n African Renaissance - Consociationalism and power-sharing in Africa : Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


Although there are obvious merits to the consociational argument, including the need to recognize the claims of minorities through power-sharing arrangements, translating theory into practice has generally failed in much of Africa. The reasons for this are many, and are by no means reducible to single-factor explanations. Looking at the recent experiments in power-sharing in former Belgian Africa, this article offers a comparative assessment of the radically different trajectories followed by Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in their efforts to regulate conflict through consociational formulas. While Rwanda stands as textbook example of failed power-sharing, and the DRC as a less than successful experiment, Burundi, which comes nearest to institutionalizing the Lijphart model, offers grounds for cautious optimism about the merits of a consociational polity. On the strength of the evidence from Burundi one might conceivably argue that the key to success lies in the extent to which the technicalities of power-sharing tend to approximate the conditions spelled out by Lijphart, notably group autonomy, proportionality, and the minority veto. Closer scrutiny of the cases at hand suggests a somewhat different conclusion. Perhaps even more importantly than the mechanics of power-sharing, the socio-political context is what spells the difference between success and failure.

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