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Article

Erica Frantz

Dictatorships have dominated global politics for hundreds of years, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the absolute monarchs of Europe. Though democracy has since spread to much of the world, about 40% of today’s countries are still ruled by dictatorship. And yet, compared with democracies, we know very little about how dictatorships work, who the key political actors are, and where decision making powers lie. Political processes are opaque, and information is often intentionally distorted. Political survival depends not on maintaining the favor of voters, as in democracies, but on securing the backing of a considerably smaller coalition of supporters. The absence of a reliable third party to enforce compromises among key players means that power-sharing deals lack credibility, and the threat of forced ouster is omnipresent. Uncertainty pervades authoritarian politics. Modern autocrats respond to this uncertain environment in a variety of ways. They use political parties, legislatures, elections, and other institutions typically associated with democracies to lessen their risk of overthrow. Despite the façade of democracy, these institutions are key components of most autocrats’ survival strategies; those that incorporate them last longer in power than those that do not. The specific ways in which autocratic institutions are used and the extent to which they can constrain leadership choices to prevent consolidation of power into the hands of a single individual, however, vary enormously from one dictatorship to the next. Better understanding the conditions that push autocracies down a path of collegial versus strongman rule remains a critical task, particularly given that the latter is associated with more war, economic mismanagement, and resistance to democratization.

Article

Much of the literature on international democratic diffusion appeals to mechanisms—competition, learning, emulation or socialization, and coercion—that typically are treated as competing and theoretically separate. All four, however, fit within a coevolutionary framework, that is, one integrating the concepts of variety, retention, and selection of traits (in this case, regime type). Competition, learning, and emulation are not mutually exclusive and all find support in the large literature on cultural and social evolution. Coercion may seem anti-evolutionary, inasmuch as it implies design and implementation by a powerful rational actor (state, international institution, etc.), but co-evolution can accommodate coercion as well. In co-evolution, agent and environment evolve together: an agent shapes its environment (engages in niche construction), and that reshaped environment alters the fitness of the agents’ traits. A powerful democracy can alter its social and material environment so as to increase the fitness of its own regime. Co-evolution can provide a framework to integrate mechanisms by which democracy and other regime types spread and contract across time and space, and hence can aid empirical research on the effects of global power shifts, including the rise of China, on the fate of democracy in various regions around the world.

Article

Most people in human history have lived under some kind of nondemocratic rule. Political scientists, on the other hand, have focused most efforts on democracies. The borders demarcating ideal types of democracies from nondemocracies are fuzzy, but beyond finding those borders is another, arguably greater, inferential challenge: understanding politics under authoritarianism. For instance, many prior studies ignored transitions between different authoritarian regimes and saw democratization as the prime threat to dictators. However, recent scholarship has shown this to be an error, as more dictators are replaced by other dictators than by democracy. A burgeoning field of authoritarianism scholarship has made considerable headway in the endeavor to comprehend dictatorial politics over the past two decades. Rather than attempting to summarize this literature in its entirety, three areas of research are worth reviewing, related to change inside of the realm of authoritarian politics. The two more mature sets of research have made critical contributions, the first in isolating different kinds of authoritarian turnover and the second in separating the plethora of authoritarian regimes into more coherent categories using various typologies. How do we understand authoritarian turnover? Authoritarian regimes undergo distinct, dramatic, and observable changes at three separate levels—in leaders, regimes, and authoritarianism itself. Drawing distinctions between these changes improves our understanding of the ultimate fates of dictators and authoritarian regimes. How do we understand the diversity of authoritarian regimes? Scholarship has focused on providing competing accounts of authoritarian types, along with analyses of institutional setup of regimes as well as their organization of military forces. Authoritarian typologies, generally coding regimes by the identities of their leaders and elite allies, show common tendencies, and survival patterns tend to vary across types. The third research area, still developing, goes further into assessing changes inside authoritarian regimes by estimating the degree of personalized power across regimes, the causes and consequences of major policy changes—or reforms—and rhetorical or ideological shifts.

Article

Recent protests in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as protests a decade earlier in East Central Europe, have peaked public interest while raising concerns about the potential for democracy protests to catalyze major reforms in governance. Although the number of protests that occurred in these periods was remarkable, democracy protests are not a new phenomena, but rather have come and gone throughout history. In some cases, the potential of these protests has been realized and significant reforms have resulted, while in others, the protests have been repressed and hopes of a more democratic future have been crushed. To shed light on these issues, the five Ws of democracy protests—namely what are democracy protests, who organizes and participates in these protests, when and where are democracy protests more likely to emerge, and why do these protests matter—are discussed.

