The ongoing situation in Zimbabwe might not technically be classified as a coup – at least according to the Zimbabwean army and other officials. However, coup or not, the many times the military has seized power in the African continent show that military coups and takeovers are never a good thing for the people. The Daily Vox team rounds up five such times.
1. Lesotho – 2017
In September this year, Lesotho army commander Khoantle Motsomotso was shot dead at a military barracks by rival officers. This came after a coalition government had taken control over Lesotho in June. Thomas Thabane who became the prime minister after the 2017 election, had been forced to flee an attempted military coup in 2014. The mountain kingdom was in a continued state of instability after that coup, with the military largely being in charge of the country. The South African Development Community (SADC) had also for a long time relied on quiet diplomacy when dealing with Lesotho which seemed to have worsened the situation in the country. It was only after the murder of Motsomotso that SADC made recommendations for dealing with the rogue elements within the army, who seem intent on maintaining instability. Early, this month, there was an arrangement for SADC peacekeepers to be sent to maintain peace in the country.
2. Burkina Faso – 2015
Burkina Faso might be called the coup capital of Africa, having witnessed 10: six happened in the 1980s. The latest to take place was in 2015 which far from bringing stability and democracy to this country, led to more political crises. The Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP), an autonomous military unit, which had been formed under President Blaise Compaoré, detained the country’s government. Compaoré had been ousted in an uprising in 2014. Eleven people were killed while 250 people were injured during the coup. There was also mass opposition from the people and the army towards RSP’s control. The coup leaders were forced to give up control and even apologised to the country for the political crisis. Tensions continued between the army chiefs and the RSP and in September of that year, the army even attacked the RSP base. Many of those involved were charged and imprisoned in the wake of the coup and their trials are ongoing.
3. Central African Republic – 2013
In 2013, President Francois Bozize fled the country leaving the Seleka rebels, a coalition of Muslim militia and terrorist groups, in control of the presidential palace and the country. Soon after Bozize fled, the Seleka released a statement saying they had taken control of the country. There were many reports of human rights abuses taking place, including killings, rapes and looting. Several government ministers were detained by the rebel forces as well. The rebel leader Michel Djotodia took over the presidency, the first Muslim to do so in the predominantly Christian country. He was forced to resign in 2014, and the Seleka coalition disbanded. Fighting continued between the Seleka rebels and the anti-Balaka, Christian militia. By 2014, the country was divided into the anti-Balaka in the south and west and the Seleka in the north and east. Even with the election of a new president in 2016, the situation in the CAR still remains unstable, with many people going hungry and humanitarian aid lacking. More than 400,000 people in the CAR have been displaced, and more than a million are homeless.
4. Egypt – 2013
Egypt has been rocked by plenty of political stability ever since the 2011 revolution which overthrew Hosni Mubarak. There was hope for peace after the 2011 elections saw the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi taking power. However, just a year after he was elected, the Egyptian army chief, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led a military coup against Morsi, removing him from power and suspending the country’s constitution. The coup resulted in mass protests by pro-Morsi supporters. The army responded with violence against the supporters and many people were killed or arrested in the days following the coup. Protests and instability have become the norm in Egypt with el-Sisi at the helm of the country as the economy continues to suffer and the close relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia incensing many ordinary Egyptians.
5. Mali – 2012
In 2012, Malian soldiers unhappy with the way the government was dealing with the Tuareg rebellion attacked the presidential palace, state television and the military barracks in the capital Bamako. The soldiers who formed the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State forced the president Amadou Toumani Toure into hiding. However, the coup was followed by widespread international condemnation. The leaders of the coup and the transitional government were forced to step down in the days following the coup. However, this did not mean peace was restored. In December 2013, a mass grave was found which contained the remains of soldiers who were loyal to the ousted president. Many political prisoners were taken and human rights were violated during this period. The Tuaregs also managed to gain control over northern Mali, declaring independence, in the midst of the coup uncertainty. The political instability has also increased terror attacks in the country with Malian government announcing in October they would be extending the country’s state of emergency which had begun in 2015.