Are coups good for democracy?

By Leana Bisa
On 18 May 2022 at 01:50

Coups are not unusual on the African continent and also globally, in recent years there have been many successful coups and unsuccessful attempts but the question that remains is if coups are good for democracy. By the looks of it they are not.

In recent years, coups have given hope that it is what’s needed for democracy since those who wish to overthrow claim so.

Most justify their actions on the basis of the need to protect the country from some forms of threat like corruption and failure of development and instability caused by the civilian government.

In some cases, coup leaders argue that they had intervened to save democracy.

In countries like Egypt, Niger and Burkina Faso; many were hopeful that the coups might install new regimes and a sort of democracy but it was the opposite as dictatorships were replaced with other dictatorships.

When Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in Egypt in 2013 by a military coup, many did not doom it to be another dictatorship because of many promises made to the people but less than a year later, the military’s own Gen Abdel Fatah al-Sissi won 97 percent of the vote, in a race that none of the major opposition parties contested.

On 23rd December 2008, Captain Dadis Camara staged a coup in Guinea, just a day after the death of longtime dictator, Lansana Conté.

Camara established the National Committee for Democracy and Development (CNDD) to control the government.

Though some citizens initially welcomed the coup as a fresh breath from repression of the formal government, their hopes for freedom were soon crushed because the new leader turned out to be a dictator too.

Burkina Faso has known no peace since the coup in 2014, so does Niger with its recent coup. In short, more often than not, coups in dictatorships simply install new dictatorships.

On the other hand, some people argue that there are cases such as ‘good coups’ that can help usher democracy.

For example in Mali in 1991, when dictatorship was removed by the military and other political parties were formed and many multiparty elections were held.

However, according to the research made by R & P, from 1990 to 2015 only 40% of successful coups have led to democracy within two years.

The report also found that the majority of coups launch new dictatorships and lead to higher levels of repression in the year that follows than the repression experienced before.

And in those cases of ‘good coups’, they are followed by other ‘good coups’ in the following years.

It happened in Benin, happened in Burkina Faso and also happened in Guinea.

For the case of Mali and other exceptional ‘good coups’ that happened, the African Report shows that coups generated as many problems as they solved.

Furthermore, it is evident that most coups are not a hunt for democracy and that they cause long-term damage. Coups are not good for democracy because of the simple fact that they show how power can easily be taken through violence.

If coup leaders have not obeyed the constitution and the law, what is the guarantee they will be able to deliver to a standard that follows the constitution and law.

Coups are not unusual on the African continent.