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Why Are Military Takeovers So Frequent In Postcolonial African Politics?

1031 words - 4 pages

For many years, the African continent has been a center for political unrest. Much of that political unrest is blamed on the extended period of European colonization that the continent was forced to endure. Because of ethnic differences, natural resources, and ineffective governments, Africa has been subject to many military takeovers in the postcolonial period.
Military takeovers are not unique to Africa. Like of many similar countries, the developing countries in Africa are naturally more susceptible to coup d’états than their developed counterparts. The perfect storm of economic and social inequities, coupled with the inability to provide for the basic necessities of its citizens often results in a regime change through any means necessary. Military coups are typically not beneficial to the citizens, however; the combination of these factors makes the idea of regime change appealing and as a consequence the prospects of a military takeover are augmented. Unlike other regions, Africa displays an even higher rate of governmental turnover. In fact, since gaining independence, the majority of the 54 African countries have experience a military takeover.
Much of the plight of Africa was determined by its colonization. Almost all of the African was under European colonization at some point. In fact, only two countries on the continent did not experience colonization, Ethiopia and Liberia. While colonization effectively ended about 50 years ago, the effects of colonization are still visible on the continent.
One of the main reasons for political instability in Africa is a result of a lack of unity within nations. Traditional African society was based on tribal affiliations. The relationship between two African tribes was somewhat similar to the relationship between difference countries. While some tribes were relatively similar culturally such as the present-day United States and Canada, other tribes were vastly different. Many tribes differed in terms of language, dialect, customs, religion, and various other areas.
During the colonization process, the boundaries of the different African nations were designed without regard for these tribal affiliations. Boundaries not drawn arbitrarily were often intentionally designed to intermingle feuding ethnic groups, thus preventing widespread collaboration and revolt. When the boundaries were drawn to purposely bring together feuding factions, this strategy was known as “divide and rule”/”divide and conquer”. The concept of “divide and rule” stems from the idea that by breaking a group’s power of into fragments, an oppressor may limit the group’s power and inhibit it from successfully resisting. Uniting differing tribal units exacerbated differences in the group, thus creating new and augmenting previous tribal rivalries. Additionally, policies such as those in which European powers favored certain ethnicities over other also increased inter-group dissatisfaction.
Once African nations gained...

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