Panel 39

Beyond Warfare – Consolidating Africa’s Piecemeal Peace

Panel organiser: Anders Themnér, Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden and Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden.


The African continent is commonly associated with civil wars, authoritarianism and coups. In fact, Africa is the world’s most conflict-afflicted continent, with one third of all inter- and intra-state armed conflicts since 1946. Despite these bleak statistics – and ongoing civil wars in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan – there are reasons for hope. Not only have large parts of Western Africa transitioned itself from zones of war to zones of peace, countries such as Botswana, Malawi and Zambia have withstood armed domestic strife since independence. In order to consolidate the peace in these zones, it is imperative to address elite-mass dynamics in the context of transitional electoral politics. While elite-pacts and ‘transformed’ (ex-military/authoritarian) leaders can play a vital role creating the stability needed to strengthen democratic institutions, it is vital to create enough political space for the emergence of new political forces and grass-root mobilization. The question is how this can be done without cementing authoritarian and militant norms and creating incentives for electoral violence and fearmongering. The panels invites contributions that seek to address these important questions. 

Approved abstracts panel 39

1. An African Peace Puzzle: Explaining Peace in Botswana, Malawi and Zambia

Author: Johan Brosché, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden & Kristine Höglund, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden.
E-mail: and

Africa is the world’s most conflict-affected region with one third of all inter- and intra-state armed conflicts since 1946 taking place on the continent. However, this bleak picture is not all-embracing. This paper aims to explain why peace has prevailed in Malawi, Botswana, and Zambia since they gained independence, despite all their neighbors being engaged in armed conflict. Three factors are identified as important for understanding how and what form of peace that has developed in each country. First, the three countries share a history of less intrusive forms of colonial intervention and comparatively peaceful struggles for independence. This provided them with a strong foundation to develop peaceful self-governance. Second, in the absence of violence, less exclusionary ethnic identities formed as a basis for social organization in society. This is not to imply that ethnic identity does not matter, merely that it has been a less polarizing force in politics and society broadly. Third, the countries share a tradition of the same elite remaining in power for long periods of time. While this practice has manifested in different political dynamics in each country and has had certain negative implications for the societies at large, it has simultaneously ensured relative stability at the top political level, and prevented violent mobilization of the masses.

2. Preaching Peace or Fear? Explaining the Electoral Rhetoric of Warlord Democrats in Liberia

Author: Anders Themnér, Nordic Africa Institute and Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden & Roxanna Sjostedt, Department of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden.
E-mail: and

Post-civil war democracies are often characterized by intense electorate competition between ex-military leaders, or ‘warlord democrats’ (WDs), and new political elites. In order to ensure continued political relevance WDs can either choose to keep wartime cleavages alive by engaging in a rhetoric of fear or seek to ease societal tensions by employing a rhetoric of peace. WDs’ choice of rhetoric can have a profound impact on durable peace by altering broader societal discourses concerning the legitimacy of using violence. A key question is therefore why some WDs employ a rhetoric of fear, and others a rhetoric of peace, when running for office? So far, no studies have investigated this puzzle. We argue that the choice of rhetoric is a function of the strength of WDs’ patronage networks; if WDs lose their ability to distribute economic resources, they may instead use a rhetoric of fear to rally voters. To highlight the explanatory value of this proposition, we conduct a structured, focused comparison of two Liberian WDs who ran for the Senate in 2005 – Adolphus Dolo and Prince Johnson.

3. Learning Whom to Vote: The Case of Postconflict Education in Rwanda

Author: Vojtěch Šmolík, Department of Politics, University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic.

Before the 1994 genocide, education system in Rwanda had been widely misused by the radical Hutu elites to reinforce the social divisions among majority Hutu populace and minor Tutsi. As a result, teachers and students became both victims and perpetrators of mass killings. Despite the extreme conditions, functioning of schools was restored only two months after the end of the genocide. With schools´ infrastructure nearly completely destroyed, however, the system faced severe challenges. Under the social pillar of the postconflict reconstruction, intensive investments in rebuilding schools, training teachers and strengthening their capacities, curriculum reform and instutitional setting thus became central to the ministry of education. Under the guise of victory, however, the education has been tailored to the needs of newly established elites in the entourage of president Paul Kagame.

This paper aims to show the complexity of postconflict education reform, stressing out its role in raising a new generation of citizens unconditionally obedient to the current regime, not challenging the hegemonic RPF´s position during the elections nor in general. Based on a unique field research conducted on ten primary schools across the country in 2017, it exposes the realities of education controlled by the elites through a hidden curriculum, teaching patriotism and citizenship distorted to the needs of the regime. As methods, interviews with primary education teachers, other academic staff and experts, non-participant observation of selected classes and analysis of learning materials and curricula were adopted.

4. The Everyday Politics of Electoral Violence in Sierra Leone

Author: Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs, Folke Bernadotte Accdademy, Sweden.

In contrast to many other countries across the Africa continent, elections in Sierra Leone have generally been considered a success for both peace and democracy. Considering that less than two decades ago, this small country in West Africa was on the brink of state collapse following a long and destructive civil war, the very holding of regular post-war elections represent a significant break with the past. The voter turnout has generally been high, there is a strong civil society enagements in the electoral processes, the work of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has generally been praised for its competence and integrity, and the country is one of few in the region that has seen no less than two peaceful turn-over of governments in recent years.

Yet, at the same time, there have been many and numerous incidents of electoral violence occurring far from the gazing eyes of international and domestic election observers. Local bye-elections in particular have borne witness to riots, arson, clashes between party supporters and security elements and attacks on both candidates and voters. Incidents of intra-party violence has often exceeded inter-party violence in the post-war period and individual politicians have successfully transformed their wartime skills to political assets in the razor sharp competition within the established political parties. Gangs and former ex-combatants are often remobilized for violence long before the electoral campaigns, and rifts within the national political parties often have repercussion on patronage politics at the local level. The purpose of this paper is to address these issues, and cast light on the phenomena of everyday politics of electoral violence in Sierra Leone. As such, the paper makes an important theoretical as well as empirical contribution to the emerging scholarly literature on election-related violence, where the sub-national perceptive is still in its infancy.

5. Converts to Democracy? Ex-Military Leaders in Electoral Democracies

Author: Henrik Angerbrandt, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden & Anders Themnér, Nordic Africa Institute & Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden.
E-mail: and

This paper examines how ex-military leaders relate to their military identities in an electoral setting by examining two former Nigerian military rulers that have reappeared as elected presidents. Whereas there is a large literature that probes the institutional and structural conditions for democratic consolidation in democratizing countries, there are few studies looking at ex-military leaders as individuals and how their electoral/democratic navigations affect the quality of democracy (e.g. securitize institutions). Based on speeches by Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari, we propose two alternative strategies for ex-military leaders to handle their backgrounds. One is to diversify their identities and communicate various identities where the military happen to be one. The second strategy is to concentrate the electoral persona around the background in military leadership. We analyse the ways in which these different strategies are expressed in three attitudinal fields towards electoral institutions. Based on previous research, there are reasons to suspect that how they build their identities should affect to what extent they try to securitize institutions. A diversified identity could be expected to be more benign towards democratic rules, whereas a concentrated military identity could be expected to result in more securitized institutions. However, we find the somewhat counterintuitive result that a diversified identity gives at least the same, if not greater, possibilities to transgress democratic norms. Our proposed explanation to this result is that a concentrated military identity entails a need to prove the transformation to a democrat more consistently than an ex-military leader with a diversified identity.

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