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Regional Trends: Political Transitions in Africa




Admissions requirements

Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies
Political Research Methods


Africa used to be known as a continent mired in armed conflict. In the 1990s the number of armed conflicts worldwide declined, while in Africa some wars persisted and new ones began. In the early 2000s however, from Liberia and Sierra Leone to Burundi and Angola, civil wars came to an end. In recent years, most African states have been peaceful – in the sense of not witnessing any persistent, large-scale organised violence. How can this political change be explained? Have the conflicts at the root of the violence been resolved, if so how? What priorities were pursued by African leaders in the transitions from war, in attempts to reconcile communities and promote peace? What kinds of peace has this yielded: has the everyday security of Africans improved?

In Regional Trends: Political Transitions in Africa, we study the nature of peace and how it has been forged in African transitions from large-scale violence in the last two to three decades. We examine what is meant by political change, how a political transition compares to other designations of such change such as revolution and transformation, and what makes transitions from war special as a form of political change. Week 2 introduces the area in focus, namely Sub-Saharan Africa. We examine the region’s political history and contemporary conflict landscape. In the third part of the course, we look at how transitions from violent conflict have unfolded in Africa in recent years and what might explain different outcomes. We examine how wars in Africa typically end, and how core dimensions of peacebuilding have played out in specific cases. In light of this we ask how the political changes in African societies transitioning from war can be interpreted, and how significant they are in a historical and inter-regional perspective.

Week 1: Political transitions
Week 2: Politics and conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa
Weeks 3-5: Transitions from violent conflict in post-Cold War Africa

  • Conflict settlement and resolution

  • Economic recovery

  • Democratisation and power sharing

  • Security

  • Statebuilding

  • Transitional justice
    Week 6: Research proposal workshops
    Week 7: Transitions from war in Africa in a historical and global perspective.

Course objectives

By taking this course and engaging with its content, students should be able:

  • To explain and discuss what constitutes a political transition and how it differs from other forms of political change;

  • To identify and elaborate on conflict trends and issues in Sub-Saharan Africa;

  • To gain an understanding of how conflicts are resolved and peace is built, with reference to specific societies in the Sub-Saharan African region;

  • To articulate positions on questions related to political transitions in Africa and to defend those positions by drawing on evidence and in the face of counter-arguments;

  • To design a study of particular transition(s) from violent conflict in Africa.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This is a distinctively interactive course, running across 14 two-hour sessions. The classroom is meant to serve as a forum for questioning ideas and images about Africa, its politics and conflict dynamics; and to explore a range of possible answers in light of the course material. Students will be expected to participate by raising questions, engaging in discussion in the plenary and smaller groups, and by taking part in roundtable debates and other classroom activities.

Students will also be trained in writing and research skills, in two ways. The first is by writing a proposal for a research project that could be conducted on a transition from violent conflict in Africa. The first version of this proposal will be due half-way through the course, and in Week 6, classes will consist of workshops where each student presents their proposed research and gets feedback from peers and the lecturer. On this basis, a second and final version of the proposal will be due in Week 7. Secondly, students will be supposed to do an actual study of African political transition(s) by writing an essay, due in Week 8; as well as a plan for the essay, due in Week 3.


In-class participation: 10%,
Roundtable debates: 10%,
Research proposal, version 1: 15%; version 2: 20%;
Essay plan: 10%; essay: 35%.


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 course materials will be made available upon 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