Powell, Jonathan, Trace Lasley, and Rebecca Schiel. 2016. "Combating Coups d'etat in Africa, 1950-2014." Studies in Comparative International Development 51(4):482-502.
Recent years have seen African militaries attempt coups in virtually every geographic region, from Egypt to Lesotho and Guinea to Madagascar. They have targeted established democracies, infantile democratic experiments, increasingly authoritarian executives, power vacuums brought on by leader death, and—most recently in Burundi—leaders attempting to circumvent constitutional limitations on their tenure. These continuing acts perpetrated against regimes with such varied backdrops suggests that coups still afflict a wide range of states and remain a continuing threat to leader tenure. This is in contrast to the African Union’s emphasis on curbing the practice. This paper explores the African Union’s effectiveness to combat military coups, primarily focusing on the potential for sanctions to act as a deterrent to would-be coup plotters. The paper also considers potential limitations on the AU’s ability to project power against certain states. Analyses for the years 1950-2014 indicate Africa has in fact witnessed a meaningful decline in coup activity, an impact even more pronounced than the end of the Cold War. Results also indicate that the AU’s effectiveness in deterring coups is not constrained in cases where they are expected to lack leverage.