Coups d'Etat and Civil War
Political Conflict

When and Why Coups Occur During Civil War

Author(s): Curtis Bell
Date: January 15, 2016
Publication Type: Policy Briefs
Research Topics: Political Conflict

Overview:

Coups d’état are frequently both causes and consequences of larger-scale civil wars and rebellions. This policy brief outlines the findings published from the first global quantitative study of the relationship between coups and civil wars, entitled "Causes and Outcomes of Coups During Civil War" by Curtis Bell and Jun Kogga Sudduth in the Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Key Findings:

  • Coup attempts may be less likely to occur when international actors and regional organizations preempt coup attempts by clearly articulating that post-coup governments will not be tolerated. These warnings may be especially important in active conflict zones where leaders face an elevated risk of coup activity. International condemnation of coups may be especially important during civil wars over central control of the government or where rebel fighters are relatively strong.
  • Organizations working in conflict zones should be aware of the high risk of regime change via coups d’état and should form contingency plans for how their missions will change should a more or less cooperative leader suddenly take power.
  • Conflict negotiations should include specific provisions for the post-war welfare of military elites. Concessions to rebels threaten military elites serving the incumbent government and assurances against future punishment or repression may decrease threat perceptions and the risk of coup attempts.

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