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Article

Southern Africa: Regional Politics and Dynamics  

Stephen Chan

Southern Africa is a region marked by huge tensions caused by the longevity of colonial rule and racial discrimination. Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa all achieved independence only years after most of Africa, and only with protracted militarized struggle. Even those countries that did enter independence in the 1960s, alongside most of Africa, were marked by the struggles of their neighbors—Zambia, host to exile liberation movements, was a frequent military target; and wars, sponsored or supported by apartheid South Africa, continued to rage in Angola and Mozambique even after they achieved independence. This has marked the post-independence politics of most countries of the region, almost all of whom have gone through, or remain within, an era of one-party politics or dominant party rule. In part, this can be read as a residual longing for stability. In other part it can be read as a “liberation generation” using its history as a lever by which to hang onto power. Having said that, the politics of each country has distinctive characteristics—although one has certainly been protracted effort to adhere to forms of ethics, such as “Humanism” in Zambia, and truth and reconciliation in South Africa. The contemporary politics of the region, however, is one with forms of authoritarianism and corruption and, in many cases, economic decline or turmoil. The rise of Chinese influence is also a new marker of politics in the region as all of Southern Africa, with many different former colonial powers, enters a new era of problematic cosmopolitanism—with the international jostling with already sometimes-volatile elements of ethnic diversity, balancing, and conflict.

Article

The Horn of Africa: Regional Politics and Dynamics  

Christopher Clapham

The peculiar politics of the Horn of Africa derives from the region’s exceptional pattern of state formation. At its center, Ethiopia was Africa’s sole indigenous state to remain independent through the period of colonial conquest, and also imposed its rule on areas not historically subject to it. The Somalis, most numerous of the pastoralist peoples, were unique in rejecting the colonial partition, which divided them between British and Italian Somalilands, French Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia, while formerly Italian Eritrea, incorporated into Ethiopia in the post-World War II settlement, retained a sense of separate identity that fueled a long struggle for independence. These differences, coupled with the 1974 revolution in Ethiopia, led to wars that culminated in 1991 in the independence of Eritrea, the collapse of the Somali state, and the creation in Ethiopia of a federal system based on ethnicity. Developments since that time provide a distinctive slant on the legacies of colonial rule, the impact of guerrilla warfare, the role of religion in a region divided between Christianity and Islam, the management of ethnicity, and external intervention geared to largely futile attempts at state reconstruction. The Horn continues to follow trajectories of its own, at variance from the rest of Africa.

Article

Decolonizing the University in Africa  

Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Since the euphoria of independence in the 1960s and subsequent attempts at decolonization of university education through promotion of perspectives grounded in African realities and experiences, African universities have almost without exception significantly Africanized their personnel but not their curricula, pedagogical structures, or epistemologies in a systematic and productive manner. Even a late arrival to political independence such as South Africa has, however reluctantly, embarked upon and covered some mileage toward Africanization of university personnel. Hardly addressed in any meaningful and transformative manner (even in countries that gained independence in the 1960s or shortly before), however, is the tradition of knowledge production and the epistemological order that informs it. This paper argues that any serious attempt at making African universities uncompromisingly inclusive institutions through embracing African traditions of knowing and knowledge production would require looking beyond the academy in its current configuration for inspiration. It uses the example of Amos Tutuola—a man of limited formal colonial education, and his writings depicting African universes as inspired by his Yoruba cosmology and ontology, to make the case on the reservoirs of insights and wisdom in the lived experiences of ordinary Africans, waiting to be tapped and channelled into the lecture halls of universities to refresh minds and reconfigure practice in the interest of a more relevant scholarship. The paper baptizes as convivial such a scholarship that dwells less on zero-sum games of absolute winners and losers, encourages a disposition of incompleteness and humility through the reality of the ubiquity of debt and indebtedness, and finds strength in themes of interconnections, interdependences, compositeness, and incompleteness of being that Tutuola’s writings exude.

Article

Sport and Politics in Africa  

Michelle Sikes

African politics have always had a significant effect on sport, despite cherished mantras that sport and politics are mutually exclusive. Conversely, sport has played a meaningful role in the politics of African nations, from nation-building to widening foreign policy options, to making national alliances of countries that may not have otherwise supported each other, particularly with respect to the anti-apartheid struggle. Twentieth-century African politics have been a laboratory for the testing and ultimate debunking of the long-standing notion that African sport (or any human activity) exists in a vacuum, apart from the political realities of the culture within which it exists.

