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Regional Trends: Political Transitions in Africa




Admissions requirements

Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies, and
Political Research Methods.


Since the end of the Cold War, Africa has hosted a disproportionately high share of the world’s armed conflicts. But the 1990s also saw a wave of democratisation reaching African shores, as many autocracies opened up for more broad-based participation and representation. As the world’s oldest inhabited territory met the new millennium, civil wars came to an end from Liberia to Angola, triggering attempts to build peace and democracy concomitantly. Meanwhile, led by hegemons such as Nigeria and South Africa and drawing on investments from China and elsewhere, high economic growth rates and entrepreneurial dynamism across the continent led to talk of ‘Africa rising’.

What do the transitions from authoritarian rule and armed conflict across Africa over the last quarter century signify? What are the results? What kinds of ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ have emerged? Have Africans at large been able to improve their lot as a result of the transitions, or is what we are witnessing simply a change of façade?

This course will take a critical look at contemporary political transitions in Africa. It will introduce theories about their causes and dynamics and examine debates about whether such transitions are different in Africa than elsewhere, and if so, in what ways.

I.Processes of political transition

A. From authoritarian rule

  • Political regimes in Africa

  • When dictatorships fall

  • Outcomes: democracy?

B. From armed conflict

  • Armed conflicts in Africa

  • When civil wars end

  • Outcomes: peace?

II.Security in African transitions

  • Reform of the armed forces and police

  • Civil-military relations

  • The politics of protection

III.Identities in African transitions

  • Building nations

  • Dynamics of representation

  • The politics of ethnicity.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Have acquired an understanding of processes of political change in Africa,

  • Be able to compare and contrast transitions from authoritarian rule and from intra-state armed conflict,

  • Be able to critically evaluate outcomes of political transitions in Africa, and

  • Have designed a research project on a question related to political transitions on the African continent.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught as a series of two-hour interactive seminars. Seminars will generally include a lecture and discussion of readings, in plenary and smaller groups. On certain themes roundtable debates will be held, in which students in the group responsible for the debate will be asked to adopt different positions on a salient question. To facilitate continued reflection on what you learn in the course and on your process of learning, students will also be expected to write an individual online journal.

Studying cases will be central to this course. When examining how political transitions evolve over time and some of the core issues involved, discussion of theory will be combined with studying specific African societies that have undergone a transition.

The course will also offer an opportunity for training in research design. In a methods workshop in Week 4, we will look at how research about a transition from autocracy or conflict can be conducted. What question(s) could be studied? What data could be found and analysed to answer them? Which method(s) could be applied? And are there particular challenges associated with studying a political transition, in an African setting?

Options on these questions will be introduced and discussed. Each student will then be expected to write a proposal for a study of one or two political transitions in Africa. Once assessed, you will be asked to further develop that proposal. A second methods workshop will provide space for discussing and getting feedback on this work-in-progress, after which the expanded proposal is to be submitted.


  • Exam (the assessment of which will be worth 30% of the grade), Week 8;

  • Research proposal in two versions (the assessment of both combined will be worth 40%); first version due Week 5, second version due Week 7;

  • In-class participation including roundtable debates (15%), throughout course;

  • Individual journal (15%), due by the end of Week 7.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The list of readings will be made available to students upon the commencement of the course.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr Ingrid Samset