1-20 of 35 Results  for:

  • Keywords: Africa x
  • Contentious Politics and Political Violence x
Clear all

Article

Mark Shaw and Tuesday Reitano

Organised crime and criminal networks are an outcome of Africa’s weak systems of state reach and governance, and in turn they further undermine effective state-building. Defining “organized crime” is challenging in the African context. African policy discussions did not use this term until recently, and it is so broad that it covers an enormous range of activity. Nevertheless, it is arguably now generally used and accepted, denoting organized illegal activities by a group of people over time that generate a profit. Such terminology is also now widely referred to internationally and in a UN Convention (which defines an “organized criminal group” but not organized crime itself) to which almost all African states have subscribed. The term “criminal networks” is often also used in African debates, denoting the more flexible and dynamic criminal arrangements that characterize the continent. Organized crime and criminal networks in Africa appear in many different forms, shaped largely by the strength of the state, and the degree that political elites and state actors are themselves involved in them. Broadly, organized crime can be said to occur along a continuum on the continent. On one side are well-established and -organized mafia-style groups such as the hard-core gangs of the Western Cape in South Africa or militia style operations engaged in ‘taxing’ local populations and economic activities, both licit and illicit. In the middle of the continuum, are relatively loose, and often highly effective, criminal networks made up both of Africans (West African criminal networks being the most prominent) and a range of foreign criminal actors seeking opportunities. On the other end, are sets of criminal style entrepreneurs, often operating as companies (the Guptas in South Africa, for example) but with a variety of forms of state protection. Illicit financial outflows in particular are a serious concern, but governance and regulatory reforms will be far more critical than the suppression of illicit markets themselves by law enforcement agencies, given also evidence that suggests a high degree of collusion between some African police and criminals in several illicit markets. Violence too remains a key tool for criminal control and advancement at all points along the spectrum, with the strength of the state and the collusion between state actors and criminal groups often determining the form, intensity and targets of that violence. That is one reason why the link between organized crime and conflict on the continent remains a concern, with actors (who in many cases exhibit criminal or mafia-style attributes) seeking to enhance their resource accumulation by control or taxation of criminal markets. Given this and other factors, the impact of organized crime on Africa’s development is severe, and although in some key markets the illicit economy provides opportunities for livelihood and a source of resilience, these opportunities are negated by the extent of environmental damage, the growth of drug use among the poor and marginalized, human rights abuses of migrants and those being trafficked, the violence engendered, and the economic distortions introduced.

Article

Contrary to common assumption, major forms of large-scale organized political violence in sub-Saharan Africa have declined in frequency and intensity, and the region is not uniquely prone to the onset of warfare. African civil wars in the 2000s and 2010s are less common compared to the mid-1990s. The character of warfare has also changed. Contemporary wars are generally small-scale, fought on state peripheries and increasingly across multiple states, and involve factionalized insurgents who typically cannot hold significant territory or capture state capitals. Episodes of large-scale mass killing of civilians are also on the decline. That said, other forms of political violence that receive less attention in the academic literature are increasing or persistent. These include electoral violence and violence over access to livelihood resources, such as land and water. Geopolitical shifts since the end of the Cold War are a leading candidate to explain the changing frequency and character of warfare in sub-Saharan Africa. New global priorities, including changes in external state funding opportunities for insurgents, an emphasis on change through elections, investments in conflict mediation strategies, and the rise of China are hypothesized as critical factors shaping the new patterns of warfare.

Article

African history tells us of a world dominated by capitalism whose supreme value is profitability; a world where profit is the unsurpassable human achievement. This political economy, quite literally, means the production and redistribution of mass violence across the continent. In such a world, all human relations have turned into merchandise. A manifestation of this appears in the attitude of “having” such that to “be” is reduced to “have.” This capitalist process turns objects into nature, and nature into objects, particularly in Africa, where people have become victims of the fetish of merchandise, as well as the perpetuators. Analyzing the structural violence created by colonial power dynamics from a Marxian and Hegelian perspective reveals the opposite of passivity for all involved. The colonial powers searched for profit, intellectualized the necessity of profit, and formed and perpetuated a dialectic of social relations in such a way that they related to profit. These intentional activities reduced desire, joy, and fear into social relations driven by the profit motive. The legacy of these dynamics arises from history and are best understood in that context. Although history has a certain inertia and velocity, the movement of these issues are dialectical and leave the possibility for choice open, so various actors have taken diverse paths. Some post-colonial African leaders joined the world of profit and led their countries to violence and wars. Others resisted but were overwhelmed by the democratic dictatorship of merchandise. Wars and mass violence in Africa are the result of both the colonial structural violence caused by the search for profit and the choices many African leaders made to follow merchandised and clientelized types of relationships with their own people. The historical (Real, Retold, and Radical), genealogical, and ontological histories were the driving forces that caused the violence and resulted in contemporary African bloodshed.