Article

Robert Mattes

With the worldwide wave of democratization, scholars interested in the preservation of the new democracies dusted off old theories of regime maintenance. While commonly sharing the assumption that democracy requires democrats, researchers proceeded in different directions, depending on their image of the ideal democrat. Today, we know a great deal about who supports democracy, and why. However, the state of our knowledge is incomplete at the point where it matters the most. As might be expected in any emerging area of research, different sets of scholars based their research instruments on contrasting understandings of what it means to be a democrat, and how democrats are best identified and measured. More importantly, they proceeded from differing understandings and underspecified theories as to why democrats are important, how many are needed, and how they actually affect the level and stability of democracy. Thus, while the intuition that democracy requires democrats is strong, the actual state of the evidence is still mixed, at best.

Article

The inclusion-moderation thesis hinges on the idea that competitive electoral processes tame radical ideas thereby leading to the transformation of extremist parties into more moderate ones. The theory offers a causal process: as parties are included in their electoral systems, the competitive processes and negotiations move them from the tail end of their ideological spectrums to positions that are more acceptable to broader constituencies. While the theory offers an affirmative view of the incorporation of all parties to electoral competition, it poses many questions ranging from whether such transformations are inevitable or strategic to if and how inclusion leads to the capture of the entire political system by radical ideas. A review of the existing research shows that it pays more attention to parties' overall policy commitments and privileges the position of party leadership. Focusing on the overall impact of moderation much research disregards the impact of internal party dynamics, emphasizes the utility of centralization of power or hierarchical structures and their tendency to promote moderation. One of the paradoxical findings of such studies is the assumption that moderation does not require democracy yet still promotes democratic results. More important, the theory makes several assumptions about inclusion without carefully identifying how democratic the electoral context is, the ways in which voters stand in their respective political spectrums or how they reward and punish parties that subscribe to extremist or moderate positions. The evidence suggests that inclusion-moderation cannot be reduced to a mechanical process; the ideologies of extreme parties, the overall context of competition and electorates’ decision making processes need to be taken into account to understand if and how electoral inclusion can alter parties’ commitments and policies. Inclusion may lead not only to procedural adjustments, while keeping extremist ideologies in tact but also to ideational transformation that makes extremist parties more prone to recognize and negotiate with other groups. When the context is not democratic moderation might mean domestication of parties with what may appear to be “extremist” or “radical” in context thereby thwarting the overall democratization of the system. Some analyses also show exclusion may lead to the moderation of extremist parties. Given the contradictory evidence, the insights of the inclusion moderation model cannot serve as a one-size-fits all model but help to understand how the inclusion process works by presenting an ideal type for both party and electoral behavior while both conformity and divergence from the model offer important insight to democratic processes and democratization.

Article

Rationality, culture, and structure provide useful insights into military politics by stressing self-centered motivations, norms, and large impersonal forces, respectively. The armed forces can transform popular uprisings into democratic transitions, or, alternatively, uphold the status quo. Furthermore, officers can allow nascent democratic experiments to consolidate, or they can resurrect authoritarianism. Whatever they choose to do, multiple material and ideational factors will inform their agency, and by extension, the political dynamics unfolding in transitional times.

Article

The variety in climate, vegetation, and population density in Central Africa is enormous, but some of the main features of policymaking and informal rules of politics—at first sight at least—appear quite similar between N’Djaména and Kinshasa, between Libreville and Bangui, in a vast territory bigger than the European Union: clientelism, personalization of power, politicized ethnicity, the impact of external intervention, and a legacy of repeated political violence establish some constant features. On the other hand, the variable size of countries (from island states in the Gulf of Guinea to large territorial states) has also come with various challenges. Also, Central Africa features land-locked countries such as Chad and Central African Republic, which negatively impacts economic development, in contrast to countries located at the Gulf of Guinea with an easy access to maritime trade routes. At closer inspection all of the eight countries have a specific history, but this overview article rather stresses the commonalities. Featuring in this contribution are the countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial-Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe. The limited achievements of pro-democracy movements in Central Africa in the 1990s have enduring consequences on politics in Africa. Authoritarian regimes have consolidated their grip on power after surviving severe crises in most Central African states. Big man politics continue to prevail, only few opposition parties have upheld their initial strength and lack internal democracy. Enduring violent conflicts in DRC and CAR (and arguably to a somewhat lesser extent in Chad), have undermined conviviality between groups and state capacities in providing public goods with dramatic consequences on effectiveness and legitimacy of the state and its representatives. Prospects for a future allowing for more participation, truly competitive elections, and a peaceful change of government are therefore also grim. However, both violent and peaceful forms of contestation since about 2015 are also signs of renewed mobilization of citizens for political causes across Central Africa. New topics, including consumer defense and ecological issues, plus now-ubiquitous social media, may all be drivers for a new episode of engagement after two decades of frustration. The limited achievements of regional integration and the lack of dynamism of subregional organizations means that Central Africa is still a much less consolidated subregion compared to, for example, West Africa.

