Region: Africa

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

Zimbabwe: An Opportunity Lost

Zimbabwe’s first elections since the November 2017 coup that ousted nonagenarian dictator Robert Mugabe were marred by the abuse of state resources, electoral irregularities, and a tragic bout of postelection violence that saw soldiers use deadly force against civilians.

July 2018, Volume 29, Issue 3

Has Liberia Turned a Corner?

The retirement of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Weah’s election as her successor open a new chapter for a country that has made great strides since its brutal civil war, but where progress remains tenuous.

April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

Kenya’s Electoral Misfire

Sophisticated technology could not keep Kenya’s August 2017 presidential election from leading to renewed ethnic tensions and a painful standoff from which the country appears only now to be emerging. What went wrong?

January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

Violence Against Women in Politics

The use of force and intimidation against women trying to take part in politics is a growing problem in many places. Such violence assumes a number of different forms, but all aim to keep women as women out of public life.

January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

The Fading of the Anti-Coup Norm

Following the end of the Cold War, an international norm against coups began gaining strength, but it seems to have lost momentum in recent years. What has happened?

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

Ethiopia: Silencing Dissent

Ethiopia’s ruling party has long been tightening its grip, using antiterrorism laws and harsh restrictions on media and civil society to silence voices critical of the regime.

Free

July 2015, Volume 26, Issue 3

Rwanda: Progress or Powder Keg?

Rwanda under Paul Kagame has been hailed for its visionary leadership, economic progress, and reforms in education, health, and agriculture. Yet the regime’s autocratic rule, human-rights abuses, persecution of the Hutu majority, and growing inequality point to an ominous future.

July 2015, Volume 26, Issue 3

Nigeria’s Hopeful Election

In a surprising turn of events, opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari was able to outpoll incumbent Goodluck Jonathan—and the latter peacefully acknowledged his defeat.

April 2015, Volume 26, Issue 2

Patching Things Up in Mozambique

Although elections take place on schedule in Mozambique, they are of dubious quality, and the most recent one was held amid an uneasy peace following renewed outbursts of civil strife. Major new gas and mineral finds promise a shot at greater prosperity, but also hold the threat of a “resource curse.”

October 2014, Volume 25, Issue 4

Growth, Security, and Democracy in Africa

Democracy’s fortunes rose in Africa in the 1990s, but more recently have been in retreat. The forces of democratic resurgence remain in play, however, as a look at the key case of Nigeria suggests.

Free

April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

Mandela’s Legacy at Home and Abroad

Nelson Mandela, who died in late 2013, fought for freedom for all the people of South Africa and masterfully guided his country’s transition to a nonracial democracy. His record on foreign policy is more ambiguous, but also instructive.

April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

A New Twilight in Zimbabwe? The Military vs. Democracy

By militarizing key state institutions and using violence against the opposition, Zimbabwe’s military elites have hindered the country’s transition to democracy. In return, they have been richly rewarded. Can the military’s tentacles be untangled from Zimbabwean politics?

October 2013, Volume 24, Issue 4

Exchange: Reexamining African Elections

Do even unfree and unfair elections in sub-Saharan Africa, if repeated often enough, really contribute to democratization? A fresh look at the evidence casts doubt on the theory of “democratization by elections.”

July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Kenya’s 2013 Elections: Technology Is Not Democracy

In an effort to avoid repeating the 2007 electoral debacle, Kenya’s election commission turned to technology, but its high-tech voter-registration and vote-count processes fell short. Its experience has important lessons both for emerging democracies and for international donors.

July 2012, Volume 23, Issue 3

African Elections: Two Divergent Trends

Regular elections have become a fixture of political life throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but there are now “two Africas” in this regard: one where elections bring the blessings of greater political openness and competition, and another where elections are, in effect, one more tool that authoritarians use to retain power.

July 2012, Volume 23, Issue 3

Senegal: What Will Turnover Bring?