Article

Electoral violence in Africa has garnered a lot of attention in research on African politics. Violence can be the result of manipulation of the electoral process or a reaction to that manipulation. While there is an agreement to distinguish it from the wider political violence by its timing with elections and motivation to influence their outcome, the analysis of its types, content, and impacts varies. There are different assessments of whether repetition of elections reduces violence or not. Elections in Africa are more often marred with violence than elections in other continents, but there is lots of variation between African countries, within countries, and even from one election to another. In addition to well-judged use and development of the existing datasets, qualitative methods and case studies are also needed. Much of the literature combines both approaches. In the analysis of the factors, causes, and contexts of electoral violence, researchers utilize distinct frameworks: emphasizing historical experiences of violence, patrimonial rule and the role of the “big man,” political economy of greed and grievance, as well as weak institutions and rule of law. All of them point to intensive competition for state power. Preelection violence often relates to the strategies of the government forces and their supporters using their powers to manipulate the process, while post-election riots typically follow in the form of spontaneous reactions among the ranks of the losing opposition. Elections are not a cause of the intensive power competition but a way to organize it. Thus, electoral violence is not an anomaly but rather a manifestation of the ongoing struggle for free and fair elections. It will be an issue for researchers and practitioners alike in the future as well.

Article

There is a global trend of democratic retrenchment across the world, in both new and more established democracies. The African continent is part of the trend, although there are distinct regional variances on the continent. Yet, despite democratic gains in some states and along some dimensions of democratic rights, the overall trend is that the democratic gains won in the period after 1990 are now eroding. Democracy is challenged in ways that pose threats to freedom of speech, association, and information, the ability to choose political leaders, protection of personal integrity and private life, and the rule of law with recourse to independent courts. As part of a global trend of democratic backsliding, African states have adopted legal restrictions on key civil and political rights that form the basis of democratic rule in a range of countries, from dominant party regimes such as Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Tanzania to competitive electoral democracies like Zambia, Senegal, and Malawi. In South Africa, where democracy and rule of law appear deeply institutionalized, the succession battles and exposed levels of corruption under President Zuma, now removed from the leadership of the ANC party, suggest a weakening of the institutions intended to check executive powers. The September 2017 court annulment of the Kenyan elections suggests that the courts were able to perform an important accountability function and safeguard free and fair elections. Yet, the aftermath of the 2017 Kenyan elections culminated in early 2018 with President Uhuru Kenyatta closing down television and radio stations. Civil society actors, policy makers, and scholars warn against the democratic backlash and its negative implications for domestic and international politics. Internationally, the African democratic backlash challenges global actors who have long pressured developing countries to politically liberalize. Yet, following what appears to be a global trend of democratic backsliding, space for international influence and the spread of liberal norms is closing rapidly. Domestically, the observed backlash against democracy may pose further social and political threats with wide-reaching implications for development. This may, in turn, challenge the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Whereas closing space for civil society impacts first and foremost on voice and participation, restrictions on civil society ultimately may curb even the most seemingly apolitical activities such as humanitarian relief. At present, there is limited understanding of possible response mechanisms to the conscious attempts at democratic rollback from political elites. How do activists come together to advocate for particular rights? When are activists more effective in generating mass citizen support for their campaigns? How can researchers, international actors, and domestic civil society organizations work together to disseminate and use knowledge about organizational resilience in these circumstances? These will be pressing questions for scholars and activists going forward.

