent ones took place this summer in Niger and Gabon. Many of these countries are former French colonies.

Ebenezer Obadare, a Nigerian-born senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., says people celebrating the overthrowing of their governments in Niger and Gabon “do not identify with what is called ‘democracy’ in so far as it tends to represent the narrow interests of the elite.”

“In the case of Gabon, for instance, the president is the son of a former president who was in power for 41 years,” he says. “And people felt that this is more of a dynastic rule than a proper democracy.”

The other reason people are not crowding the streets to denounce military rule, he says, is that young people feel that democracy has not delivered for them.

As a result, he says people don’t see much of a difference between a democracy that does not deliver and soldiers taking over.

“There are no jobs. There’s no stability. There’s no security,” Obadare says. “Life has become more difficult for people.”


Adeline Sire produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Sire also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.