Bad Odds

Chad, Guinea, Mali, Sudan… Can a coup be a springboard for democracy?

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Political Capital

By Nic Cheeseman

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Posted on December 6, 2021 10:53

sudan coup
A Sudanese national holds a placard during a protest to condemn a military coup earlier this week, in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The recent spate of coups in Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan has sparked a flurry of media attention and concern.

The US Council for Foreign Relations says “coups are back in West Africa”, while the Wall Street Journal warns that “coups in Africa are at their “highest level since end of colonialism”. For its part, the Mail&Guardian carried an impassioned plea warning that “coups are always a bad idea, even the popular ones”.

In my September column, I was quick to jump on this particular bandwagon, asking whether there was such a thing as a ‘good coup’. Concerned with the growing toleration of coups, both domestically and internationally, I listed the problems generated by military intervention. Coups bring the army to the heart of power, and thus risk permanently displacing civilian leaders. They involve breaking the law, further undermining constitutional order, and they are much more likely to lead to further coups than to a stable democracy.

However, as I wrote the column, a question kept

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