Article

The variety in climate, vegetation, and population density in Central Africa is enormous, but some of the main features of policymaking and informal rules of politics—at first sight at least—appear quite similar between N’Djaména and Kinshasa, between Libreville and Bangui, in a vast territory bigger than the European Union: clientelism, personalization of power, politicized ethnicity, the impact of external intervention, and a legacy of repeated political violence establish some constant features. On the other hand, the variable size of countries (from island states in the Gulf of Guinea to large territorial states) has also come with various challenges. Also, Central Africa features land-locked countries such as Chad and Central African Republic, which negatively impacts economic development, in contrast to countries located at the Gulf of Guinea with an easy access to maritime trade routes. At closer inspection all of the eight countries have a specific history, but this overview article rather stresses the commonalities. Featuring in this contribution are the countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial-Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe. The limited achievements of pro-democracy movements in Central Africa in the 1990s have enduring consequences on politics in Africa. Authoritarian regimes have consolidated their grip on power after surviving severe crises in most Central African states. Big man politics continue to prevail, only few opposition parties have upheld their initial strength and lack internal democracy. Enduring violent conflicts in DRC and CAR (and arguably to a somewhat lesser extent in Chad), have undermined conviviality between groups and state capacities in providing public goods with dramatic consequences on effectiveness and legitimacy of the state and its representatives. Prospects for a future allowing for more participation, truly competitive elections, and a peaceful change of government are therefore also grim. However, both violent and peaceful forms of contestation since about 2015 are also signs of renewed mobilization of citizens for political causes across Central Africa. New topics, including consumer defense and ecological issues, plus now-ubiquitous social media, may all be drivers for a new episode of engagement after two decades of frustration. The limited achievements of regional integration and the lack of dynamism of subregional organizations means that Central Africa is still a much less consolidated subregion compared to, for example, West Africa.

Article

Although the Boko Haram crisis started like other riots before it and was initially treated as such, its escalation and metamorphosis from ordinary religious protest to insurgency has given an air of notoriety and fatality to it in Nigeria and across the borders of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Despite being similar in orientation, philosophy, and modus operandi to the Maitatsine religious crises of 1980 to 1985 in Nigeria, the Boko Haram crisis is clearly marked out by its more virulent nature, its sophistication, the wider global attention it has attracted, its festering nature, and more significantly the seeming inability to bring it under control. Presented here are the views and perspectives of scholars on the origin and growth of the Boko Haram phenomenon in Nigeria, its philosophy and ideology, its strategies and tactics, and its progression from common religious crisis and eventual metamorphosis to insurgency. The highly volatile religious background from which the sect emerged and the central role played by Mohammed Yusuf in its nurturing and growth are discussed. Also discussed are the impact of Salafism and the writings of Ibn Taymiyya, among others, on the sect and the motivation it derives from the global jihad movement. The article examines and appraises the Nigerian government approach in seeking to contain the group and situate it in the context of the African states and global coalition against terror and discusses why the central government has struggled to firmly contain the group. The central role played by Mohammed Yusuf in the evolution and growth of the sect is brought out in the first part of the article. Pertinent was the influence of individuals and groups on Yusuf’s beliefs and activities aided by his demagoguery. His group’s abhorrence of Western education and lifestyle as well as rejection of democracy as a form of government and justification of violence, aided by Salafist thoughts and writings, form the kernel of the next section on philosophy and ideology. The third section, on transformation and changing strategies, discusses the factors in the escalation of the crisis, its various manifestations, and the growing global link of the sect resulting from its brutal suppression in 2009. The various measures devised to contain the sect and its effectiveness or otherwise are presented. A final section discusses the efforts made by the group to integrate itself into the global jihad movement as well as government response, particularly at the regional level, to defeat it.

Article

Cristina Bodea and Christian Houle

A coup d’état is an all-around consequential event, and coups remain frequent in sub-Saharan Africa. Historically, ethnic inequality—the measure of income disparities at the level of ethnic groups—has been paid little attention as a potential cause of coups and other types of regime breakdown. More work exists on the relationship between ethnicity broadly construed and coup d’état, and in particular the role of unequal access to the military for different ethnic groups and the role of ethnic exclusion from political power. Our own work presents a theory that links “between” and “within” ethnic group income inequality to coup d’état initiated by ethnic groups. The argument is that high income and wealth inequality between ethnic groups, coupled with within-group homogeneity, increases the salience of ethnicity and solidifies within-group preferences vis-à-vis the preferences of other ethnic groups, increasing the appeal and feasibility of a coup. Empirical findings from sub-Saharan Africa support the main theoretical claim linking ethnic inequality to coup d’état. Additional evidence from sub-Saharan Africa and a larger global sample are consistent with the causal mechanisms. More remains to be researched in this area, however. Directions for future research include looking at the access of ethnic groups to the military, the intervening role of natural resources in the calculus of ethnic groups, and the role of ethnic inequality in incumbent takeovers.