Article

Economic development is a political process. The transformation from mass poverty to mass prosperity requires an active and effective state, able to win the compliance of citizens. The empires that have ruled Africa did not bequeath such states, and few African political leaders have chosen to build them. The economic consequences of post-colonial politics can be divided into two distinct phases. From independence to the wave of democratization following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, in most countries increasingly autocratic leaders presided over increasingly ineffective states. Post-1989, under donor pressure to hold multi-party elections, they faced the dilemma of how to satisfy voters while lacking the effective public organizations necessary for them to do so. Gradually, a few countries have found routes out of this dilemma.

Article

International actors sometimes force targeted states to change their governments, a process known as Foreign-Imposed Regime Change (FIRC). This foreign policy tool serves as a surprisingly active locus for several theoretical debates in international relations and comparative politics. On the international relations side, evaluation of FIRC as a policy tool has implications for the following debates: whether foreign policy decisions are affected by individual leaders or are determined by structural conditions; whether democracies are more peaceful in their relations with other states; how belligerents choose their war aims; what factors make for successful military occupation; what motivates states to go on ideological crusades; whether international actors can successfully install democracy in postconflict settings; determinants of international trade; and others. On the comparative politics side, FIRC speaks to what may be the two most important questions in all of comparative politics: what factors help a state maintain internal order, and what factors help a state make the transition to democracy? FIRC also plays an absolutely central role in foreign policy debates, especially for the United States. FIRC is arguably responsible for both the greatest success in the history of American foreign policy, the post-1945 pacification of Germany and Japan, and one of the greatest disasters in U.S. foreign policy history, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its catastrophic aftermath. Further, FIRC has played a ubiquitous role in American foreign policy since America’s emergence as a great power, as the United States has frequently used both overt and covert means to impose regime change in other countries, especially in Latin America. FIRC has also been a tool used by other major powers, especially the Soviet Union after 1945 in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Into the second decade of the 21st century FIRC remains a controversial foreign policy tool, as some debate the wisdom of pursuing FIRC in Libya in 2011, and others consider the possibility of pursuing FIRC in countries such as Syria. FIRC can be discussed as a theoretical phenomenon and as the subject of empirical research, focusing on its nature, causes, and effects. The article contains five sections. The first section discusses the definition and frequency of FIRC. The second section describes the causes of FIRC, why actors sometimes seek to impose regime change on other states. The third section covers the international consequences of FIRC, especially whether FIRC reduces conflict between states. The fourth section addresses the domestic consequences of FIRC, especially whether FIRC is usually followed by stability and/or democracy. The final section concludes.

Article

The open economic policies Latin American countries adopted in the wake of the debt crisis of the early 1980s were expected to bring a variety of benefits. Trade liberalization and privatization make domestic firms more competitive, and deregulation helps to create an efficient business climate. Notably, such policies are also likely to spur foreign investment seeking new opportunities, and Latin American countries did indeed begin to see large inflows in the 1990s. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is thought to be particularly complementary to economic development. Compared to portfolio investment in stocks and bonds, FDI consists of the construction or purchasing of physical assets including manufacturing facilities, retail outlets, hotels, and mines. FDI should spur local economic activity and bring with it jobs and technology transfers. Furthermore, because divestment takes planning and time, direct investment is relatively long-term, so investors are expected to display greater commitments to the economic and political futures of their hosts. As a result of these substantial potential benefits, a body of scholarship has emerged to try to understand the political dynamics of FDI. Is investment more likely to flow to democratic or authoritarian regimes? Are direct investors seeking countries with few labor protections and weak environmental regulations or are they attracted to public investments in human capital? Do they eschew governments with poor human rights records or do they see abusers as potential partners in managing a compliant workforce? What are the effects of FDI flows on the political contexts of their hosts? Among others, these questions have received significant scholarly attention, and while we have learned a great deal about the behavior and effects of FDI, considerable potential remains. Having received massive inflows averaging more than $100 billion between 2000 and 2017 and consisting of countries with broadly similar development trajectories, Latin America offers a rich landscape for such analysis. In particular, finer-grained examinations of FDI to Latin American countries can help us understand how it might affect political systems and which types of investment best complement national development projects. In so doing, studies of FDI flows to Latin America are poised to make major contributions to the fields of international political economy, development studies, and comparative politics.

