n Institute for Security Studies Papers - Political dissent and terrorism in Southern Africa

Volume 2004, Issue 90
  • ISSN : 1026-0404



Political dissent manifests itself through expressions of political opposition in ways that can either be regarded as legitimate and lawful, or as unlawful because they contravene the laws of the state. The potentially most destructive form of political dissent is that which is expressed through acts of violence by supporters of a particular political cause. The dividing line between legitimate forms of political dissent and those violent acts of political dissent that are regarded as unacceptable and unlawful is often difficult to identify because of legal uncertainty and because governments use arbitrary criteria to draw such distinction. Why do political groups that initially employ legitimate expressions of political dissent ultimately resort to strategies of violence and terror? This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the nature and role of political dissent in a democracy and of how the state should respond to its various manifestations.

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