Article

The Military in African Politics  

Maggie Dwyer

Interstate conflict has been rare in sub-Saharan Africa and militaries often do not fit the image of a force focused on external threats. Instead, they have often been heavily engaged in domestic politics, regularly serving as regime protection. For many militaries on the continent, the continued internal focus of the armed forces has been shaped by practices under colonialism. One defining feature of African militaries’ involvement in politics is the coup d’état. From the 1960s to the 1980s coups were the primary method of regime change, making the military central to the political landscape of the continent. By the start of the 21st century there were far fewer direct attempts at military control of African states, yet militaries continue to influence politics even under civilian leadership. While there are differences in the role of militaries based on the unique circumstances of each state, there are also general patterns regarding new missions undertaken by armed forces following the end of the Cold War. These include peacekeeping, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance, all of which generally involve international partnerships and cooperation. Yet these missions have also had domestic political motivations and effects.

Article

Zimbabwe: Regional Politics and Dynamics  

Brian Raftopoulos

The persistent and changing forms of military interventions in global politics present continuing challenges for democratic agendas. Authoritarian regimes in Africa bolstered by militarist structures limit the possibilities for democratic alternatives. This can lead to desperate hopes that some form of militarism is a necessary prerequisite for democratic transition sometimes with the assistance of a popular sense of appeal. The outcome of such interventions is often a prelude to yet another round of authoritarian politics. In countries like Zimbabwe embedded in a Southern African region with a history of armed liberation struggles the narratives of a liberating militarism remain strong, as does the official ownership of the liberation narratives and the purported trajectory they should follow. However as these liberation parties face growing challenges from opposition voices that contest for their own claims on liberation histories, divisions and factions within the dominant parties have increased. The future of these struggles remains uncertain but there is a growing danger that a global preference for any form of political stabilization will marginalize the more difficult challenges of developing democratic alternatives.

Article

Tanzania: Civil–Military Relations and Nationalism  

Daniel G. Zirker

Why have there been no successful military interventions or civil wars in Tanzania’s nearly 60 years of independence? This one historical accomplishment, by itself striking in an African context, distinguishes Tanzania from most of the other post-1960 independent African countries and focuses attention on the possibilities and nature of successful civil–military relations in sub-Saharan Africa. Contrary to most civil–military relations theory, rather than isolating the military in order to achieve civilian oversight, Tanzania integrated the military, the dominant political party, and civil society in what one observer called a combination of “political militancy” and “antimilitarism,” somewhat akin, perhaps, to the Chinese model. China did provide intensive military training for the Tanzanians beginning in the 1960s, although this could in no way have been expected to ensure successful integration of the military with civil society, nor could it ensure peaceful civil–military relations. Eight potentially causal and overlapping conditions have been outlined to explain this unique absence of civil–military strife in an African country. Relevant but admittedly partial explanations are: the largely salutary and national developmental role of the founding president, Julius Nyerere; the caution and long-term fear of military intervention engendered by the 1964 East African mutinies; Tanzania’s radical foreign policy as a Frontline State; its ongoing territorial disputes with Uganda and Malawi; concerted efforts at coup-proofing through the co-opting of senior military commanders; and the country’s striking ethnic heterogeneity, in which none of the 125 plus ethnolinguistic tribes had the capacity to assume a hegemonic dominance. Each factor has a role in explaining Tanzania’s unique civil–military history, and together they may comprise a plausible explanation of the over 50 years of peaceful civil–military relations. They do not, however, provide a hopeful prognosis for future civil–military relations in a system that is increasingly challenging the dominant-party state, nor do they account for Tanzania’s subsequent democratic deficit.

Article

Nationalism in African Politics  

Sara Rich Dorman

African nationalism’s origins are found in anti-colonial protest and the artificial boundaries of post-colonial states. But it has proven a resilient force in African politics, alongside the colonially engineered states, with few border changes in the post-independence period. Despite the artificiality of the new states and nations, only a few new states emerge, with most political conflict aimed at ensuring inclusion within the state’s original boundaries. The experience of decolonization has led nationalist politics to be coalitional in form rather than ideological, bringing together diverse groups. Nation building strategies are deployed after independence to promote unity and development while depoliticizing, homogenizing, and gendering the nationalist legacy. Memorialization and iconography are deployed in this cause, but unevenly. The decades after independence are marked by single party or no-party rule in which the nationalist generations hold on to power. After the end of the cold war, when multiparty elections resumed in many states, and with the aging nationalists increasingly unable to maintain their hold on power, identity-based politics was transformed into an often violent politics of belonging, identifying some ethnic and racial groups as more fully national than others. In states that experienced liberation wars, the generation that led the struggle proved particularly resistant to handing over power, basing their claims on their nationalist credentials and seeking to discredit others. Yet generational and technological change ensured that subaltern groups, through creative and social media, as well as political movements, continued to claim, contest, and transform national imaginaries.

