African Countries With The Most Coups

By Ferdinand Bada on June 4 2018 in World Facts

Zimbabweans celebrating the successful removal of President Robert Mugabe. Editorial credit: CECIL BO DZWOWA /

A coup d’état, also known as a putsch, coup, overthrow, or golpe de estado, is a situation where the military or elites of a state take it upon themselves to take power illegally from the government. In such situations, there are four possible outcomes. These outcomes are: failed coups, the leader is ousted but the regime stays the same, a dictatorship is removed and a democratic government installed, or a dictatorship switched with another. Coups have been present for a long time and Africa, particularly West Africa, is no stranger to these bloody affairs. In total, Africa has experienced at least 200 coup attempts since the 1960s with some being successful.

African States with the Highest Numbers of Coups

The African country topping the list with the most coup attempts is none other than Burkina Faso having gone through ten coup attempts in the past. Nigeria, an African economic powerhouse, is in the second position after experiencing eight attempts. Burundi, Chad, Ghana, Sudan, Comoros, and Mauritania come in third all with six attempts. In the fourth position, Ethiopia, Libya, Sierra Leone, Benin, and the Central African Republic all have five attempts. In the past, there have been a total of 40 African nations that have had coups.

Burkina Faso is a very curious case. Six of the ten coups happened in the 1980s with Blaise Compared leading two of the six. After taking power in 1987, Blaise would reign for 27 years until, unsurprisingly, he was removed from power by another coup. There is an argument to be made that Burkina Faso is not a democratic state. This argument is supported by the fact that there has never been a peaceful transfer of authority in the country through elections. A similar situation is in Guinea Bissau where no president has ever seen out his term because of coups.

Whatever the story the group leading the coups tell, coups are bloody and nasty affairs. For example, after the military removed Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe from power, they said that they were quelling tensions in the city after the Vice President as relieved of his duties. Others have called coups insurrections. An excess of thirty presidents and prime ministers have lost their lives due to coups.

Out of the 40 nations that have seen coups, there are only three countries where they have been unsuccessful. These countries are Kenya, Morocco, and Cameroon. The remaining 14 of the 54 recognized African states that have not had coups have also had bloody problems of their own. For example, South Sudan and Eritrea have had internal strife. Another interesting fact is that 23 of the 40 countries have had at least three coup attempts.

Decreasing Numbers of Coups

In recent times, the number of coup attempts have decreased around the world due to the embracement of democratic forms of leadership. More people have realized that they are detrimental to the economic growth of a nation and therefore more effort is put towards ensuring that they do not happen. Furthermore, groups leading a coup rarely lived up to the expectations. Most of them, if not all, end up being dictatorships.

African Countries With The Most Coups

RankCountryNumber of coups
1Burkina Faso10
10Central African Republic5
13Sierra Leone5
14Congo (Repunlic of)4
23The Congo (Democratic Depublic of)3
24Equatorial Guinea2
29Sao Tome and Principe2
31South Africa2
36Cote d'Ivoire/Ivory Coast1

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