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The Consequences of Military Rule: Juntas Versus Strongmen  

Barbara Geddes

During the 20th century, seizures of power led by military officers became the most common means of imposing new dictatorships. The consequences of military rule have varied, however, depending on how widely power has been shared within the military-led government. Most military-led dictatorships begin as relatively collegial, but the dictator’s position in collegial military regimes is inherently unstable. His closest collaborators command troops and weapons with which they could, if they are dissatisfied with his policy choices, oust him without ending the regime. This vulnerability to ouster by close allies both constrains the dictator to consult with other officers in order to keep them satisfied and gives him reasons to try to protect himself from coup plots. Common means of protection include taking personal control of the internal security police, in order to spy on officers as well as civilian opponents, and creating paramilitary forces recruited from personal loyalists. Dictators build new paramilitary forces to defend themselves from attempted coups staged by the regular army. A military dictator who can withstand coup attempts need not consult with other officers and can concentrate great power in his hands. Military dictators who have to share power with other high-ranking officers (juntas) behave differently than military rulers who have concentrated power in their own hands (strongmen). These differences affect the well-being of citizens, the belligerence of international policy, the likelihood of regime collapse, how military rule ends when it finally does, and whether it is followed by democracy or a new dictatorship. In comparison to junta rule, strongman rule tends to result in erratic economic decision-making and high rates of corruption. Strongmen also behave more aggressively toward their neighbors than do juntas. Nevertheless, regimes led by strongmen last longer, on average, than do juntas. When faced with widespread opposition, juntas tend to negotiate a return to the barracks, while strongmen often must be overthrown by force. Negotiated transitions tend to end in democratization, but forced regime ousters often result in new dictatorships.

Article

Military Justice in Film  

Ann Ching

Military justice films occupy a unique space in film and legal studies, marrying two popular genres—courtroom dramas and military-themed films. This article examines the military justice film as a distinct genre in popular culture depictions of crime and punishment. First, it provides a brief overview of the history of the military justice film, from Classical Hollywood to the present. It then examines what sets military justice films apart from civilian courtroom dramas—the context, hierarchies, procedural rules, and broader implications of justice in the military context. It discusses why military justice films remain an enduring genre, with their appeal to universal themes and archetypal narratives. It further describes how military justice films have paralleled military history and serve as a critique of military, political, and national security policies. The article concludes by examining contemporary depiction of military justice in film, analyzing how the genre has changed since its inception, and discussing how military justice films may continue to evolve to keep pace with shifting norms of both law and warfare.

Article

The Ethiopian Red Terror  

Jacob Wiebel

The Red Terror was a period of intense political and inter-communal violence in revolutionary Ethiopia during the late 1970s. This violence erupted two years after the revolution of 1974 and was concentrated in the cities and towns of Ethiopia, particularly in Addis Ababa, Gondar, Asmara, and Dessie. In the struggle over the direction and ownership of the revolution, opposition groups of the radical left violently opposed a military regime that itself came to embrace and promulgate Marxist-Leninist language and policies, and that relied heavily on the use of armed force to stifle dissent. While much of the violence was carried out by security personnel, the delegation of the state’s means and instruments of violence to newly formed militias and to armed citizens was a defining feature of the Red Terror. The number of casualties and victims of the Red Terror remains heavily contested and is subject to divergent counting criteria and to definitions of the Terror’s scope in relation to other concurrent conflicts in the region, such as the Eritrean and Tigrayan civil wars; plausible figures suggest more than 50,000 deaths, in addition to many more who were subjected to torture, exile, personal losses, and other forms of violence. To this day, the Red Terror constitutes a period that is remembered in Ethiopia as much for the forms of its violence as for the extent of its harm. Its ramifications, from the support it triggered for the ethno-nationalist insurgencies that overthrew the military regime in 1991, to its role in the emergence of a sizeable Ethiopian diaspora, make the Red Terror an episode of defining and lasting significance in the modern history of Ethiopia.

Article

History of Ghana  

David Owusu-Ansah

Taking its name from the medieval West African kingdom of Ghana when it gained political independence in 1957, the former British colony of the Gold Coast is known for its pan-African stance, gold and cocoa production, and national commitment to Western formal education. The Portuguese, the first European nation to arrive on the Costa da Mina (the Gold Coast) in 1471, reported of coastal communities organized under the leadership of chiefs. The position of the chief, with the support of local elders, illustrates the stratified political structures and chains of authority from the small village to the centralized states with whom the early Europeans and other foreign traders conducted commerce. Attracted by its gold deposits, merchants from several European nations followed the Portuguese to establish competing commercial ports on the 300-mile coastline. They invested in and defended the trading posts as forts and castles. Some of these establishments are now preserved as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in remembrance of the transatlantic slave trade. To the northern fringes of the Akan forest and through the Volta Basin, Mande Muslim traders from the old Western Sudanese empires, as well as Hausa merchants from the northeast, arrived as early as the 15th century to exchange Sahelian products for gold, slaves, and kola nuts. The history of Muslim engagement in the commerce from the north is linked to the spread of Islam in the territories. The European missionary activities on the southern coast introduced Western formal education and Christianity. The contemporary boundaries of Ghana can be traced to the history of precolonial state formation resulting from local wars of expansion and consolidation of territories by the powerful ethnic kingdoms, especially of the Akan nations. The long Asante resistance to the British presence and the ultimate European territorial delineations led to the consolidation of British rule of the Gold Coast in 1902 to commence the colonial era. Ghana’s independence from British rule was historic, as it represented the first Black sub-Saharan African nation to become independent. But, for the first thirty-five years after independence, the rule of law was intermittent, as the military overthrew civil administrations deemed corrupt or incompetent to address ongoing national economic challenges. The return to civilian constitutional rule, a free press, and successive changes of government through the ballot box since 1992, despite economic and development challenges, gave room to grow the nation’s democracy.