By Jonny Lupsha, News Editor
North Africa and the Middle East were no strangers to the coup. These sudden and usually violent seizures of power occur frequently, often to the detriment of the civilian population. The Sudanese coup d’état of October 25 left 39 dead.
In late October, the Sudanese army executed a coup, disrupting a power transition that began when leader Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in April 2019. Four months later, civilian groups who supported the revolution signed an agreement to share power with the military. The October 25 coup came when security forces arrested Sudan’s new prime minister and other civilians in a pre-dawn raid, declaring their civilian government dissolved.
Since then, civilian demonstrators denouncing the military coup have been killed.
Sudan is located in North Africa, although it is often considered part of the Middle East. This region has seen several coups over the years. In his video series The Middle East in the 20th century, Professor Eamonn Gearon, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, provided more details.
Not just a sound the birds make
the Cambridge dictionary defines a coup as “A sudden and illegal, often violent, seizure of government power, especially by parts of the military,” according to Professor Gearon.
“On June 30, 2012, Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist politician, was sworn in as the first democratically elected Egyptian head of state in over 5,000 years of the country’s history,” he said. “Only a year later, after three days of mass protests, Morsi was overthrown by the Egyptian army and its leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom Morsi had courted as an ally.
“General Sisi then exchanged his military uniform for a business suit, and in May 2014 he himself was elected president. “
Professor Gearon pointed out that when it comes to legality, many of those who have defended al-Sisi’s overthrow of the fairly elected Morsi have claimed that the military has acted in accordance with protests demanding Morsi’s impeachment. However, according to this definition, any government overthrow when requested by enough people is justified.
“But it is problematic to say the least,” he said. “Who decides if the crowds are big enough, or if their demands are legitimate? The army? Such a system would make a mockery of democratic transitions.
Domestic vs imported
“Another point to keep in mind is whether a coup is genuinely local or driven in whole or in part by foreign powers, with their own interests and ideas,” Professor Gearon said. “The Cold War and the rivalry between the US-Soviet superpowers formed the backdrop for many of the events we envision in the Middle East and North Africa in the 1950s and 1960s.”
For example, the 1953 ousting of the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was a significant overseas-backed overthrow of a Middle Eastern leader. The plan was eventually revealed to have been planned by the CIA and British secret intelligence service MI6.
“An example of a constitutional coup took place in Tunisia in November 1987 when Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali overthrew President Habib Bourguiba in a bloodless takeover,” said Professor Gearon . “Ben Ali made several doctors sign a declaration that Bourguiba was medically unfit to be president, in accordance with article 57 of the country’s constitution.
“In what could also be called a medical coup, Bourguiba was overthrown with the stroke of a pen.
Ben Ali took power the same day and remained in power for over 20 years.
Political unrest is known around the world, and coups d’état have occurred regularly in the Middle East and North Africa, often leaving civilians behind.
Edited by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily