In the aftermath of the intervention by the military in Zimbabwe that led to yesterday’s resignation of President Robert Mugabe, there was a strong call from Zimbabweans for the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to not get involved.
This Sunday, 17 September 2017, marks two years since the last attempted military coup d’état in Africa. Defined as “illegal and overt attempts by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting executive.” Coups have been attempted over 200 times in Africa, with over 100 succeeding.
However, the last decade has seen a pronounced decline in and—with no coup attempts since September 2015 and no successes since 2014—this trend appears to be gaining momentum. This extraordinary shift away from what Samuel Decalo once referred to as the “most visible and recurrent characteristic of the African political experience” likely has its roots in both external and internal dynamics. Each of these dynamics can be seen with the continent’s last coup attempt.
Nicolás Maduro was elected president of Venezuela in April 2013 by a narrow margin. His term is due to end in January 2019, unless the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance can force a recall referendum this year – and win it. But does President Maduro really run the country?
In recent weeks Nicolás Maduro appears to have taken a back seat to Venezuela’s top general, defence minister Vladimir Padrino López, who also – unusually – holds the post of operational commander of the armed forces.
On 11 July, Maduro announced that he and Padrino would jointly head a newly-created “Civilian-Military Presidential Command”, charged primarily with resolving the country’s acute shortage of food, medicines and other basic goods. All other ministries and state institutions have been subordinated to this body, whose functions not only cover stimulating production, controlling prices and overseeing distribution and imports of food, but also the country’s security and defence.
The prominence of the military in determining Venezuela’s political future was illustrated once again by the appointment on Wednesday of Néstor Reverol as interior minister. Unlike Padrino, who rose through the army, Reverol hails from the National Guard. His alleged criminal connections – he was promoted to the post of minister after being served a US court indictment the day before for assisting drug traffickers – suggests that different factions in the military may now be jostling for shares of influence in the state.