In Zimbabwe: A millennial guide to coups in Africa

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, center, falls after addressing supporters upon his return from an African Union (AU) meeting in Ethiopia, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015.

One of Africa’s longest-serving rulers has been ousted in a coup. Many 90s babies might ask what in the world is a coup.

From the late 90s, the rate of coups happening in Africa declined. By the millennium it was rare to hear about a coup d’etat in Africa.

Well, in 2017 there has been a coup so let’s break it down for you.

ALSO READ: Zimbabweans face uncertainty now that Mugabe is out

A coup is the violent overthrow of a government- democratically elected or a military regime.

A coup is usually carried out by military forces but it is not uncommon for private forces to lead a coup.

The first coup in Nigeria was on January 15, 1966, when certain elements in the military kicked out the civilian government led by Nnamdi Azikwe.


It was a bloody coup which led to the death of many influential Nigerians such as Abubakar Tafewa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Samuel Akintola and others.


There have been 6 successful coups in Nigeria and 3 unsuccessful ones. Most coups in Nigeria were bloodless popularly known as palace coups.

In a palace coup, the head of state or leader of the country agrees to step aside for the military forces. There is no violence in palace coups.

The last coup in Nigeria was on August 26, 1993, when General Sani Abacha overthrew the civilian government led by interim president Chief Ernest Shonekan.


When a coup fails, the leaders behind are normally killed. For example, Lieutenant Colonel Buka Saka Dimka was killed after his failed coup in 1976.

Major General Mamman Jiya Vatsa and Major Gideon Orkar were killed after the unsuccessful coups of 1990 and 1993 respectively.

When a coup is successful, the media and airports are shut down. To announce that a coup has been successful the leader of the coup or the spokesperson of the regime announces that there is a new government in power.


During and shortly after a successful coup armoured tanks and soldiers are seen on the streets of the capital to ensure that there isn’t any resistance to the coup.


Over the turn of the millennium, coups have become less fashionable in Africa. Due to economic sanctions from the global community, African had to do away with military dictatorships for civilian governments.

The case of Zimbabwe is different. Even though the country before the coup ran a civilian government, Robert Mugabe had been in power for since 1987. He is 93 years old and before the coup, he was the oldest leader in the world.

Even though coups are no longer in fashion, overthrowing Mugabe’s government was most likely the only option left.

The successful coup has put Zimbabwe in a dilemma though. Military governments are notorious for holding onto power for years and being corrupt.

This coup poses a new problem for Zimbabwe. Who will be the next leader? Also, it has pushed them back to the dark ages of military rulers.

In a continent where there are still a handful of leaders who have ruled for two, three decades, are coup d’etats coming back into fashion to get rid of them?

from - Gist

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