Democracy

Voting in progress during the 2015 Nigerian election. (Photo: U.S. Embassy / Idika Onyukwu)

Democracy and security in Africa are closely intertwined. How leaders come to power and to whom they are accountable have direct implications on citizen security. In Africa, many conflicts are born from the inability to peacefully resolve issues of power sharing, inclusive participation, checks on the abuse of power, and political succession. Recent trends involving the evasion of term limits, militaries intervening in politics, incumbents using security actors for political ends, and regional bodies failing to uphold democratic norms are further shaping Africa’s security environment. Drawing from Africa’s wide range of political systems, these Africa Center analyses unpack the many layers of the complex governance-security relationship.

Russia's Wagner Play Undermines the Transition in Mali

Spotlight

Russia’s Wagner Play Undermines the Transition in Mali

By Joseph Siegle and Daniel Eizenga
September 23, 2021

The prospective deployment of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries should not be confused with addressing Mali’s security situation but is a means of expanding Russian influence while propping up the military junta.

Spotlight

Walking Back the Coup in Guinea

By Joseph Siegle and Daniel Eizenga
September 17, 2021

Recognition of the coup in Guinea would incentivize future military interventions. Yet, simply reinstating President Alpha Condé would not restore democracy. Several possible paths could be followed to return Guinea to constitutional order.

Expert Publication

Presidential Term Limits Key to Democratic Progress and Security in Africa

By Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook
September 16, 2021

Term limit norms in Africa have been deteriorating rapidly since 2015, reversing a positive trend over the previous two decades. This trend has important implications since longer presidential tenures are linked to increased corruption, reduced civil liberties, and higher rates of conflict. Even after term limit restrictions have been lifted, there is a pattern of incumbents manipulating electoral outcomes to stay in power. This reflects the declining popularity of these leaders and points to the self-interested motivations for their extended tenures vis-à-vis broader service to the public. It further highlights that the evasion of term limits does not happen in isolation but is part of a broader pattern of undermining the rule of law and weakening democratic institutions. Failure to reverse the downturn in respect for term limits risks bringing Africa back to an era of de facto “presidents for life” and one-party states.

Infographic

10 Years after Independence South Sudan Faces Persistent Crisis

September 13, 2021

The ongoing forced displacement of a third of the population and a conflict-driven food crisis threatening more than half of all South Sudanese underscores the grave human costs of the country’s destructive politics.

A displaced family in Cabo Delgado

Spotlight

Cries from the Community: Listening to the People of Cabo Delgado

By Gregory Pirio, Robert Pittelli, and Yussuf Adam
August 30, 2021

Stabilizing northern Mozambique will involve more than defeating violent extremists. It will also require rebuilding trust with marginalized and traumatized local communities.

Spotlight

Tunisia in Crisis: An Explainer

July 30, 2021

Tunisia is facing a constitutional crisis rooted in challenges to the separation of powers and the reach of executive authority. The outcome has implications not only for Tunisia but prospects for democracy across North Africa.

Lessons from a Decade of South Sudanese Statehood

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Lessons from a Decade of South Sudanese Statehood

By Luka Biong Deng Kuol
June 29, 2021

The catastrophic levels of instability that have engulfed South Sudan since 2013 demand a restructuring of governance and security institutions to alter the tragic trajectory of Africa’s youngest state.

Spotlight

Justice and Rule of Law Key to African Security

By Catherine Lena Kelly
May 25, 2021

The integration of justice initiatives within conventional security efforts can mitigate conflict, improve societal resilience, and build a stronger culture supportive of the rule of law.

African Youth Engaging in Peace and Security

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African Youth Engaging in Peace and Security

By Peter Biar Ajak
April 29, 2021

Despite challenges of unemployment, corruption, entrenched political leadership, and political violence, many African youth have found constructive avenues to promote peace, effective governance, and reform.

