In This Review

The Stable Minority: Civilian Rule in Africa, 1960-1990
The Stable Minority: Civilian Rule in Africa, 1960-1990
By Samuel Decalo
Florida Academic Press, 1998, 344 pp

The large literature on military governments in sub-Saharan Africa, a sizable portion of it by Decalo, has not until now been matched by any systematic consideration of why a dozen African countries up to 1990 never fell under army rule. After disposing of socioeconomic factors, Decalo hones in on civilian leadership skills and military control policies and outlines three patterns of stable civil-military relations. The "external guarantor" pattern applies to the French neocolonies of Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, and Senegal, where France's own security guarantees have prevented coups; the "legitimized" variant is seen in Botswana, Gambia, Malawi, Mauritius, Tanzania, and Swaziland, whose governments enjoyed high levels of popularity or at least passive consent; and a "tradeoff" system applies to Kenya and Zambia, where civilian rulers rewarded military officers with multiple forms of patronage. Case studies of one country in each category (Gabon, Malawi, and Kenya) are enlightening. Although poorly edited and burdened with a very outdated concluding chapter, this book fills an important subject niche.