Soldiers in Revolt
Army Mutinies in Africa
The first book-length analysis of military mutinies and their political impact in Africa.
Soldiers in Revolt examines the understudied phenomenon of military mutinies in Africa. Through interviews with former mutineers in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and The Gambia, the book provides a unique and intimate perspective on those who take the risky decision to revolt. This view from the lower ranks is key to comprehending the internal struggles that can threaten a military’s ability to function effectively. Maggie Dwyer’s detailed accounts of specific revolts are complemented by an original dataset of West African mutinies covering more than fifty years, allowing for the identification of trends.
Her book shows the complex ways mutineers often formulate and interpret their grievances against a backdrop of domestic and global politics. Just as mutineers have been influenced by the political landscape, so too have they shaped it. Mutinies have challenged political and military leaders, spurred social unrest, led to civilian casualties, threatened peacekeeping efforts and, in extreme cases, resulted in international interventions. Soldiers in Revolt offers a better understanding of West African mutinies and mutinies in general, valuable not only for military studies but for anyone interested in the complex dynamics of African states.
Maggie Dwyer is a Research Fellow at the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She focuses on politics and security in Africa, with a particular interest in armed forces. Her works draws on extensive field research with militaries and police in West and East Africa.
‘Soldiers in Revolt provides key insights into why African soldiers mutiny and explores the instability that inevitably ensues. Maggie Dwyer is the authoritative voice on this topic — and from extensive on-the-ground research, not from a faraway ivory tower. A compelling read.’ — Brian Klaas, author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy
‘The first systematic meditation on mutinies in modern Africa, this book argues convincingly that African mutinies are much more than narrow institutional phenomena best left to military scholarship. Animated in many instances by affronts to dignity and respect, they arise from, and act back upon, the political currents around them.’ — Jonny Steinberg, Professor of African Studies, University of Oxford
‘Anyone wishing to understand why mutinies are a recurring phenomenon in Africa should read this important and innovative book. Based on impressive fieldwork, it shows how rank-and-file soldiers use mutinies to communicate their sense of unfair treatment and material grievances, appealing to authority rather than rejecting it. In challenging orthodox explanations, Dwyer makes a genuine contribution to both Africa studies and civil-military relations.’ — Alice Hills, Professor of Conflict Studies, Durham University
‘A major contribution to the study of mutinies and military coups in Africa. Eschewing the casual primordialism of “ethnic armies” and “coup traps”, Dwyer offers a sustained and rigorous analysis based on in-depth fieldwork and a close engagement with the actual actors in mutinies — the soldiers themselves. It will no doubt become the standard work on the subject.’ — Ian Taylor, Professor in International Relations and African Political Economy, University of St Andrews
‘Soldiers in Revolt is an original and important book, which reconceptualises the role of military forces in African politics. Dwyer’s first-hand research is strikingly innovative in telling the stories of army mutinies from the ground up. She shows that they are not simply preludes to coups d’etat but instead can represent a new form of army political action that adapts to the greater openness of many political systems in Africa and especially to the advent of large-scale deployments to multinational peacekeeping operations. Essential reading.’ — William Reno, Professor of African Studies, Northwestern University, and author of Warfare in Independent Africa