Although Senegal has often been regarded as a democracy, its regime should more properly have been classified as competitive authoritarian. Will the 2012 election of a new president prove to be a turning point?

July 2011, Volume 22, Issue 3

Uganda: Museveni’s Triumph and Weakness

Despite signs of a cautious willingness to allow more political competition, the regime of newly reelected president Yoweri Museveni fell back on familiar habits of brutal repression when public unrest followed a sudden spike in the cost of living.

Free

July 2011, Volume 22, Issue 3

Strife and Secession in Sudan

After decades of civil war, Sudan is set to divide into two nations on 9 July 2011. Yet a number of explosive issues—including the drawing of borders and sharing of oil revenue—have still not been resolved, and the prospects for peace appear to be dimming.

April 2011, Volume 22, Issue 2

Kenya’s New Constitution

Wracked by postelection violence in 2007 and 2008, Kenya embarked upon a course of constitutional change that culminated in an August 2010 referendum. How was the new basic law framed and passed, and what will it mean for democracy in this key East African country?

April 2011, Volume 22, Issue 2

Mauritius: Paradise Reconsidered

Once dismissed as an “overcrowded barracoon,” this Indian Ocean island nation has more recently been hailed as one of Africa’s “emerging success stories,” but the truth is that some troublesome shadings haunt this rosy picture.

January 2011, Volume 22, Issue 1

Constraining Government Power in Africa

African politics is often characterized as a realm of “informality,” but formal rules and institutions actually loom large, especially with regard to overweening executive power and the reforms that may help to rein it in.

October 2010, Volume 21, Issue 4

African Elections as Vehicles for Change

Since the return of multipartism in sub-Saharan Africa, open-seat elections have been the most likely to yield opposition victories, suggesting that term limits may significantly contribute to democratic consolidation.

April 2010, Volume 21, Issue 2

Mozambique’s Slide into One Party Rule

Once touted as a regional success story, Mozambique has been backsliding toward one-party-dominant rule, and has now slipped off the Freedom House list of electoral democracies. How and why did this happen?

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Another Step Forward for Ghana

Ghana held its fourth successful elections in late 2008 and subsequently witnessed the peaceful handover of power from ruling party to opposition. The country’s leaders must now reform its institutions of governance.

October 2008, Volume 19, Issue 4

Zimbabwe’s Long Agony

Once hailed as liberators, Zimbabwe’s ruling party now clings to power through violent repression. How did the country’s founding father become its dictator, and what patterns in his party’s past foretold such an outcome?

October 2008, Volume 19, Issue 4

Kenya: Back from the Brink?

After the ethnic violence that marred its 2007 presidential election, Kenya must reform its institutions to better represent its diverse polity.

October 2008, Volume 19, Issue 4

Documents on Democracy, October 2008

Excerpts from a statement issued by a leading group of Russian democrats on the conflict over South Ossetia, published on August 19 in the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online newspaper.   Excerpts from a joint declaration condemning Russian military actions against Georgia signed by the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland on August 9.   Portions…

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

The Remarkable Story of Somaliland

Emerging from one of the world’s most notorious failed states, Somaliland has become an oasis of relative democratic stability in the troubled Horn of Africa. What does its story teach us about democratic state-building?

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

The Crisis in Kenya

For years Kenya was regarded as one of Africa’s sturdiest democracies. The fraudulent 2007 presidential election, however, exposed the fragility of Kenya’s democratic framework.

January 2008, Volume 19, Issue 1

Sierra Leone: A Vote for Better Governance

Five years after the close of a horrifying civil war, Sierra Leone held the freest elections in its history. Voters turned out the party that had overseen the war's end, blaming it for having mishandled governance since then.

