This study tests the proposition that liberalizing African states may avoid coups d'etat and other forms of military intervention in their politics. It hypothesizes that one way for African states to gain legitimacy is by following a trajectory of gradual liberalization. The study shows that this legitimacy, in turn, tends to inoculate African states against military intervention. Many African regimes, on the other hand, have experienced an "authoritarian drift" after nominal transitions to "democracy." Unlike the regimes governing liberalizing states, "electoral authoritarian" regimes—ones that fall prey to authoritarian drift—become more vulnerable to both civil war and military coup.