Article

Historical Approaches to African Politics  

Steven Pierce

Since the late 1980s, historians have paid increasing attention to party politics and political movements in Africa. Recent work has emphasized the importance of World War II in transforming political constituencies, mobilizing opposition to colonial regimes, and encouraging new political imaginaries. Documenting these processes has also enabled a richer appreciation of the complexity of African publics, and the ongoing power demanded and asserted by women as well as men, non-elites as well as elites. In this way, the role of history has often been to tell important stories from the bottom up. Africanist historians’ interdisciplinary research methodologies, emphasizing local discourses and cultural frames, have also contributed to an increased understanding of the specificities of political participation and state practices in African countries. In turn, these insights represent a useful addition to—and in some cases revision of—existing accounts of “weak” African states and other notions of African dysfunction.

Article

Federalism and Regional Politics in Africa  

Asnake Kefale

During the anticolonial struggle and immediately after independence, African political leaders were preoccupied with the creation of a “nation-state.” As a result, many of postcolonial African leaders not only promoted national unity but also instituted centralized governance. Unity and centralization were considered important antidotes to the challenges of consolidating postcolonial states, which by and large were created by the partitioning of the continent by colonial powers. As a result, many of the postcolonial leaders were hostile to federalism in general and power-sharing in particular. This explains why many of the federal arrangements, which were created by departing colonial powers, were dismantled within the first few years after independence. In contrast to the earlier periods, the 1990s could be regarded as a turning point for federalism and devolution of power in the continent. Among African states, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa could be considered fully fledged federations, which have constitutionally devolved power to different tiers of governments. There is also an ongoing attempt to establish a federal system in war-torn Somalia. Some argue that, although federalism does not have a stellar record in postcolonial Africa, it is possible to contend that in the foreseeable future the importance of federalism will grow in the continent given the challenges that many African countries face in the management of their ethnolinguistic diversity. This is evidenced by the increasing application of the federalist principles of decentralization by several African countries.

Article

The African Union: Successes and Failures  

Thomas Kwasi Tieku

The African Union (AU), an international organization comprising all 54 independent states in Africa and Western Sahara, was established in May 2001 to, among other things, promote regional integration, interstate solidarity, peace, good governance and to enhance the African voice in the global system. Pan-African organization is like the proverbial forest that has bad trees dotted around its many good trees. The AU has been very successful in addressing the needs of the African political class but it is yet to make a significant difference in the lives of many ordinary Africans. The importance of the pan-African organization to African political elite is such that they would have created it today if it did not already exist. The AU has socialized African leaders to accept liberal values as the foundation of international cooperation in Africa; enhanced the agency of African political class on the world stage; and established progressive and innovative rules and norms for the African continent. It has also created many useful decision-making structures that have contributed to the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts in Africa. The AU has, however, been less successful in connecting its activities and programs to many ordinary Africans; providing common public goods and services valued by commoners in Africa; giving voice to the majority of young people in Africa; promoting intra-Africa trade, good governance, and financial independence of the African continent as well as struggled to address the expressed material needs and quotidian concerns of ordinary Africans.

Article

The Rise of the African Legislature?  

Ken Opalo

What explains contemporary variation in legislative strength and institutionalization in Africa? Contrary to the widespread belief that African legislatures are uniformly weak, there is significant variation in both the institutional forms and powers of these institutions. Colonial institutional development and the nature of postcolonial single-party autocratic rule partially explain the variation in legislative strength and institutionalization in Africa. Legislative development (or lack thereof) under colonialism bequeathed postcolonial states with both institutional memory and intra-elite conceptions of executive–legislative relations (how legislatures work). The nature of postcolonial autocratic rule determined the upper bounds of legislative development. Relatively secure presidents tolerated legislative organizational development. Their weaker counterparts did not. These differences became apparent following the end of single-party rule in much of Africa the early 1990s. Legislatures in the former group exploited their newfound freedom to rebalance executive–legislative relations. Those in the latter group remained weak and subservient to presidents. In short, strong autocratic legislatures begat strong democratic legislatures.

Article

The Rise of “Peaceocracy” in Africa  

Gabrielle Lynch

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

Ideas and Political Mobilization in Africa  

Anne Heffernan

Ideas play a key role in political mobilization around the world, and often ideas travel cross-nationally. It is important to recognize the diverse influences and iterative processes that produce political ideologies and influence mobilization. The sociological literature on diffusion offers scholars a framework for thinking about and recognizing the channels through which ideas move. When tracing such channels, scholars must also be cognizant of the ways that movement of this sort affects ideas and ideologies themselves; international concepts will always be read through domestic lenses, and local realities prompt reinterpretation of global ideas. The Black Consciousness Movement offers a case study to analyze some key channels through which global ideas moved and impacted a university student movement in 1970s South Africa. Influenced by anti-colonialism and antiracism discourses originating in Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States, Black Consciousness thinkers took these ideas and refashioned them into their own ideology. They used relational networks as well as channels like art, theatre, fashion, and development projects to mobilize a constituency and to propagate their own ideas, which have endured beyond the end of the formal Black Consciousness Movement.

