Dr. Catherine Lena Kelly

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
Associate Professor of Justice and Rule of Law

Dr. Catherine Lena Kelly is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Justice and Rule of Law at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Her work focuses on party politics and democratization, rule of law and security sector governance, and transnational organized crime. She is faculty lead for the rule of law and security sector governance portfolio, as well as the countering transnational organized crime portfolio.

Previously, Dr. Kelly was an Advisor in the Research, Evaluation, and Learning Division at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, where her work on judicial training and grassroots legal empowerment took her to Burundi, CAR, DRC, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Republic of Congo, and Rwanda to work with a range of national and local judicial officials, paralegals, and civil society. Fluent in French, Dr. Kelly has also designed and taught courses on contemporary Africa as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, and on West Africa and Area Studies at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. Dr. Kelly has earned fellowships from Fulbright, American Council of Learned Societies, West Africa Research Association, Harvard University, and the U.S. government’s Foreign Language and Area Studies program for the Wolof language. Her book, Party Proliferation and Political Contestation in Africa: Senegal in Comparative Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), is based on 18 months of research in Senegal. Her work has been published in African Security, Journal of Democracy, Comparative Politics, The Washington Post, Democracy in Africa, numerous edited volumes, and American Bar Association white papers.

Dr. Kelly holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in government from Harvard University, a Graduate Certificate in international politics from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and a B.A. summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis. She is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member.

Areas of Expertise

Rule of Law, Democratization and Governance, Stabilization of Fragile States, Preventing Violent Extremism, Program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation, West and Central Africa, Transnational Organized Crime


Email Dr. Kelly

+1 202-685-7314

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