University of Cambridge > > Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series > The Organizational Roots of Persistent Electoral Violence in Africa

The Organizational Roots of Persistent Electoral Violence in Africa

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Why does electoral violence become a persistent feature of elections in some new electoral regimes, while other countries have limited or only temporary problems with such violence? This question is particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa, where a high proportion of elections are characterized by some degree of violence. Electoral violence is often presented in the literature as a strategic tool deployed by incumbents to retain office, yet much less attention has been devoted to how election violence is organized and sustained at the grassroots level. Dr. LeBas will discuss her current book project, which examines the role that grassroots economies of violence provision play in explaining the dynamics of electoral violence in Africa. The book makes two related arguments. First, weak parties are more likely to rely on “outsourcing” of violence and other aspects of vote mobilization to grassroots actors, while strong parties will typically maintain the structures within the party and will not exclusively rely on monetary compensation of “violence specialists.” Over time, these choices have consequences. In outsourcing settings, violence provision becomes autonomous of elite control, leading to a proliferation of providers, autonomy and “entrepreneurial” violence on the part of grassroots actors, and investment in security by a larger number of candidates. The book argues that the evolution and increasing sophistication of these markets result in a general erosion of rule of law, as grassroots violence specialists seek other employment in non-electoral periods. LeBas will draw on fieldwork in Nigeria and Ghana to lay out the logic of these arguments.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series series.

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