Forming a stable government is always a long and drawn-out process, and periods of extreme upheaval are to be expected. In Africa, there have been countless coup d’état, or government overthrows — many in recent history. The following represent 10 of the most recent and influential coups d’état in recent African history, and allow us further insight into many African regimes.
Michel Djotodia, a leader of the Muslim Séléka rebel coalition, successfully overthrew then-president François Bozizé in December of 2012. A peace agreement followed, naming Djotodia the first deputy prime minister for national defense, but plans quickly unraveled. Djotodia and the rebels captured Bangui and officially took power on March 24, 2013, which they held until January 10, 2014 due to harsh pressure from regional leaders.
President Henri Konan Bédié, who took power in 1993, was extremely unpopular among Ivorians due to a combination of corruption, repression, and targeting of immigrants. After ignoring numerous demands to step down, Bédié was brought down by a group of soldiers on Dec. 23, 1999. Former Army Commander Robert Guéï was called out of retirement to be named the head of the National Public Salvation Committee, where he held power for nearly a year.
An opposition movement led by Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina helped to oust then-president Marc Ravalomanana in March 2009. The coup was extremely unpopular both domestically and internationally, and much of the foreign aid to Madagascar was suspended. Rajoelina’s transitional government was meant to hold elections as soon as possible to try and relieve tensions, but it was more than two years later — October 2011 — when that was possible.
As the conflict in Northern Mali between the soldiers and Tuareg rebels escalated, the army was extremely displeased with Malian president’s Amadou Toumani Touré handling of the crisis. A group of soldiers attacked the presidential palace following what was supposed to be a peaceful protest, ousting Touré and taking control of the country. International condemnation followed, and the military leaders stepped down in the following months to give power to a transitional government.
In June 2008, the opposition parties in Mauritania censured a motion against the government as a result of a series of insults by the administration. The government subsequently resigned, and then-President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi appointed new cabinet members who included nobody from the opposition. The final straw came on Aug. 6 and Abdallahi’s announcement that he was firing several top-tier generals, who retaliated by staging a coup and removing him from power. Army General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz stepped into power following the coup.
Niger President Mamadou Tandja angered many of his former supporters following his attempts to extend his term past December 2009, when he was meant to leave office. In February 2010, a group of soldiers attacked the presidential palace and captured Tandja and his top-ranking officials. Col. Salou Djibo, who had been heading the CSRD, or the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, stepped into power following the coup.
Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma served as the head of state of Sierra Leone for less than a year, initially brought there by a coup in May 1997 by the Sierra Leone Army. However, in February 1998, the Economic Community of West African States Ceasefire Monitoring Group noted Koroma’s violations of a previous peace accord and ousted his administration from power. The Lomé Peace Agreement was finally signed in July 1999, bringing an uneasy peace to the region.
Pascal Lissouba, the first democratically elected president of the Republic of Congo and a member of the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy party, was overthrown in the midst of the 1997 civil war. Tensions had escalated as the 1997 elections neared, and the two candidates’ parties (Lissouba’s and Denis Sassou Nguesso’s Congolese Labor Party) clashed. The end of the war finally came about with an invasion of Angolan forces and former president Nguesso returned to power.
Throughout the 30 years of Gambian President Dawda Iawara’s rule, numerous coups were attempted, but all failed. It wasn’t until July 1994, when a group of soldiers led by Yahya Jammeh stormed the presidential palace, that Iawara was forced into exile. This lasted until 2002. Jammeh took power and has held the presidential office ever since.
Following the assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, the Rwandan Civil War, also known as the Rwandan genocide, began, resulting in an estimated 500,000 to 1 million deaths of Tutsi and Hutu people. Paul Kagame, a senior official in the Rwandan Patriotic Front helped end the genocide with a military victory, and became the country’s vice president and minister of defense. However, it’s thought that Kagame de facto controlled the country as vice president. He took presidential office in 2000.