Article

S.J. Cooper-Knock

Studies of policing go to the heart of debates over public authority, violence, and order. Across the globe, the state cannot be assumed to be at the center of policing practices or their authorization. Across Africa, a diverse mix of individuals, groups, and corporations are involved in policing people’s everyday lives and the spaces in which they live them. Categorizing the different groups and individuals in this varied landscape is no simple task. Even drawing lines between “state” and “non-state” policing is not as easy as it may first appear. In reality, any constructed boundary is likely to be more porous and fluid than imagined. In some cases, this is because the service providers become entangled with the state. State officials, for example, may moonlight for other policing organizations. Conversely, state institutions might collaborate with, or outsource work to, civilian and corporate actors. In other cases, groups who identify as non-state actors may still mimic the symbols, materials and practices of the state in an attempt to bolster their own claims to public authority. Faced with the difficulty of sustaining any simple divide between categories such as “state” or “non-state” policing scholars have taken a variety of analytical routes: refining their definitions; developing “ideal types” against which messy empirical realities can be juxtaposed, or moving away from bounded typologies in an attempt to understand group and individuals on their own terms. Taking the latter course, this article highlights the variety of putatively non-state policing organizations and formations across the continent. In doing so, it highlights that the presence of private security corporations, rebel groups, neighbourhood watches, or so-called mobs are no simple indicator of the absence or weakness of state institutions and imaginaries. Understanding everyday negotiations over statehood and sovereignty requires a more nuanced approach. When this path is taken, and policing landscapes are studied in all their complexity, we gain crucial insights into the ways in which being and belonging, law and order, power and legitimacy, privilege and oppression function in any given context.

Article

The term “peaceocracy” refers to a situation in which an emphasis on peace is used to prioritize stability and order to the detriment of democracy. As such, the term can be used to refer to a short-lived or longer-term strategy whereby an emphasis on peace by an incumbent elite is used to close the political space through the delegitimization and suppression of activity that could arguably foster division or conflict. At the heart of peaceocracy lies an insistence that certain actions—including those that are generally regarded as constituting important political and civil rights, such as freedom of speech and association, freedom of the press, and freedom to engage in peaceful protest and strike action—can spill over into violence and foster division and must therefore be avoided to guard against disorder. Recent history suggests that incumbents can effectively establish a peaceocracy in contexts where many believe that widespread violence is an ever-present possibility; incumbents have, or are widely believed to have, helped to establish an existing peace; and the level of democracy is already low. In such contexts, a fragile peace helps to justify a prioritization of peace; the idea that incumbents have “brought peace” strengthens their self-portrait as the unrivaled guardians of the same; and semi-authoritarianism provides a context in which incumbents are motivated to use every means available to maintain power and are well placed—given, for example, their control over the media and civil society—to manipulate an emphasis on peace to suppress opposition activities. Key characteristics of peaceocracy include: an incumbent’s effective portrait of an existing peace as fragile and themselves as the unrivaled guardians of order and stability; a normative notion of citizenship that requires “good citizens” to actively protect peace and avoid activities that might foster division and conflict; and the use of these narratives of guardianship and disciplined citizenship to justify a range of repressive laws and actions. Peaceocracy is thus a strategy, rather than a discreet regime type, which incumbents can use in hybrid regimes as part of their “menu of manipulation,” and which can be said to be “successful” when counter-narratives are in fact marginalized and the political space is effectively squeezed.

Article

Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle

Academic studies on the globalized dimension of African protests have complexified the understanding of “transnational social movements,” too often considered as the mechanical and adequate response to a newly globalized neoliberal economy. The long history of globalized protest in and about Africa, starting from the antislavery campaigns to the global justice movements, shows that these movements, often initiated outside the continent, have contributed to the “invention of Africa.” The notion of “extraversion” developed by Jean-François Bayart to explain African states’ relation to the outside world helps interrogating the material and symbolic asymmetrical relationships inside these networks but also the agency of African protesters in shaping their causes. Resources, legitimate knowledge, and audiences of protest are structurally located with Western actors, creating misunderstanding or conflicts in these globalized networks. But African activists do benefit from their internationalization, acting as a protection and a—sometimes contested—legitimation. Also, against the imposition of supposedly universal causes, African protesters have developed new concepts and narratives, especially on gender and sex rights, to assert an African way of framing these causes. Far from being completely constrained by Western agenda, funding, or audience, some local conflicts also benefit from often international ramifications born out of the development of transnational criminal economies. Lastly, reflections on the regional variations and the diffusion of protest inside the continent shows a differential density of international networks and the growing importance of social media in the globalization of protest.

