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.

Spotlight

South Africa’s Seismic Political Shift

By Paul Nantulya
June 7, 2024

South Africa’s pivotal election has thrust the country into uncharted waters. To navigate the opportunities and risks, South Africa will require leaders putting country above party, compromise, and adherence to democratic principles.

Spotlight

Accommodating Africa’s Juntas Amplifies Insecurity

By Joseph Siegle and Jeffrey Smith
May 31, 2024

In addition to undermining democracy, accommodating Africa’s military coups will exacerbate security, economic, and humanitarian concerns.

Niger's junta leaders: Colonel Mamane Sani Kiaou (L), General Moussan Salaou Barmou (C) and Colonel Ibroh Bachirou (2-R). (Photo by AFP)

Infographic

Niger Coup Reversing Hard-Earned Gains

May 13, 2024

After noteworthy gains in the previous decade under democratically elected governments, the derailing of Niger’s constitutional order by the military coup in July 2023 has resulted in a deterioration in security, economic wellbeing, and agency for Nigerien citizens.

Spotlight

Togo Revises Constitution to Eliminate Term Limits: An Explainer

April 23, 2024

The ruling party’s revision of the Togolese Constitution eliminates universal suffrage for the presidency while effectively shifting to a parliamentary system that evades presidential term limits.

Spotlight

Key Takeaways from Senegal’s Presidential Election

By Catherine Lena Kelly
April 1, 2024

Senegal’s election of Bassirou Faye as President after a tumultuous electoral process reflects the resilience of Senegal’s democratic institutions and presents an opportunity to strengthen transparent governance and economic equity.

Infographic

Mapping a Surge of Disinformation in Africa

March 13, 2024

Disinformation campaigns seeking to manipulate African information systems have surged nearly fourfold since 2022, triggering destabilizing and antidemocratic consequences.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi appears with the judges of the Constitutional Court during his swearing-in ceremony on January 20, 2024

Spotlight

Regime Capture of the Courts in Africa

By Paul Nantulya
February 27, 2024

By co-opting apex courts, incumbents bent on regime survival can entrench themselves in power while maintaining what their citizens consider to be sham democracies.

Opposition rally in Dakar, Senegal.

Spotlight

Making Sense of Senegal’s Constitutional Crisis

February 7, 2024

The unprecedented attempt by Senegal’s President Macky Sall to postpone presidential elections is legally dubious and has thrown the country into a constitutional crisis that will test its democratic institutions.

Infographic

Assessing Mali’s Non-Transition

February 2, 2024

The Malian military junta has repeatedly refused to honor its commitments to transition back to a democratic civilian government, resulting in mounting security and economic costs to citizens.

Spotlight

Africa’s 2024 Elections: Challenges and Opportunities to Regain Democratic Momentum

By Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook
January 17, 2024

Africa’s multifaceted 2024 electoral docket provides opportunities to strengthen multipartyism, transition back to constitutionalism following coups, and rebuff perfunctory exercises.

Spotlight

Comoros Election Exercise Promises More of the Same

January 11, 2024

President Azali Assoumani’s undermining of an acclaimed power-sharing agreement in the three-island archipelago has been marked by growing political repression and non-competitive elections.

Spotlight

Elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: A Persistent Crisis of Legitimacy

By Paul Nantulya
January 2, 2024

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s chaotic elections failed to break the country’s long legacy of fraudulent polls and plunged the government into a fresh crisis of legitimacy.

Spotlight

Chad’s Constitutional Referendum Promises a Transition without Change—or Stability

By Daniel Eizenga and Katie Nodjimbadem
November 28, 2023

The highly controlled constitutional referendum organized by Mahamat Déby’s military junta appears intended to provide a degree of credibility to the military’s plans to hold power indefinitely.

Infographic

Term Limit Evasions and Coups in Africa:
Two Sides of the Same Coin

October 24, 2023

Term limit evasions are at the root of a host of governance dysfunctions in Africa and are linked to higher levels of autocracy, corruption, conflict, and propensity for coups.

Spotlight

SADC Attempts to Navigate Zimbabwe’s Disputed Election

By Paul Nantulya
October 11, 2023

Citizen-led efforts to remedy the fraudulent Zimbabwean election are testing SADC’s commitment to upholding democratic electoral standards in Southern Africa.

Congolese voters waiting in line to cast their ballots in Sake, North Kivu during the DR Congo's 2018 general elections.

Spotlight

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Quest for Democracy Faces a New Test

By Paul Nantulya
September 29, 2023

To break the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s long legacy of stolen elections, the country’s independent oversight institutions, civil society, and media will need the backing of SADC and international democratic actors.

Publication

Oversight and Accountability to Improve Security Sector Governance in Africa

By Dan Kuwali
September 11, 2023

Oversight, accountability, and governance of the security sector are essential ingredients to a capable and effective force, mitigating infractions and contributing to a learning environment that improves future practices.

