Global Coup Risk Drops Slightly in January 2017

Arid soils in the Sahel - Photo by Pablo Tosco/Oxfam, Flicker, Creative Commons
Arid soils in the Sahel - Photo by Pablo Tosco/Oxfam, Flicker, Creative Commons

The CoupCast estimates the risk of a coup attempt in every country every month. For more information about how the CoupCast works, see our methods page. All of our data are available here.

The risk of a coup attempt occurring somewhere in the world this month dropped to 17.6%, down from 17.9% in December. The primary cause of this drop is an empty election calendar. After a busy election schedule throughout the fall, we don’t anticipate any presidential or parliamentary elections in the month of January.

Coup risk remains highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where countries like Mali, Guinea-Bissau, and Burundi have climbed in our rankings. Sub-Saharan countries now comprise eight of the top ten slots in our monthly rankings. This will probably continue to be the case throughout 2017 as several sub-Saharan countries enter election periods, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Kenya.

Only four countries have a coup risk that exceeds a 0.5% chance of a coup attempt before February 1.

Mali Leads World In Coup Risk

Mali, perhaps surprisingly, leads the world in coup risk with a 1/118 chance of a coup before February. While Mali has been politically stable, coup risk has increased across the Sahel in recent months as the ongoing drought threatens food security across the region. Mali has not been the worst affected country, but its economy is especially vulnerable to drought because it already suffers from high rates of malnutrition. The drought will also have indirect consequences on coup risk if it substantially decreases economic activity or motivates armed conflicts over scarce resources.

Guinea-Bissau, which ranks second in coup risk this month, regularly appears near the top of our monthly risk rankings. In fact, CoupCast has placed Guinea-Bissau in the top-10 every month since November 2008. The latest projections from the International Monetary Fund continue to place Guinea-Bissau well below the continental average in per capita gross domestic product. Guinea-Bissau is also emerging from new political crisis. With regional security organizations like ECOWAS diverting attention to Gambia, Guinea-Bissau will remain vulnerable to political instability for the foreseeable future.

The third and fourth highest risks, Egypt and Burundi, have suffered coup attempts within the last five years. Both countries continue to face strong dissident movements. In Egypt, regional unrest poses both political and economic threats. The government recently reported that the number of international tourists to visit Egypt in 2016 fell to 4.8 million, down from 14.7 million in 2010. For now, however, economic growth is holding steady at around 5% per year.

The situation in Burundi is not as volatile as it was immediately after the failed coup in 2015, but Pierre Nkurunziza’s hold on power continues to be tenuous. Earlier this month the environment minister, Emmanuel Niyonkuru, was assassinated in Bujumbura. In a country where extra-judicial killings and state-sponsored violence are on the rise, there is some risk that the government’s response could target known opposition leaders.