The 10 most significant government coups & attempts in recent history


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In the annals of human history, government coups have played a decisive role in reshaping nations, altering political landscapes, and leaving an indelible mark on society. Such is the case in Russia right now where mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has been accused by President Vladimir Putin of starting an armed rebellion as his troups appear to be advancing on Moscow.

While the outcome of these events remains to be seen, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of history’s more recent coup attempts — both successful and failed. Perhaps they can shed light on just how this reported effort may go down.

Coups are often characterized by sudden and violent seizures of power, and capture the world’s attention, the outcomes often reverberating through generations. The last time such an attempt was made in Russia was 1991. The coup failed, but it signaled a pivotal moment in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then, the world has witnessed several other significant government coups that have left an enduring impact on global politics. In this article, we delve into the top 10 government coups in recent history, examining their dates, locations, coup coordinators, and the circumstances that led to their occurrence.

Sudanese revolution revelers
Osama Elfaki via Wikimedia Commons

1. Sudanese Revolution (December 19, 2018 – April 11, 2019)

Location: Khartoum and nationwide

Sudan Coup Coordinators: Sudanese Professionals Association, military forces

Reason for the Coup: Widespread protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s repressive regime, economic mismanagement, and corruption engulfed Sudan. After months of sustained demonstrations, the military deposed al-Bashir, leading to a power-sharing agreement between civilian and military leaders.

Zimbabwe coup
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. Zimbabwean Coup d’État (November 14-21, 2017)

Location: Harare, Zimbabwe
Coup Coordinators: Zimbabwe National Army
Reason for the Coup: President Robert Mugabe’s removal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, seen as his potential successor, triggered a power struggle within the ruling party. The military intervened, placing Mugabe under house arrest, and facilitated Mnangagwa’s ascent to power, ending Mugabe’s 37-year rule.

Erdogan supporters after Turkish coup attempt
Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons

3. Turkish Coup Attempt (July 15-16, 2016):

Location: Ankara, Istanbul, Turkey
Coup Coordinators: Faction within the Turkish Armed Forces
Reason for the Coup: A faction within the military, claiming to protect democracy and secularism, attempted to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. However, widespread public resistance, pro-government forces, and Erdogan’s call to resist the coup led to its failure.

Gaddafi with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2010
Ministry of the Presidency. Government of Spain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Libyan Revolution (February 15-October 23, 2011)

Location: Nationwide, Libya

Coup Coordinators: Anti-Gaddafi rebel forces, NATO intervention

Reason for the Coup: Popular uprisings against the four-decade rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi escalated into a full-fledged armed conflict. Rebel forces, backed by international military intervention, toppled Gaddafi’s regime, leading to his capture and eventual death.

Mona / Wikimedia Commons

5. Egyptian Revolution (January 25-February 11, 2011):

Location: Cairo and nationwide, Egypt
Coup Coordinators: People’s Movement, military forces
Reason for the Coup: Widespread discontent with President Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic rule, corruption, and economic inequality fueled mass protests across Egypt. The military, after days of demonstrations, removed Mubarak from power, leading to a transition towards a democratic government.

Javier Maradiaga Melara / Wikimedia Commons

6. Honduran Coup d’État (June 28, 2009)

Location: Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Coup Coordinators: Honduran military officers and Supreme Court justices

Reason for the Coup: President Manuel Zelaya’s plans to hold a non-binding referendum on constitutional change were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The military, acting on the court’s orders, arrested and forcibly expelled Zelaya from the country, triggering international condemnation and a political crisis.

Thai coup detat
Roger jg / Wikimedia Commons

7. Thai Coup d’État (September 19, 2006)

Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Coup Coordinators: Royal Thai Army led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin
Reason for the Coup: Political polarization, allegations of corruption, and a standoff between supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra led to the coup. The military, citing the need to restore order and eradicate corruption, seized power and established a military junta.

Haiti during a 2004 coup attempt
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. Haitian Coup d’État (February 29, 2004)

Location: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Coup Coordinators: Haitian rebel forces, international actors

Reason for the Coup: President Jean-Bertrand Aristide faced mounting political unrest, accusations of corruption, and a rebellion led by armed groups. Amidst the escalating violence, international pressure, and the threat of further bloodshed, Aristide was forcibly removed from power and exiled.
Reason for the Coup: President Jean-Bertrand Aristide faced mounting political unrest, accusations of corruption, and a rebellion led by armed groups. Amidst the escalating violence, international pressure, and the threat of further bloodshed, Aristide was forcibly removed from power and exiled.

Hugo Chavez poster

9. Venezuelan Coup Attempt (April 11-14, 2002):

Location: Caracas, Venezuela

Coup Coordinators: Various military officers and opposition leaders

Reason for the Coup: Dissatisfaction with President Hugo Chávez’s socialist policies and alleged authoritarianism fueled the coup attempt. The military and opposition forces, supported by segments of the media, staged a brief takeover of the government. However, a massive public protest and international pressure led to Chávez’s reinstatement.

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

10. Russian Coup Attempt (August 19-21, 1991):

Location: Moscow, Russia

Coup Coordinators: Soviet Union State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) Reason for the Coup: The attempted coup was orchestrated by hardline communist members of the government who opposed President Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberal reforms. They sought to preserve the collapsing Soviet Union and halt the increasing influence of democratic movements. However, the coup failed due to widespread public resistance and support for Gorbachev’s reforms.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.


Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.