There was a time when it was believed that the era of military coups was over in Africa, as elsewhere. Unfortunately, the reality, at least on the African continent, seems to be different, given the recent succession of coups, some successful, others not. The most recent were those in Mali, Guinea, Chad and Sudan. This trend is all the more worrying as these events occur in the area of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in other words in one of the regional communities that has put in place strong measures to consolidate democracy and good governance.
This apparent contradiction at the regional level between what is envisaged by the norms and the reality on the ground is in fact the best reflection of a tension within the entire African Union (AU). Starting in the 1990s with the end of the Cold War and the new wave of democracy on the continent, people in Africa began to believe in democracy. The then Organization of African Unity (OAU) began to put in place measures to encourage its member states to adopt the democratic process for political change. Thus, while military coups had been the modus operandi prior to the 1990s, during the subsequent decade there was a sharp decline in their implementation.
During this period and up to the present, first the OAU and then the AU have set up a normative framework aimed at combating “unconstitutional changes of government” (UCG). Among the most emblematic norms, mention should be made of the Lomé Convention of 2000; the Constitutive Act of the African Union of 2000; and the Protocol on Amendments to the Constitutive Act of 2003, as well as the African Charter for Democracy, Elections and Governance of 2007. Even before 2000 there were important documents encouraging the establishment of democratic procedures as a means of cementing peace and security, in order to enable the economic and social development that Africa so badly needs. Today there is extensive case law on the subject, with decisions by the AU and its Peace and Security Council (PSC).