Soldiers in Revolt: Army Mutinies in Africa

In This Review

Soldiers in Revolt: Army Mutinies in Africa
By Maggie Dwyer
Oxford University Press, 2018
256 pp.
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Most of the literature on African militaries focuses either on the officers or on the relationship between the brass and civilian politicians. Dwyer’s compelling study of mutinies in West Africa, which are growing increasingly common, is welcome because it concentrates on the rank and file and noncommissioned officers, the groups that are most likely to rebel. She shows that insurrections follow a different logic from coups, as mutinies are not typically motivated by a desire for regime change. Instead, soldiers start them to make demands about their material conditions and communicate their unhappiness with specific officers or policies. Dwyer suggests that two factors have increased the frequency of mutinies in recent years. First, the democratization of several countries in the region has spurred all Africans to voice public grievances, and soldiers are no exception. Second, she finds that mutinies are more likely in armies that are involved in international peacekeeping operations, because the extra pay they entail generates greater inequality between ranks and because they present substantially more risk to individual soldiers, which makes them more likely to question the military hierarchy.

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