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Reflections on an African Coup d'etat

monday security memo Aug 24, 2020

Monday Security Memo

Intellectual firepower for security professionals

Reflections on an African Coup d'etat

This past week, the world watched as yet another coup d'etat unfolded in Africa.  This time in the country of Mali.  A previous coup occurred in Mali back in 2012, leading to an influx of Al-Qaeda fighters flooding the region.  It is yet unknown as to what effects the overthrow (and arrest) of former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita means for the troubled nation.

For clarification, a coup d'etat is defined as the removal of an existing government from power, usually through violence.  The word itself is French and translates to "blow of state."  Overall, there have been roughly 200 coup attempts on the continent since the 1950s (with a 50/50 success rate).

During my twenty years of international security consulting/contracting, I have had the opportunity to experience two African coup d'etats.  I had a front row seat to both of them, although I admittedly slept through the first one on the island nation of Comoros.  Although in fairness, Comoros has had 20 coups since its independence from France in 1975! (so it doesn't feel like I missed that much).

The second coup, I must be more discrete about.  However, I referenced it in my TEDx Talk last year in Times Square in New York City. 

Therefore, since the world's attention is focused on Mali (at least for a few more days), I thought it would be fun to provide the video of my TEDx talk, entitled, "How the Rest of the World Lives: Kings, Sheiks, Warlords and Dictators."  

You can see the entire talk here:

Watch TEDx Talk: "Kings, Sheiks, Warlords and Dictators"



As I always like to remind people, the world is a very messy place - particularly in Africa.  While we think we see poverty here in the US, we have no idea what real poverty, famine, disease and political strife really mean, until one has traveled through the "heart of darkness."  When you consider that the poverty level in Africa is 25 times GREATER than the poverty level in the United States, you begin to understand why an entire continent can be so dysfunctional.

Don't get me wrong, however.  I have traveled to nearly every country in Africa and I do find it one of the most beautiful places on Earth, with some of the kindest, most resourceful, and proudest people anywhere. 

I have definitely learned much about life from "Alkebulan" ("mother of mankind" as many Africans refer to it) and am grateful for the opportunity to travel there.  It has also given me an even greater appreciation for how lucky I am to be an American and how too many of my fellow citizens take their freedoms for granted.  But, that's another discussion for another time.

For now, please enjoy the video and have a great week.  

Stay safe and vigilant,


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