Article

Africa is a place of enormous variation and its countries have had very different postcolonial experiences. However, it is clear that since the 1940s peace has been elusive for many across the continent. A series of wars driven by poverty, identity, political economy, and failing states led to a widespread crisis of governance and extensive international intervention. Reductions in the security capabilities of states have also led to the growth of violent transnational groups, particularly those related to Islamic extremism in the Maghreb, Nigeria, and Somalia but also criminal networks involved with drug and people smuggling. This wide variety of conflicts also generated an equally wide range of responses as the international community began to develop ways of combating conflicts through reform of its own peacekeeping capacity. The optimism of the 1992 Agenda for Peace, which called for the UN to become the central instrument in the prevention and ending of conflicts, has given way to a more sanguine approach, as mixed results have led to diverse outcomes for African countries and Africa’s own peace and security architecture. In the end, despite the rapid development of important local and localized bottom-up peacebuilding initiatives, the state remains central to the overarching aims of peace and stability across the continent. It is here where the variations in performance can be found in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and post-conflict reconstruction.

Article

Studies have shown that civilians are often intentionally targeted in civil wars and that civilian protection efforts launched by the international community have not always been successful, if they occur at all. Civilians, therefore, have had to rely on themselves for protection in most conflicts. However, despite the pervasiveness of civilian self-protection (CSP) and its success at protecting civilians from violence in some cases, it is rarely discussed in the civilian protection literature, and its impact on civilian targeting is inadequately explored. Addressing this gap in the study and practice of civilian protection by carefully conceptualizing CSP and appreciating its role in civil war dynamics can further scholarly and practitioner discussions on civilian protection. CSP is defined as (a) actions taken to protect against immediate, direct threats to physical integrity imposed by belligerents or traditional protection actors; (b) primarily selected and employed by civilians; and (c) employed during an armed conflict. CSP strategies can be organized into three categories. The first, non-engagement, describes strategies in which civilians do not interact with belligerents or traditional protection actors who pose a threat to them. The second, nonviolent engagement, entails some interaction with one or more actors who may harm civilians. The third, violent engagement, includes CSP strategies that incorporate physical violence. These CSP strategies may actually render civilians more vulnerable to threats. First, some CSP strategies might lock civilians into unpredictable relationships with belligerents, which can become dangerous. Second, allying with one set of belligerents might lead to targeting by opposition forces, who view these CSP strategies as crucial support for their enemies. Third, civilians may overestimate how successful their CSP strategies can be, exposing them to harm. Fourth, civilian use of violence may cause belligerents to view them as threats, leading to intentional targeting. Appreciation of the reasons why civilians engage in CSP and understanding when and how this may endanger them can inspire more effective protection policies, as well as advance our understanding of civil war dynamics. For instance, further study on these issues can provide some insights into the conditions under which CSP is effective in protecting civilians and how the international community can support CSP. This information could be particularly useful in the design and execution of peacekeeping strategies that are sensitive to the efforts and needs of conflict-affected communities. Additionally, studying CSP can advance the vast literature on civilian targeting by shedding additional light on why belligerents kill civilians.

Article

Liberation movements in Africa are nationalist movements that have resorted to armed struggle to overthrow colonialism, white minority rule, or oppressive postcolonial governments. Claiming to represent the national will, some are intolerant of opposition, others dubious of the legitimacy of multiparty democracy: this difference is a reflection of whether the military wing of the liberation movement dominates the political movement or whether the reverse situation applies. In the post–Cold War era, liberation movements espouse notions of the “developmental state,” continuing to ascribe the state a primary role in economic development event though they may simultaneously embrace the market. The extent to which they subordinate political considerations and freedoms to the pursuit of economic growth dictates whether they pursue paths of authoritarian development or developmental stagnation