Free

January 2008, Volume 19, Issue 1

Senegal: The Return of Personalism

Senegal's 2000 presidential election marked the end of forty years of one-party rule. But the reign of President Wade has been a severe disappointment, dashing hopes for democratic consolidation. *This is a corrected text of the print and original online version of this essay, portions of which drew heavily on Tarik Dahou and Vincent Foucher's…

October 2007, Volume 18, Issue 4

Nigeria’s Muddled Elections

The failure of the elections has been partly mitigated by the hope of judicial review of electoral malfeasance, the stabilizing ingenuity of ethno-regional power-sharing, and renewed national discussions of electoral reforms.

July 2007, Volume 18, Issue 3

The Decline of the African Military Coup

Since the early 1990s, many African countries have undergone political liberalization, and so far this trend has been accompanied by a significant drop in the incidence of military coups.

April 2007, Volume 18, Issue 2

Voting for Change in the DRC

The holding of competitive elections in this vast, strife-torn country must count as a significant achievement, even though voters signaled their disaffection with the entire array of political elites that had been ruling them.

July 2006, Volume 17, Issue 3

The Future of South Africa’s Party System

The ruling African National Congress has been an overwhelming presence in the politics of post-apartheid South Africa. The country's dominant-party system, despite its dangers, may be the strongest buttress for democracy.

April 2006, Volume 17, Issue 2

The Debacle in Côte d’Ivoire

Despite hopes that 2005 would see an end to hostilities between rebels and government forces, neither disarmament nor elections took place. How did this once-prosperous country end up on the verge of anarchy and disaster?

July 2005, Volume 16, Issue 3

Promoting Transparency in Angola

Natural-resource wealth has been at the root of Angola's corruption and authoritarianism. By giving leverage to those pushing for reform, however, it has also become a key factor in teh struggle for accountability.

Free

July 2004, Volume 15, Issue 3

South Africa After Apartheid: The First Decade

Over the ten years since its first nonracial elections in 1994, South Africa has seen its democratic order become more firmly institutionalized, even as the electoral dominance of the ANC has continued to grow.

April 2004, Volume 15, Issue 2

Change in Uganda: A New Opening?

The decision by Uganda’s leaders to abandon the country’s “movement” system and adopt multiparty pluralism creates a significant opportunity for democratic progress.

July 2003, Volume 14, Issue 3

Why Post-Settlement Settlements?

The decaying trajectory of democratization in South Africa represents a kind of settlement failure, resulting for the main parties in the transition having come to the table with incompatible cultural paradigms of negotiation.

July 2003, Volume 14, Issue 3

Nigeria: Elections in a Fragile Regime

The election cycle concluding in the spring of 2003 was a guarded success. High hurdles to better governance and democratic consolidation remain, but Nigerians can now face them with greater hope.

July 2003, Volume 14, Issue 3

Kenya: Third Time Lucky?

After falling short in 1992 and 1997, Kenya’s large but fractious opposition coalition swept to victory at the polls in 2002. Transition has arrived, but can democratic transformation follow?

July 2003, Volume 14, Issue 3

Africa: States in Crisis

Democratic and ecnomic development will become sustainable in sub-Saharan Africa only with the emergence of coherent, legitimate and effective states.

October 2002, Volume 13, Issue 4

Zimbabwe’s Hijacked Election

Realizing that power would slip from his grasp if he allowed an honest presidential election in 2002, longtime strongman Robert Mugabe resorted to antidemocratic tactics that set a new low in cruelty and dishonesty.

January 2002, Volume 13, Issue 1

South Africa: Democracy Without the People?

A decade after the end of apartheid, South African democracy may be headed for trouble because the country has yet to fulfill the three requirements of democratic consolidation: inequality-reducing economic growth, stable institutions, and a supportive political culture.

January 2002, Volume 13, Issue 1

Mozambique: A Fading UN Success Story

The United Nations did superb work in helping Mozambique to end its long-festering civil war and start down the path to recovery, but those gains could slip away amid ominous conditions of partisan polarization, excessive political centralization, and a winner-takes-everything electoral system.