Spotlight

African-Led Peace Operations: A Crucial Tool for Peace and Security

By Nate D.F. Allen
August 9, 2023

African-led peace operations have been vital tools for managing Africa’s complex array of security challenges, though continued reform is needed to intervene more decisively in the continent’s most devastating conflicts.

Spotlight

Attempted Coup in Niger: Backgrounder

July 27, 2023

The attempted military coup in Niger threatens to undermine the relative progress the country has made under its civilian democratic leaders and amplifies Niger’s risks for insecurity, economic crises, and political instability.

Infographic

Tracking Russian Interference to Derail Democracy in Africa

June 21, 2023

Systematic efforts by Russia to undercut democracy in Africa have inhibited democratic development in two dozen African countries.

Zambia president Hichilema

Video

Zambia’s President Hichilema Says Security Requires Whole of Society Effort

May 8, 2023

Effective management of security resources is a pillar to security, good governance, and sustainable development—and a means of building trust in the security sector.

the South African Public Protector House

Spotlight

Lessons from South Africa for Holding Leaders Accountable

By Paul Nantulya
April 18, 2023

South Africa’s layered oversight processes afford an institutionalized means of holding senior leaders accountable for allegations of misconduct—and offer insights for upholding the rule of law elsewhere.

The Role of Parliamentary Committees in Building Accountable, Sustainable, and Professional Security Sectors

Spotlight

The Role of Parliamentary Committees in Building Accountable, Sustainable, and Professional Security Sectors

April 3, 2023

Parliamentary committees that oversee the security sector play an essential role in building accountable, sustainable, transparent, and professional institutions.

حصل الرئيس التشادي الراحل إدريس ديبي على لقب مشير تشاد خلال احتفال بمناسبة الذكرى الستين لاستقلال تشاد.

Spotlight

The Persistence of Cults of Personality in African Governance

March 14, 2023

African leaders who hold power indefinitely often employ cults of personality to consolidate power, demand personal fealty, and systematically undermine independent governance institutions.

Spotlight

Intervening to Undermine Democracy in Africa: Russia’s Playbook for Influence

By Joseph Siegle
February 22, 2023

Russia has systematically sought to undercut democracy in Africa, both to normalize authoritarianism as well as to create an entry point for Russian influence.

Spotlight

Africa’s 2023 Elections: Democratic Resiliency in the Face of Trials

By Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook
January 31, 2023

Despite serious challenges, Africa's youthful electorates vie to have their voices heard so as to shape a more democratic, stable, and prosperous future.

“Non-Transition” Orchestrated by Chad’s Military Government Goes Awry

Spotlight

“Transition” Orchestrated by Chad’s Military Goes Awry

By Daniel Eizenga
November 15, 2022

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

Spotlight

Understanding Burkina Faso’s Latest Coup

October 28, 2022

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.

Spotlight

Seven Takeaways from Kenya’s Consequential Election

By Paul Nantulya
September 7, 2022

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.

Spotlight

Senegal Pulled Off Another Peaceful Poll. Why This Time the Results Herald a Big Political Shift

By Catherine Lena Kelly
August 19, 2022

Senegal's recent parliamentary election continued a tradition of robust multiparty competition—the results have unprecedented implications for democratic oversight.

Spotlight

Kenyan Elections—Another Test in the Country’s Democratic Journey

July 11, 2022

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.

Spotlight

Russia and the Future International Order in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
May 11, 2022

The application of a Russian-shaped international order in Africa would have destabilizing repercussions for the continent.

Infographic

Mapping Disinformation in Africa

April 26, 2022

Russia has pioneered a model of disinformation to gain political influence in Africa that is now being replicated by other actors across the continent.

Infographic

Debunking the Malian Junta’s Claims

April 12, 2022

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

Spotlight

Africa’s Complex 2022 Elections: Restoring Democratic Processes

By Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook
January 11, 2022

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

Spotlight

Deluge of Digital Repression Threatens African Security

By Nathaniel Allen and Catherine Lena Kelly
January 4, 2022

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

Spotlight

A Crucial Moment in Chad’s Transition

By Daniel Eizenga
December 17, 2021

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.

Spotlight

Africa’s Coups and the Role of External Actors

By Joseph Siegle
December 17, 2021

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.

Spotlight

What the Post-Coup Agreement Means for Sudan’s Democratic Transition

By Joseph Siegle
November 24, 2021

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

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

Spotlight

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

Spotlight

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.

Benin President 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

Spotlight

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

Spotlight

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.

Infographic

Circumvention of Term Limits Weakens Governance in Africa

By Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook
September 14, 2020

A growing pattern of evading term limits in Africa carries far-reaching consequences for the continent’s governance, security, and development.