Early studies of African coups have largely focused on domestic determinants such as social mobilization, economic conditions, and the characteristics of the military itself. Scant attention has been paid to the political effects of arms transfers on military intervention in Africa. Considering that defense spending may meet the demands of the armed forces, absorb vital social and economic resources needed for development, retard the growth of the civilian domestic product, or strengthen the political position of the military, it is likely that expenditures on arms imports may directly or indirectly affect the likelihood of coups in sub-Saharan African countries. Utilizing theories of arms transfers and coups d'état, a causal model was constructed and data were collected for 35 African nations. An event-count analysis in conjunction with conventional regression techniques was employed for statistical estimation. The findings suggest that arms transfers serve to meet the military's corporate interests and have a long-term direct effect on reducing the likelihood of coups in Africa. However, arms transfers contribute to African regime instability indirectly by enhancing the military's position vis-a-vis civilian institutions in society. Former French colonies have experienced significantly fewer coups than the rest of Africa, but throughout sub-Saharan Africa, countries that experienced an economic downturn or a coup are more likely to have military intervention in politics.
Replication datasets available