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Economic Brief - Political Fragility in Africa: Are Military Coups d’Etat a Never-Ending Phenomenon ?


The sudden overthrow of a democratically elected government in Mali in the spring of 2012 by a small group of military insurgents is symptomatic of the reemerging pattern of coups d’état which have hit Africa in recent years. So it happened that in March 2012, after enjoying twenty years of constitutional democracy, Mali briefly fell under the control of a group of middle-ranking soldiers. The country at the time was tragically divided between the Tuareg and Islamist rebel groups taking control of the North, and the joint junta-new civilian government struggling to unify the country. The coup in Mali was immediately met by international condemnation, sanctions imposed by its neighbors, and the loss of northern Mali to Tuareg forces.

The coup proved short-lived: on April 6, the junta agreed with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) negotiators to step down in exchange for an end to sanctions, and handed back power to the transitional government led by Dioncounda Traoré.

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