Article

Paul E. Lenze, Jr.

Algeria is a state in the Maghreb that has been dominated by military rule for the majority of its existence. The National People’s Army (ANP) used nationalism to justify its intervention into politics while ensuring that withdrawal would occur only if national identity were protected. Algeria, similar to other Middle Eastern states, underwent historical trajectories influenced by colonialism, the Cold War, and post-9/11 politics; briefly experimented with democracy; and as a result, experienced the military as the dominant institution in the state. The resignation of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years of rule in April 2019, following six weeks of popular protest, has raised questions as to whether democratization is possible. Algeria’s history of military involvement in politics, the strength of the military as an institution, and its cooperative links with domestic elites and international actors portend the endurance of authoritarianism for the foreseeable future.

Article

Many have seen the establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military as a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for the consolidation of a nascent democracy. The establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military in South Korea was a long and, some would argue, uncompleted process. A coup in 1961 led by Park Chung-hee, a major-general, led to the establishment of an authoritarian regime that, while going civilian, was based on the control of the military and the intelligence services. Park was assassinated by the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in October 1979; however, the hopes of moving in the direction of democracy were soon squashed when Chun Doo-hwan, and his comrades in arms from the secret Hanahoe (One Mind) club of Korean Military Academy graduates, first took power over the military through an internal coup, and then took control over the government. Under significant internal, and external, pressure Chun Doo-hwan agreed to step down from the presidency in 1987 and allow the writing of a new constitution that led to free elections to the presidency in December 1987. The opposition lost the 1987 election due to its inability to agree upon a united candidate. The winner was Roh Tae-woo, a participant in the 1979–1990 coup, who would during his presidency take important steps when it came to establishing civilian control over the military. However, it was first with the inauguration of the Kim Young-sam in 1993 that the establishment of firm civilian control was achieved. He engaged in a significant reorganization of, and moved against the power of the secret societies within, the army. He also promoted the idea of a politically neutral military. This most likely played a significant role when Kim Dae-jung, the first opposition candidate, won the presidency in December 1997, as the military remained neutral and accepted the outcome of the electoral process. There has since been a strengthening of civilian control over the military in South Korea. However, there are a number of important issues that need to be dealt with in order to ensure full democratic control over the military and the intelligence services. While the military, as an institution, has stayed neutral in politics, military and intelligence resources have been used in attempts at influencing public opinion in the lead-up to elections. In addition, comprehensive oversight by the legislature continues to be weak and the National Security Law remains on the books.

Article

Pellumb Kelmendi and Amanda Rizkallah

Civil war is one of the most devastating and potentially transformative events that can befall a country. Despite an intuitive acknowledgment that civil war is a defining political moment in a state and society’s history, we know relatively little about the legacies of wartime social and political processes on post-war political development. Scholars and practitioners have written extensively on the effects of different war endings and international interventions on post-war political outcomes—particularly as they concern the maintenance of security and stability. However, this scholarship has tended to treat the wartime period as a black box. Until recently, this bias has precluded systematic efforts to understand how the wartime political and social processes and context preceding international interventions and peace agreements have their own autonomous effects on post-war politics. Some of these processes include regional and local patterns of mobilization, armed group structure, political polarization, and violence, among others. Focusing more closely on the post-war effect of variation in wartime processes can not only improve our existing understanding of outcomes such as peace duration and stability but can also improve our understanding of other political development outcomes such as democratization, party building, local governance, and individual political behavior and participation. However, some scholars have started investigating the effect of wartime processes on post-war political development at three broad levels of analysis: the regime, party, and individual levels. At the regime level, democratization seems most likely when the distribution of power among warring parties is even and in contexts where armed actors find it necessary to mobilize ordinary citizens for the war effort. The transition from armed group to peacetime party has also received attention. Armed groups with sustained wartime territorial control, strong ties with the local population, centralized leadership, and cohesive wartime organizations are most likely to make the transition to post-war party and experience electoral success. Moving beyond case studies to more comparative work and giving greater attention to the precise specification of causal mechanisms would continue moving this research agenda in a productive direction. In addition, some scholars have examined individual behavior and attitudes after civil war. A central finding is that individuals who experience victimization during civil war are more likely to engage in political participation and local activism after the war. Future research should go beyond victimization to examine the effects of other wartime experiences. Harnessing the insights of the rich literature on the dynamics of civil war and the parallel advances in the collection of micro-level data is key to advancing the research on wartime origins of post-war political development. Such progress would allow scholars to speak to the larger question of how state and society are affected and transformed by the process of civil war.

