n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - Explaining electoral violence in Africa's 'new' democracies

Volume 10, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


The electoral process in many of Africa's 'new' democracies has been characterised by violence. However, recent manifestations of electoral violence have assumed an unprecedented magnitude and changing form and character, with negative implications for democratic stability and consolidation. This paper analyses electoral violence in Africa, with emphasis on its manifestations, causes, implications and possible solutions. The paper argues that rising electoral violence in Africa is closely connected with the neo-patrimonial character of the African state, the nature of contestation for power, the weak institutionalisation of democratic architectures, including political parties and electoral management bodies (EMBs), and the fascinating political economy of electoral violence. This is complicated by the absence/paucity of democrats, with democratic mindset, to play the game of politics according to established rules. Worse still, avenues for democratic redress, including the judiciary and civil society, are also deeply implicated in the deepening contradictions of the state. The result is the deinstitutionalisation of the people in the democratisation process. Electoral violence is thus a major source of democratic instability with palpable threats of deconsolidation. These contradictions will have to be redressed to tame the monster.

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