Title: Anticipating the Revolt: Trends in Military Mutinies in West and Central Africa, 1960-2012
Name: Maggie Dwyer
Year: 2013
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

My project examines patterns of military mutinies in West and Central Africa from 1960 to 2012. The research explores the ways in which primarily rank and file soldiers express their discontent within a military structure. The view from the lower ranks has been neglected within research on African militaries, but is key to comprehending how militaries function, and particularly to understanding internal struggles which can threaten their ability to function effectively. My analysis differentiates mutinies from coups and makes the case that mutinies deserve scholarly attention separate from coups due to variations between the two events as regards participants, tactics, and goals. The research moves away from the more standard approach of viewing mutinies as singular, exceptional events, and instead examines mutinies as a recurring phenomenon in the region. Using an original fifty-two year dataset, the project examines trends in when and why mutinies most often occur in West and Central Africa. While there are a variety of factors that go into a units decision to revolt, the research identifies several situations that may serve as triggers for mutinies. Particular attention is paid to a trend of mutinies following deployments and the link between mutinies and democratization. The dataset is complemented by three case studies: Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and The Gambia, developed through field research involving interviews with former mutineers and others familiar with the events. They allow for more detailed analysis of incidents of mutiny, including the perspective of those involved.

My findings show that mutineers in West and Central Africa are usually driven by a combination of material demands and shared values concerning perceived injustice. Mutineers complaints in West and Central Africa are often grounded in a history in which divisions between the ranks have increased as the military has become involved in politics. Close examination shows that mutinies are often based on larger issues than their initial grievance suggests. This helps explain why their impact is often more significant than might be expected. Using the dataset and case studies, the project analyzes trends in tactics used during mutinies. While some tactics have remained consistently popular among mutineers throughout the last half- century, the largest change in tactics involves the incorporation of media and new technologies into mutinies. Despite tactical shifts over the last couple of decades, traditional and new tactics share a common goal of communication. My findings demonstrate that mutinies serve as a method by which soldiers attempt to open a dialogue with their hierarchy and vocalize their expectations, in an environment that intentionally stifles the voices of the junior members.


Key publications:

Dwyer, Maggie. 'Peacekeeping Abroad, Trouble Making at Home: Peacekeeping-Related Mutinies in West Africa.' African Affairs 144, no. 455 (2015): 206-225.
Dwyer, Maggie. 'Borrowed Scripts: Democratization and Military Mutinies in West and Central Africa.' Conflict, Security, and Development (2015)