PAW Network researcher Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs (Folke Bernadotte Academy) has co-edited a new volume on electoral violence in Africa entitled Violence in African Elections: Between Democracy and Big Man Politics (Zed Books 2018).
During the course of the last couple of decades, democracy has formally been established as the dominant political system across the continent, and the holding of elections has emerged as the most important institutional mechanism for the distribution of political power. Other means and methods of political rule have grown increasingly difficult to motivate and sustain in the face of changing normative and institutional frameworks at both the global and the regional level. Yet, at the same time, we have witnessed a growing trend of electoral violence in many new democracies, some which have recently emerged from civil wars. Importantly, beyond the relatively few cases of large-scale killings and widespread fear and insecurity that make it to the international headlines, a more common scenario has been that of isolated violent events, harassment and coercive intimidation. In addition, a multitude of countries experience the kind of electoral violence that is low-scale but pervasive and typically occurs long before the elections, between electoral cycles, and in local elections far from the international limelight.
This book aims to shed light on these micro-level processes of electoral violence in Africa’s new and emerging democracies. Some chapters apply a sub-national perspective that links macro-level events and processes at the level of national political leadership to dynamics at the local level. Other contributions focus on particular aspects of these processes, primarily from the perspective of a specific actor: the incentives of the political elite in a country to mobilise votes along ethnic lines; a youth militia’s quest for political inclusion, influence and power; or the rationale of individual ex-combatants to engage or not engage in acts of electoral violence on behalf of a Big Man. What binds the contributions in this book together is the identification and analysis of causal mechanisms at work in processes of election-related violence, from the business district of Harare, to the streets of Lagos, and to the Presidential office in Kampala.