The impact of culture on African coups d'etat, 1960-1997

E. A. Henderson

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7 Scopus citations


It is often assumed that cultural variables are at the heart of intrastate violence in Africa. This widespread belief is accentuated by recent conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi and Liberia, where interethnic antagonisms have fueled coups d'etat, massacres, civil wars, and even genocide. Some scholars assert that states with high levels of ethnic homogeneity, ceteris paribus, are more likely to experience coups, while others insist that political and economic factors are more important. In this article I assess the relative impact of cultural, economic and political factors on the frequency of coups d'etat in Africa for the period 1960-97, nesting the study in the broader analysis of intrastate conflict in that continent. In the first section, I outline the role of cultural variables in the process of state building, nation building and economic development. Following that, I review the literature on the correlates of African coups and then conduct an empirical analysis to determine the capacity of the relevant factors to account for the incidence of coups. I then briefly discuss the findings and their implications for further study. However, because culture is afforded such a prominent place in studies of conflict in Africa, I wll begin by briefly discussing the manner by which it often violently fuses with politics and economics within African states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-21
Number of pages12
JournalWorld Affairs
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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