Article

By the 1960s the international world changed dramatically. While the nuclear balance of terror created by the atomic bomb prevented war between the First and the Second Worlds, proxy wars between the superpowers were conducted in the “Third World.” The Cold War began and the Soviet Union attempted to arouse radical groups in the Third World, an effort that grew immensely as overseas empires of Western states dissolved. The UN membership expanded because of the great number of “new” states. Two events in Third World countries were critical: Castro’s triumph in Cuba and the long Vietnam War. Vietnam was particularly crucial in animating terrorist groups throughout the West. A total of 404 groups emerged: 192 Revolutionaries and 212 Separatists. There were two Revolutionary types: 143 Nationals and 49 Transnational. The Transnationals, a product of the developed world, saw themselves as Third World agents. Nationals and Separatists aimed to remake their own states. Nationals sought equality and Separatists sought a new state that often included elements from neighboring states. Separatists were present everywhere except Latin America where all groups were Nationals. As in the First Wave, university students provided most of the initial terrorist recruits. Women became important again except among Separatists. Cuban and PLO training facilities intensified bonds with foreign groups. The PLO was the most conspicuous group because it conducted more assaults abroad than at home. Groups from different countries cooperated in attacks, that is, OPEC ministers kidnapping (1975). At home, targets with international significance like embassies were struck. Publicity again became a principal concern, which made hostage taking preeminent for the first time, a practice that became very lucrative for some groups. Over 700 hijacked airlines intensified the wave’s international character. The Sandinista took Nicaragua’s Congress hostage in 1978, which sparked a successful insurrection. Many Third World hostages were foreigners from the developed world involved in commerce, and their companies quickly paid enormous ransoms. Earlier waves produced more deaths. The wave began ebbing in the 1980s; new groups stopped emerging. Israel eliminated PLO facilities for training terrorist groups. International counterterrorist cooperation became effective. Terrorists now found the UN hostile. Six of the eight successes occurred when the Cold War ended and Soviet support disappeared. Most were very limited. The PLO became so weak it was allowed to return home and negotiate for a two-state solution, one still not achieved. The South African ANC produced the only real success partly because its tactics were so restrained.

Article

Dominant narratives and theories developed at the turn of the 21st century to account for the links between state formation and civil wars in Africa converged around two main ideas. First was the contention that the increase in civil wars across the continent—like that in many parts of the globe, including South Asia and Central Europe—was linked to state failure or decay. Violent conflict thus came to be seen as the expression of the weakness, disintegration, and collapse of political institutions in the postcolonial world. Second, guerrilla movements, once viewed as the ideological armed wings of Cold War contenders, then came to be seen as roving bandits interested in plundering the spoils left by decaying states, and their motives as primarily, if not only, economic or personal, rather than political. However, recent research has challenged the reductionism that underlay such accounts by looking into the day-to-day politics of civil war, thus moving beyond the search for the motives that bring rebels and rebel movements to wage war against the established order. Drawing on this literature, this article argues that violent conflict is part and parcel of historical processes of state formation. Thus, in order to understand how stable political institutions can be built in the aftermath of civil war, it is essential to study the institutions that regulate political life during conflict. This implies a need not only to look at how (and if) state institutions survive once war has broken out, but also to take into account the institutions put in place in areas beyond the control of the state.

Article

Since the mid-2000s, certain expressions of hostility against homosexuality in Africa have received wide international media coverage. In different countries, one of the main targets of this hostility is gay mobilizations. At the same time, these expressions of hostility often promote the development of gay mobilizations. Thus, taken together, these opposing mobilizations form a system, as shown in the cases of Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. Each of the two contexts presents specific local characteristics. In Senegal, the 2000s saw a rise in political Islam. In this context, the gay man gradually became a figure used variously in public debate, with power struggles within political and religious spheres influencing positions on homosexuality. In Côte d’Ivoire, the situation must first be understood through the political crisis affecting the country since the early 2000s and its ambivalent relationship with France, particularly since the post-election crisis of 2010–2011. In both countries, the opposing mobilizations are not limited to “social movements” in the strict sense but involve myriad heterogeneous actors (including at least one or more quasi-official gay groups) focused on a single problem, who sometimes work haphazardly and generally in opposite directions. Added to this heterogeneity of actors are their public positions which offer few clues to easily separate them into pro- and anti-camps. The fact remains that a disconnect often exists between the most prominent actors. However, this distinction is also ambiguous in that it subjects the opposing mobilizations to an interdependence: not only that the actions of one side can largely depend on another’s, but that another’s actions can also benefit actors. Finally, the controversies playing out in and dependent on specific national contexts are also largely constructed in relationship with the “international,” both as a context and an actor, and more generally as a reference figure.