Article

Central Africa: Regional Politics and Dynamics  

Andreas Mehler

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

Historical Views of Homosexuality: European Colonialism  

Robert Aldrich

The history of colonialism encompassed diverse meetings between societies and cultures, providing chances for discovery (by both the colonizing and the colonized) of differing sexual attitudes and behaviors. Varying sexual cultures inspired European ethnographical research, relativised sexual certainties and incited both fantasies and moral concern. Eroticised images of foreign men appeared in art, and affective relationships between Europeans and non-Europeans featured in literary works. The sex lives of “natives” and Europeans overseas provided subjects of speculation. The conquest of overseas territories by European and other expanding powers also led to the imposition of Western law codes regulating sexuality, including same-sex relations, gender norms, and marriage. Prohibitions on “sodomy” entered law codes throughout the British Empire, often with provisions of severe penalties. Only in the late 1900s did decriminalization occur in the British settler Dominions, though less often in former colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. For European countries where same-sex activity had been decriminalized, such as France, it generally remained legal in the colonies, though surrounded with taboos and social opprobrium. Same-sex desire (and relations between Europeans or between them and indigenous people) appeared in many forms in colonial societies and in the lives of men associated with overseas empires. It was castigated by authorities as a menace to colonial mores but experienced by some men in the colonies as an opportunity for pleasure and a source of male bonding; non-Western sexual cultures provided arguments for both campaigns of “moralization” and for homosexual emancipation in Europe. Occasional scandals underscored the ways in which debates about sexual difference intertwined with colonial-era attitudes and policies.

Article

Central African Republic: Coups, Mutinies, and Civil War  

Timothy Stapleton

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

Liberation Movements in Power in Africa  

Roger Southall

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

Development Policy and European Union Politics  

Karin Arts

Development cooperation is one of the traditional policy domains of the European Union (EU). Over the years it advanced from an instrument used in colonial times to one of modern partnership, although European self-interest remains a driving force. Jointly, the EU and its member states are the largest development donor in the world and also provide sizable market access and investment to developing countries. Their overall performance record has been assessed fairly positively by internal and external parties, although many possible improvements have been identified. The various enlargements of the EU traceably supported a widening of the geographic and substantive scope of EU development policies and practice. In addition, EU development cooperation was reinforced by the fact that it gradually received a firmer basis in the constituent EU treaties. The “European Consensus on Development” document, as revised in 2017, laid out the main direction of and emphases in EU development cooperation until the year 2030. The European Consensus prescribed a rights-based approach, and squarely placed the United Nations “Agenda 2030” and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained in it, as the main framework and objectives for EU development cooperation. A wide range of actors is involved in EU development cooperation, in part because this is an area of shared competence among the EU member states that pursue their own national policies as well as those specified by the EU. Thus, EU actors such as the European Commission, Council, and Parliament feature in this policy field along with EU member states and individual or collective developing country actors. The most prominent example of this is the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, which consists of 79 countries. Civil society organizations, including non-governmental development organizations, both from the North and the South, also seek to influence or otherwise engage with the policies and practices of EU development cooperation. While EU development cooperation is an established policy field, it is also still very much a work in progress, and major challenges lay ahead for action in the period up to 2030, the year in which the SDGs are to be realized. These major challenges include funding, strengthening the EU’s political clout in the world by using development cooperation more strategically for forging and influencing global decision-making on relevant topics, renewing and innovating the relations between the EU and ACP countries, handling the consequences of Brexit, and improving on the delivery of EU development cooperation.

Article

The Sahel: Regional Politics and Dynamics  

Sebastian Elischer

Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and Chad are some of least researched countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Since independence from France in 1960 these four countries have experienced two distinct yet interrelated struggles: the struggle for statehood and the struggle for democracy. Each country has experienced violent conflict between the central authorities in the capitals and security challengers on the peripheries. Prominent examples are the Tuareg uprisings in Niger and Mali, the various rebel insurgencies in Chad, and the conflict between black Africans and Arabs in Mauritania. The emergence of jihadi-Salafi groups in the West African sub-region affects all four countries and poses a particularly strong security challenge to Mali. All these conflicts are unresolved. The liberalization of the political sphere in the late 1980s and early 1990s has led to considerable political diversity across the Sahel. In Niger and Mali meaningful multiparty competition and basic civil liberties have taken root despite many setbacks. Civil society is strong and in the past has successfully mobilized against autocratic tendencies. In Mauritania and Chad, democratic institutions exist on paper as autocratic rulers have managed to stay in office. The national armed forces remain the preeminent political actors. Civil society is not strong enough to achieve political change for the better. Stagnant living conditions, social immobility, the ongoing war against Islamic terrorism, and weak accountability mechanisms remain the most important political challenges for the Sahel.