How the EU Can Support Peaceful Post-Election Transitions of Power : Lessons from Africa

08-11-2012

This paper examines violence round sub-Saharan African elections and how the EU can help reduce it. It presents eight case studies. It identifies factors that can increase or mitigate risks of violence and parts of an election that are vulnerable. It draws out patterns from diverse political contexts, including: (i) elections after civil conflict; (ii) competitive polls in unconsolidated democracies; (iii) votes under authoritarian rule; and (iv) those immediately after the departure of a long-serving leader. Some drivers of violence recur in different places: high stakes, the vast rewards of public office, elites’ manipulation of cleavages, political or economic exclusion, weak or politicised rule of law and electoral institutions, and the proliferation of weapons and armed groups among them. But the precise mix of causes varies between countries and elections. So too do patterns of violence, often depending on the parity of force between groups, and whether violence results from political competition or is a tool to repress it. Given this diversity, conflict prevention strategies must be multilayered, tailored to context and based on careful analysis of what drives violence. National actors must lead, and this paper offers a set of options for each political context through which the EU could help them. It also suggests broader policy shifts for the EU (including better analysis; sustained engagement; greater focus on the rule of law; a more realistic approach towards its observation and technical assistance; and developing regional capacity) that could improve its support to elections in Africa.

This paper examines violence round sub-Saharan African elections and how the EU can help reduce it. It presents eight case studies. It identifies factors that can increase or mitigate risks of violence and parts of an election that are vulnerable. It draws out patterns from diverse political contexts, including: (i) elections after civil conflict; (ii) competitive polls in unconsolidated democracies; (iii) votes under authoritarian rule; and (iv) those immediately after the departure of a long-serving leader. Some drivers of violence recur in different places: high stakes, the vast rewards of public office, elites’ manipulation of cleavages, political or economic exclusion, weak or politicised rule of law and electoral institutions, and the proliferation of weapons and armed groups among them. But the precise mix of causes varies between countries and elections. So too do patterns of violence, often depending on the parity of force between groups, and whether violence results from political competition or is a tool to repress it. Given this diversity, conflict prevention strategies must be multilayered, tailored to context and based on careful analysis of what drives violence. National actors must lead, and this paper offers a set of options for each political context through which the EU could help them. It also suggests broader policy shifts for the EU (including better analysis; sustained engagement; greater focus on the rule of law; a more realistic approach towards its observation and technical assistance; and developing regional capacity) that could improve its support to elections in Africa.