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When Soldiers Rebel
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Book description

Military coups are a constant threat in Africa and many former military leaders are now in control of 'civilian states', yet the military remains understudied, especially over the last decade. Drawing on extensive archival research, cross-national data, and four in-depth comparative case studies, When Soldiers Rebel examines the causes of military coups in post-independence Africa and looks at the relationship between ethnic armies and political instability in the region. Kristen A. Harkness argues that the processes of creating and dismantling ethnically exclusionary state institutions engenders organized and violent political resistance. Focusing on rebellions to protect rather than change the status quo, Harkness sheds light on a mechanism of ethnic violence that helps us understand both the motivations and timing of rebellion, and the rarity of group rebellion in the face of persistent political and economic inequalities along ethnic lines.


‘Kristen A. Harkness has revived the important subject of military politics and ethnicity, and she has shown not merely whom the likely coup makers are but under what conditions they are likely to strike. This is a very valuable addition to the field.'

Donald L. Horowitz - Duke University, North Carolina

‘When Soldiers Rebel is a path-breaking, highly original, and forceful book on the causes of coups in post-independence Africa. The case studies are thorough, engaging and persuasive. Compellingly written, When Soldiers Rebel is an elegant and extremely plausible answer to a very important and long-standing question of comparative and international politics.'

Hein Goemans - University of Rochester

‘Harkness' impressive book sheds new light on the prevalence of military coups in ethnically divided African countries. Full of interesting data and carefully argued, her study convincingly demonstrates that the efforts of rulers to exclude formerly privileged groups often leads to rebellion. It will constitute essential reading for students of the military and ethnic conflict for the foreseeable future.'

Nicholas Van de Walle - Cornell University, New York

‘A major addition to the literature on ethnic conflict, African politics, and the dynamics of the state. Original, tough-minded, and compelling.'

Richard English - author of Does Terrorism Work?: A History

'In sum, [Harkness'] theory on [soldiers'] ethnic rebel behaviour offers a rich and new perspective on prevailing challenges in Sub-Sahara Africa: civil military relations and preventing military-led coups. In addition, her volume makes an important contribution to the literature on ethnic conflicts as well as democratization research by explaining how armed forces influence democratic transition and consolidation.'

Lars Pelke Source: Democratization

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