Patrice Talon

Spotlight

The Dismantling of Benin’s Democracy

By Mark Duerksen
April 27, 2021

President Patrice Talon’s manipulation of electoral rules and cooption of democratic processes have caused Benin to slide quickly from a multi-party democracy to a semi-authoritarian regime, portending heightened instability.

Video

Democracy and Security in Africa

April 12, 2021

Africa Center Director of Research Joseph Siegle reviews a snapshot of Africa’s ongoing conflicts, which reveals a distinctive governance pattern. In addition to being more conflict prone, Africa’s autocracies are a focal point for instability on the continent.

Spotlight

Nigeria’s Diverse Security Threats

By Mark Duerksen
March 30, 2021

Nigeria faces an array of security challenges beyond Boko Haram. Distinguishing these threats and understanding their socio-geographic contours is essential for adapting customized solutions.

The Sudanese Military’s Interests in Civilian Rule

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The Sudanese Military’s Interests in Civilian Rule

By Joseph Siegle
March 23, 2021

Proactive management of the transition to civilian rule would afford the Sudanese military more stability, budgetary support, and professional benefits.

Infographic

Autocracy and Instability in Africa

March 9, 2021

The lack of legitimacy and accountability are at the root of many of Africa’s armed conflicts, reflecting an inability of these political systems to accommodate participation, contestation, and power-sharing.

Video

The Nigerian State and Insecurity

February 17, 2021

Nigeria faces a plethora of security challenges ranging from violent extremism, to farmer-herder conflict, banditry, a revived secessionist movement, police repression, piracy, and attacks on oil infrastructure, among others. In this roundtable discussion, experts representing diplomatic, scholarly, and practitioner perspectives discuss the links between these security challenges and Nigeria’s patronage-based state institutions. Key themes were the need to rethink the structure of the Nigerian state, identify means of strengthening national identity, harness the aspirations of youth to advance governance reform, create more accountability within the security services, and avoid the militarization of every security challenge.

Infographic

Food Insecurity Crisis Mounting in Africa

February 16, 2021

Acute food insecurity in Africa has increased by over 60 percent in the past year and threatens to widen further as the effects of COVID-19 exacerbate other drivers such as conflict and political mismanagement.

Spotlight

The Erosion of Term Limits in Africa Reflects Worrying Trend

By Joseph Siegle
February 12, 2021

Spotlight

Untangling Post-Election Uganda

February 4, 2021

Sharp losses by the long-ruling NRM party reveal a shifting political landscape in Uganda, reflecting the will of a younger and more energized electorate looking for change.

Power Shift in the DRC Creaks open a Door to Reform

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Power Shift in the DRC Cracks open a Door to Reform

By Paul Nantulya
January 22, 2021

A shift in the balance of power within the National Assembly enhances the influence of President Felix Tshisekedi and represents a step toward long-delayed democratic reforms.

Spotlight

Taking Stock of Africa’s 2021 Elections

By Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook
January 12, 2021

A wide spectrum of credibility marks the 13 African elections slated for 2021. This has direct implications for the legitimacy of the leaders that emerge and their ability to navigate the security challenges they face.

Expert Publication

Boko Haram and the Isolation of Northern Nigeria: Regional and International Implications

By Joseph Siegle
October 31, 2013

Term limit norms in Africa have been deteriorating rapidly since 2015, reversing a positive trend over the previous two decades. This trend has important implications since longer presidential tenures are linked to increased corruption, reduced civil liberties, and higher rates of conflict. Even after term limit restrictions have been lifted, there is a pattern of incumbents manipulating electoral outcomes to stay in power. This reflects the declining popularity of these leaders and points to the self-interested motivations for their extended tenures vis-à-vis broader service to the public. It further highlights that the evasion of term limits does not happen in isolation but is part of a broader pattern of undermining the rule of law and weakening democratic institutions. Failure to reverse the downturn in respect for term limits risks bringing Africa back to an era of de facto “presidents for life” and one-party states.