Democratization Trapped in Electoral Violence: Is Sub-Saharan Africa a Dangerous Place for Democracy?
The third wave of democratization that hit the African region in the early 1990s left in its wake termination of authoritarian rule, and consequent enthronement of democratic regimes. This momentous event raised high hopes of enduring democracy in a region with egregious authoritarian past. Three decades after the
epochal transition that has been aptly dubbed Africa’s ‘second liberation’, prospects of democratic consolidation have not only waned considerably, but also initial hopes of democratic deepening have evaporated. While there is a plethora of factors that account for this democratic recession, electoral violence
has been implicated in the literature as a key causative factor. Whereas Africa has seen an impressive increase in the frequency of elections in the post-third wave period, this democratic gain has been eroded by a corresponding increase in the incidence of violence in African elections. By comparing Kenya, Nigeria
and Zimbabwe—three countries with different decolonization and democratization experiences—the paper shows that electoral violence is neither a recent phenomenon in Africa nor an exclusive strategy of a specific fraction of the power elite. The paper argues that electoral violence is promoted by such factors
as politicization of land access, ethnic marginalization, patrimonialism, state-backed violence, and youth unemployment. These factors combine to make the Sub-Saharan Africa a ‘risk environment’ for electoral democracy. The paper concludes by proposing some reform measures capable of protecting the ballot
against the bullet
© Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, 2013
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