In this guest post, William Akoto examines the relationship between strategic symbol targeting and coup plot success.

Bernardo Bellotto / Public domain

To pull off a successful coup, conspirators must displace the incumbent leader by capturing or incapacitating him or her in some way.

Once a leader is under their control, conspirators can force the leader to cede power or simply announce they are now in charge. To achieve this, all that coup makers need to do is capture the leader — taking control of the presidential palace, where the incumbent likely spends most of his or her time, should suffice.

To counter possible resistance…


The Coup of 18 Brumaire took place in November 1799 and led to the rise of the First French Empire. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-07510 (digital file from original print), archival TIFF version (37 MB), cropped, and converted to JPEG with the GIMP 2.4.5, image quality 88.

This post is a guest contribution by OEF/University of Denver post-doctoral fellow William Akoto. William’s work covers the intersection between foreign investment, trade and aid on international relations and coups in the developing world.

On June 8 2003, a group of army officers in Mauritania staged a coup attempt to depose incumbent president Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya.

The debate surrounding the timing of coups and their success or failure raises an interesting question — is there ever really a good time for a coup?

After a 36 hour gun battle, 15 people were dead and the rebellion was over…

William Akoto

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