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America and China opened the door for African coups to return

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The most recent coup in Sudan has been modified – not undone – by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s reappointment of deposed civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The coup, which had been widely rumoured in Sudan but still managed to blindside the United States, remains a source of outrage for Sudanese citizens. But Washington is yet to take a clear stance on the issue.

The reaction from American diplomats, who have signalled acceptance of the new arrangement and willingness to turn a blind eye to the continued military dominance of the transition government, has diverged widely from that of Sudanese citizens, who continue to reject military hegemony.

This case highlights the breakdown of the anti-coup coalition that had formed for Africa – a breakdown that has led to military interventions reemerging as a leading method by which power is transferred on the continent.

After decolonisation, competitive elections remained rare for decades in Africa, while military coups emerged as the leading method by which power changed hands. But around the turn of the century, multiparty elections became the norm within African states, while coups were relegated to rare and generally short-lived breakdowns of constitutional order.

This dramatic change, coming in the aftermath of the Cold War, was brought about by a convergence of domestic and international actors. Local populations, fed up with dictatorial and military rule and hopeful for the promises of democracy, forced autocrats and military regimes to step aside. The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) went from being a notorious “dictator’s club” to enforcing democracy and constitutionalism as requirements for sustained membership in the continent’s main political body. Meanwhile, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the........

© Al Jazeera

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