Article

Indonesia is a highly revealing case study for pinpointing both the conditions under which militaries in postcolonial societies intervened in political affairs and the patterns that led to their subsequent marginalization from politics. It also demonstrates how militaries could defend some of their political interests even after they were removed from the highest echelons of power. Emboldened by the war for independence (1945–1949), the Indonesian military used divisions, conflicts, and instabilities in the early postindependence polity to push for an institutionalized role in political institutions. While it was granted such a role in 1959, it used a further deterioration in civilian politics in the early 1960s to take power in 1965. Military intervention in politics in Indonesia, then, has been as much the result of civilian weaknesses as of military ambitions, confirming Finer’s theory on the civilian role in military power quests. Military rule in Indonesia weakened first as a consequence of the personalization of the polity built by the leader of the 1965 takeover, General Suharto. After a decade in power, Suharto turned the praetorian regime into a personal autocracy, transforming the military from a political actor into an agent. When Suharto’s regime collapsed in 1998 after being hit by the Asian financial crisis, the military was discredited—allowing civilian rulers to dismantle some of its privileges. But continued divisions among civilian forces mitigated the push for the military’s full depoliticization—once again proving Finer’s paradigm. As post-Suharto presidents settled into the new power arrangements, they concluded that the military was a crucial counterweight against the possible disloyalty of their coalition partners. Thus, under the paradigm of coalitional presidentialism, rulers integrated the military into their regimes and granted it concessions in return. In short, while the post-1998 military is much diminished from its role in predemocratic regimes, it retains sufficient power to protect its core ideological and material interests.

Article

Ömer Faruk Örsün, Reşat Bayer, and Michael Bernhard

Is democratization good for peace? The question of whether democratization results in violence has led to a spirited and productive debate in empirical conflict studies over the past two decades. The debate, sparked by Mansfield and Snyder’s foundational work, raised a challenge to the notion of a universal democratic peace and elicited numerous critical responses within the literature. One set of such responses has emphasized issues of replicability, mismatches between the research design and directionality of the proposed causal mechanism, the role of outliers, and model specification. In addition, two issues have not been discussed sufficiently in the existing literature. First, conceptually, is the issue of concept stretching, specifically the form Sartori labeled the “cat-dog” problem. While past criticisms were mainly about model specification, we debate whether Mansfield and Snyder’s findings can be seen as a product of concept misformation. Second, quantitatively, are conceptual and empirical issues that Mansfield and Snyder use to capture state strength in their most recent attempts to provide ongoing evidence for their theory. The most optimistic estimates show that even when democratization has a statistically significant association with war onset at lower levels of institutional strength, the effect is substantively insignificant.

