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.
The Persistence of Cults of Personality in African Governance
African leaders who hold power indefinitely often employ cults of personality to consolidate power, demand personal fealty, and systematically undermine independent governance institutions.
Intervening to Undermine Democracy in Africa: Russia’s Playbook for Influence
Russia has systematically sought to undercut democracy in Africa, both to normalize authoritarianism as well as to create an entry point for Russian influence.
Africa’s 2023 Elections: Democratic Resiliency in the Face of Trials
Despite serious challenges, Africa's youthful electorates vie to have their voices heard so as to shape a more democratic, stable, and prosperous future.
“Transition” Orchestrated by Chad’s Military Goes Awry
The violent crackdown on the peaceful opposition in Chad exposes the coercive intimidation behind the military junta’s unwillingness to facilitate a genuine democratic transition.
Understanding Burkina Faso’s Latest Coup
Two coups d’état in 9 months mark the latest inflection point in Burkina Faso’s political instability, causing heightened uncertainty as the country faces an escalating militant Islamist threat.
Seven Takeaways from Kenya’s Consequential Election
Despite shortcomings, Kenyans have set a new and higher electoral bar for themselves, their neighbors, and the rest of Africa—demonstrating how closely contested elections can be credibly resolved through sufficiently independent institutions.
Senegal Pulled Off Another Peaceful Poll. Why This Time the Results Herald a Big Political Shift
Senegal's recent parliamentary election continued a tradition of robust multiparty competition—the results have unprecedented implications for democratic oversight.
Kenyan Elections—Another Test in the Country’s Democratic Journey
Kenya’s competitive presidential elections reflect hard-earned progress in establishing independent constitutional and judicial guardrails, though a history of electoral violence demands all sides show restraint.
Russia and the Future International Order in Africa
The application of a Russian-shaped international order in Africa would have destabilizing repercussions for the continent.
Mapping Disinformation in Africa
Russia has pioneered a model of disinformation to gain political influence in Africa that is now being replicated by other actors across the continent.
Debunking the Malian Junta’s Claims
Mali’s military coup has thrust the country into a deeper security crisis as the junta quashes dissent and resists a democratic transition.
Africa’s Complex 2022 Elections: Restoring Democratic Processes
Responding to the coups, conflicts, and other derailments of democratic processes in recent years, Africa’s 2022 elections are, in large part, an effort to right the democratic ship of state on the continent.
Deluge of Digital Repression Threatens African Security
African governments are using the pretext of security to restrict digital communications and citizens’ rights. In the process, they are inadvertently contributing to economic losses and greater instability.
A Crucial Moment in Chad’s Transition
Chad's national dialogue will not achieve stability or peace as long as those who support civilian rule and civilian transition continue to be excluded from the transition.
Africa’s Coups and the Role of External Actors
The recent rise in coups in Africa reflects a waning regional and international willingness to enforce anti-coup norms. Reversing the trend requires incentivizing democracy and consistently imposing real costs on coup makers.
What the Post-Coup Agreement Means for Sudan’s Democratic Transition
Sudan’s democratic transition is under duress as the military seeks validation for its hold on power via the reinstatement of a figurehead civilian prime minister.
Russia’s Wagner Play Undermines the Transition in Mali
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.
Walking Back the Coup in Guinea
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.
Presidential Term Limits Key to Democratic Progress and Security in Africa
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.
10 Years after Independence South Sudan Faces Persistent Crisis
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.
Cries from the Community: Listening to the People of Cabo Delgado
Stabilizing northern Mozambique will involve more than defeating violent extremists. It will also require rebuilding trust with marginalized and traumatized local communities.
Tunisia in Crisis: An Explainer
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
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.
Justice and Rule of Law Key to African Security
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
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.
The Dismantling of Benin’s Democracy
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.
Democracy and Security in Africa
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.
Nigeria’s Diverse Security Threats
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
Proactive management of the transition to civilian rule would afford the Sudanese military more stability, budgetary support, and professional benefits.
Autocracy and Instability in Africa
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.
The Nigerian State and Insecurity
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.
Food Insecurity Crisis Mounting in Africa
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.
Untangling Post-Election Uganda
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 Cracks open a Door to Reform
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.
Taking Stock of Africa’s 2021 Elections
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.
Circumvention of Term Limits Weakens Governance in Africa
A growing pattern of evading term limits in Africa carries far-reaching consequences for the continent’s governance, security, and development.