Between 2021 and 2022, Africa witnessed a significant rise in military coups and attempts with six successful coups and two failed attempts. This surge in unconstitutional changes of government (UCG) deviated from the previous decade’s trends.

The African Union (AU) denounced these developments during its January 2022 Summit and issued the Accra Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government in Africa in March 2022. The declaration was further emphasized in May 2022 at an Extraordinary Summit of AU Heads of State and Government on UCG held in Malabo.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for action by the Security Council to address the escalating “epidemic of coups d’état” on the global stage.

To address these concerns, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a comprehensive research project focusing on events in five affected countries and three additional countries for comparison. The resulting study, titled “Soldiers and Citizens: Military Coups and the Need for Democratic Renewal in Africa,” highlights that military seizures of power pose critical risks to peace and democratic progress in each affected nation, with the potential for wider destabilization.

The study “Soldiers and Citizens: Military Coups and the Need for Democratic Renewal in Africa,” examines the recent surge in military coups and unconstitutional changes of government (UCG) in Africa between 2021-2022. It highlights the risks these events pose to peace, democratic progress, and overall stability in affected countries.

The report emphasizes the importance of democratic renewal, inclusive post-coup transitions, and long-term investment in democracy and human rights to prevent further coups and foster sustained constitutional order. It explores the factors contributing to coup risks, such as low development, historical military governance, and disproportionate security expenditure.

Contextual landscape

Military coups - historical, decline and recent resurgence

Location of successful military coups between 1952 - 2022


Number of successful military coups between 1952 - 2022

West Africa - a historical epicentre of coups


The study is based on interviews with 8,000 responses from 8 countries

Key research questions

What are the development drivers of military coups, as a form of UCG, in Africa?
What explains apparent popular support for such coups ‘in the moment’ — including in contexts where democratically elected leaders were ousted?
What policy and programming options should regional and international actors consider to effectively prevent military coups?
What can these actors do to restore and sustain constitutional order, reset the social contract and boost inclusive democratic governance in UCG- affected countries?

Quantitative methods

  • Public perception survey of 8,000 responses, 1,000 responses from each case study country
  • attitudes and experiences during recent coups/ elections
  • Descriptive and statistical analysis of findings
  • Open-source development data

Qualitative methods

  • 12 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and 36 Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) in three countries (132 people in total).
  • Case study literature review from each country
  • Position papers on the role of the AU, RECs, examination of the Sahel context and responses from the international community
  • Continual engagement and consultations with stakeholders and partners.

Country case selection The overall methodological approach has been to gather evidence and data for two contrasting types of recent political transitions in Africa. This is based on a working hypothesis that comparative analysis would yield insights. Specifically, the study contrasts UCG-category countries, which have recently experienced a military coup or equivalent event, with democratic transitioning states (DTS), which appear to be on a path of democratic consolidation or transition.

Focal countries

5 case study countries that have recently experienced Unconstitutional Changes of Government UCG: Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, Sudan

3 countries where there has been a substantial period of, or recent path towards, democratic transition: Ghana, Tanzania, The Gambia

Choose country to explore the demographic breakdown
  • UCG
  • DTS

Area breakdown

Gender breakdown

Age breakdown - average 35 years old

Income breakdown

Employment breakdown