Article

Anita Isaacs and Rachel A. Schwartz

Since the mid-20th century, the Guatemalan military has played a prominent role in the country’s political life. Yet, this was not always the case. During Guatemala’s first century of independence, the armed forces operated largely as the pawn of personalist rulers and oligarchic elites, utilizing coercion to quell labor unrest and impose order in the countryside. Developments during the Cold War era, however, transformed the Guatemalan military into a centralized source of political and economic power and the key protagonist in domestic politics. Following World War II and on the heels of popular uprising, nationalist junior army officers ushered in a series of popular reforms, which included land redistribution. A 1954 CIA-orchestrated coup supported by the Guatemalan oligarchy and reactionary military factions toppled Guatemala’s “Democratic Spring,” reversed the reforms, and paved the way for four decades of hardline military rule. The subsequent rise of a leftist insurgent movement and the outbreak of armed conflict (1960–1996) gave the armed forces a pretext to dramatically expand their power. They consolidated formal political control over the Guatemalan state and pursued a counterinsurgent campaign, which escalated into genocidal violence in the predominantly Mayan indigenous highlands. Pulled between the political protagonism of civil war and the subordination to civilian rule required in liberal democracy, the Guatemalan military struggled to redefine its institutional identity with the end of armed conflict. It lurched reluctantly toward peace and democracy following a split in its ranks between a moderate institutionalist faction and right-wing groups wary of ceding political control. Despite peace accord provisions to reduce the military’s size and budget and to confine its institutional activities to external defense, military officials, particularly those from intelligence, continued to wield extraordinary control in the postwar era. Challenging the strictures of peace and democracy, they have fought to maintain key interests, notably impunity for war crimes, political decision-making influence, and wartime sources of illicit enrichment.

Article

Romania has no tradition in militarism despite its history of authoritarian regimes in 20th century. The process of modernization and democratization that started in the middle of 19th century was interrupted for about half a century by the authoritarian regime of King Carol II (1938), followed by a military dictatorship during the Second World War, and continued with a Communist dictatorship until 1989. The transition to democracy started in 1990 from a very low level, Ceausescu’s regime being one of the fiercest dictatorial regimes. However, Romania succeeded in building up a functional democracy and market economy with Western assistance that transformed it into a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). One basic conditionality to the admission into NATO and the EU was putting the military under civilian control and building up democratic civil–military relations. Thus, Romania has no history of military involvement in politics. After three decades of transition, Romania implemented a complex mechanism of democratic control of the military. However, issues regarding the incomplete internalization of democratic norms of control of the military, resistance to change through the system of military education, an obsolete national security legislation, and some legacy practices related to rights abuses perpetrated by intelligence services need to be addressed in order to consider Romania a consolidated democracy.

Article

In many African countries, armies played a key public role in the aftermath of independence. For this reason, no study of African politics can overlook the militarization of the state. Postcolonial Madagascar, for example, was ruled for over two decades by personnel from its army. National armies often present themselves as neutral entities that can guarantee a country’s political stability. However, there is no such thing as neutrality, whether in Africa or elsewhere. The best hope for armies to become and remain as politically neutral as possible is the demilitarization of political power. The withdrawal of the military from politics and their subordination to civilian decisions is important but does not suffice to ensure the army’s political neutrality. Such a withdrawal was widely carried out through the third wave of democratization, the historical period during which there was a sustained and significant increase in the proportion of competitive regimes. Democratization processes cannot succeed without efforts toward neutralizing the military, and thus, toward demilitarizing the political society and depoliticizing the army. Post-transition regimes striving for democracy should bring about and preserve a formal separation of power between the political and the civilian spheres. For these regimes to establish a solid mandate, the army and the security apparatus need to be placed under democratic control. In Africa, the disengagement of the military from the public sphere came about with the political transitions of the 1990s. But changes in political regimes over the past decade have challenged the democratization process, as the return of praetorianism (an excessive political influence of the armed forces in the Sahel and Madagascar) testifies. Hence, demilitarizing politics, on the one hand and depoliticizing and reprofessionalizing the army on the other remain essential issues to be addressed.

Article

The military plays a vital role in upholding Cameroon’s authoritarian government. Since independence, in 1960, the country has been ruled by a single political party and only two presidents: Ahmadou Ahidjo and Paul Biya. Both have gone to great lengths to secure military loyalty: counterbalancing rival forces, personalizing command hierarchies, ethnically stacking both the regular military and presidential guard, and providing extensive patronage benefits to soldiers. Ahidjo and Biya have both also repeatedly used the security forces to repress threats from below and stabilize their dictatorships. Combined gendarme, army, and paramilitary units have been deployed to defeat the southern maquis rebellion of the 1960s; the mass protests for democratization in the 1990s; the fight against Boko Haram, beginning in 2014; and the Anglophone separatist movement, which exploded in 2017. Whether facing nonviolent demonstrators or armed rebels, the military has never defected or refused to obey orders. Yet, as the 1984 coup attempt demonstrated, the bounds of military loyalty are not limitless. When Ahidjo retired, the northern Muslim Fulbe members of the elite Republican Guard attempted to prevent Biya—a southern Christian Beti—from rising to power.