Nwala Paul, PhD
Department of History and International Diplomacy,
Rivers State University, Nkpolu-Oroworukwo,
Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Amah Nsa Duckham
Department of International Relations,
The West African Union University, Cotonou, Benin Republic


Adeniji Olawale Abayomi
Department of History and War Studies,
Nigerian Defence Academy,
Kaduna, Nigeria

This study examines the limitations of states’ principles of self-determination, the causes of the resurgence of military coups in Africa, and the applicability of international law in resolving conflicts emanating from the resurgence of military coups. Therefore, this study explores the functionality of international law in the process of conflict resolution amidst a revived military coup in this era when democracy is said to be promoted globally. This paper made use of archival materials, historical analysis, and a review of related literature and documents to address the issue of military coup resurgence within the purview of international law. Apart from domestic factors and influences that are promoters of these military coups, this study holds that pseudo-democracy and misappropriation, misconception of the position of international law on modern democracy by coup plotters in Africa, the imbalance in the political system of most African states, and concentration of power in the hands of a particular political class could be said to account for the resurgence of military coups in Africa. This study also holds that provisions of international law are not sufficient to restrict the action of military coups in this contemporary era; hence, a more diplomatic approach should be fine-tuned and applied. The paper recommends that international law should spread to cover the actions of states’ military, in keeping with the provisions of democracy, and that stronger deterrence measures should be adopted by the international community aimed at preventing the resurgence of military coups in Africa.
Keywords: Africa, resurgence, military coup, international law, and conflict resolution.

Introduction and historical background
A military coup is a violent or non-violent overthrow of a government by the armed forces, usually with the aim of installing a new regime or restoring a previous one (Thompson, 1973). Military coups have been a common phenomenon in the developing world since the end of World War II, accounting for nearly 200 cases of regime change (David, 1991). Between 1945 and 1976, Nordingler (1977) estimated that more than two-thirds of the countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East had experienced some degree of military intervention.
In Africa, military coups were especially prevalent between the 1960s and 1980s, when the armed forces often seized power from regimes that were seen as dictatorial, corrupt, or incompetent. Between 1956 and 2001, there were 80 successful coups and 108 failed coup attempts on the continent. Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan were among the countries where military officers toppled governments. However, most of these coups did not lead to a transition to democracy or good governance. Instead, they resulted in military dictatorships that violated human rights and suppressed civil society. The era of military rule only faded after a wave of democratisation swept across Africa in the late 1990s (Warah, 2022).
Despite the democratic progress, a series of military coups have erupted across West Africa and the Sahel in a worrying trend of “coup contagion” since 2019 (The Guardian, 2022; The Institute Montaigne, 2022). Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, and most recently, Gabon, have all witnessed coup attempts, many of which have succeeded. While each country has its own specific context, there are some common factors that explain the domestic and international drivers behind this dangerous phenomenon (The Institute Montaigne, 2022; The Organisation for World Peace, 2022). Unlike the earlier coups that were motivated by bad leadership and poor governance, the recent coups have been driven by economic hardship and rising insecurity (The Guardian, 2022; The Council on Foreign Relations, 2022). The pandemic has worsened poverty and unemployment levels, while corrupt or incompetent leaders have failed to address violent extremism and insecurity. These factors have eroded the trust and patience of Africa’s largely youthful population (The Council on Foreign Relations, 2022). The history of military coups in Africa has also paved the way for the recent and potential coups in the region, as many African states still suffer from weak or fragile institutions (The Institute Montaigne, 2022).

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