Article

Paul Nugent

African borders, which mostly follow the contours of the former colonies, are widely regarded as artificial and yet have enjoyed remarkable longevity. On the one hand, there have been relatively few serious secessionist and/or irredentist bids. On the other hand, a limited number of border disputes have been settled and mostly without recourse to conflict. This is often attributed to the willingness of states to accept the principle of the intangibility of borders inherited from colonialism and the associated legal principle of uti possidetis. Most claims to secession are based on a preexisting sense of territoriality, whereas there are relatively few that are premised on the rights of peoples to self-determination. It has been pointed out that claims to secession are often tabled as a bargaining position rather than as a nonnegotiable demand. However, the secession of South Sudan has created a genuine precedent, and there has been an upsurge of secessionist movements that reflects this reality. In addition, there has been a proliferation of fresh border disputes, which reflects the increased competition for valuable resources such as oil. This would suggest that some of the landscape of border politics is undergoing a shift. However, a number of factors continue to work in favor of the reproduction of existing borders. Paradoxically, the fact that guerrilla insurgencies tend to breed in borderlands, from where movements either aspire to take over the existing state or seek to carve out zones of de facto control, means that the borders themselves are not challenged. War economies depend on transboundary flows in which local populations themselves are deeply invested. Moreover, the flight of displaced populations and refugees toward borders may create greater insecurity at the margins but also tends to reinforce borders in both a legal and a practical sense. Finally, the struggle to determine the basis on which trade and transport is managed involves associational actors operating at the national level. Equally, fishermen, herders, farmers, and other local actors frequently invoke national affiliations to justify their own right to exploit resources within border zones. At the border itself, one observes a convergence of international, national, and local political scales in a particularly striking manner.

Article

Since independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced numerous military coups both successful and unsuccessful, mutinies by disgruntled soldiers and civil wars that have had terrible impacts on civilians. Three career military officers took power by force and led the country for a total of 36 years: Bokassa (1965–1979), Kolingba (1981–1993), and Bozize (2003–2013). From the 1960s to 1990s, both military and civilian rulers politicized, regionalized, and weakened the CAR military by packing it with supporters from their home areas and ethnic groups, and establishing alternative security structures and bringing in foreign troops to secure their regimes. In this period, the CAR military became a Praetorian force obsessed with the country’s internal political power struggles. In the 1990s, in the context of the post-Cold War political liberalization of Africa, the CAR’s transition to democracy was undermined by a succession of army mutinies over lack of pay and other grievances that fatally weakened an already fragile state. A series of civil wars in the 2000s and 2010s resulted in the near dissolution of the CAR military and the partition of the country into a network of fiefdoms dominated by antagonistic local armed factions separated from each other by beleaguered UN peacekeepers.

Article

Iginio Gagliardone

The analysis of the diffusion of social media in Africa and its relevance for politics has been caught in a paradox. On the one hand, social media have been saluted for their newness and for their ability, especially in connection with increasingly accessible portable tools such as mobile phones, to offer a level playing field for individuals to participate in politics and speak to power. On the other hand, this very enthusiasm has evoked relatively tired tropes used to frame the advent of other “new” technologies in the past, stressing what they could do to Africa, rather than exploring what they are doing in Africa. Early research on the relationship between social media and elections in Africa has tended to adopt normative frameworks adapted from the analysis of electoral contests in the Global North, presupposing unfettered citizens using social media to root for their leaders or demand accountability. A more recent wave of empirically grounded studies has embraced a greater conceptual and methodological pluralism, offering more space to analyze the contradictions in how social media are used and abused: how humor can be turned into a powerful tool to contest a type of power that appears overwhelming; or how armies of professional users have exploited people’s credulity of new media as “freer” from power to actually support partisan agenda. Interestingly, this latter approach has brought to light phenomena that have only recently caught global attention, such as the role of “fake news” and misinformation in electoral contests, but have played a determinant role in African politics for at least a decade.