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Regional Trends: Political Transitions in Africa




Admissions requirements

Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies


Africa used to be known as a continent mired in armed conflict. In the 1990s the number of armed conflicts worldwide began to drop but in Africa some civil wars persisted, while new ones broke out. In the early 2000s however, from Liberia and Sierra Leone to Burundi and Angola, a range of civil wars came to an end. In recent years, most African states have been peaceful in the sense of not witnessing any civil war or other persistent, large-scale organised violence. In 2018, only one intrastate conflict in the entire region reached the intensity of war (Pettersson et al. 2019).

How can this political change in Sub-Saharan Africa be explained? Have the conflicts at the root of the organised violence been resolved; if so how? What priorities did African leaders pursue as their countries emerged from civil war, in attempts to reconcile antagonists and promote peace? What kinds of peace has this yielded?

In Regional Trends: Political Transitions in Africa we study how peace has been forged in transitions from violent conflict in Africa south of the Sahara, drawing on social science research on conflict trends worldwide as well as the literature on the history, societies and politics of the Sub-Saharan African region.

Seminar 1. Introduction

Part I: History of Sub-Saharan Africa
Seminar 2. Colonisation and colonial rule
Seminar 3. Transitions from colonial rule
Seminar 4. The state, the nation, and ethnicity in postcolonial Africa

Part II: Transitions from civil war in Sub-Saharan Africa
Seminars 5-6. Violent conflicts and their settlement
Seminars 7-8. Power sharing and inclusive governance
Seminar 9. Mid-term exam
Seminars 10-11. Security and state-society relations
Seminar 12. The political economy of peace

Part III: Broader perspectives
Seminar 13. Regional peace and security capacities
Seminar 14. Africa 2020: What kind of peace?

Course objectives

By completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Articulate positions on questions related to peace, conflict and security in Africa and to defend those by drawing on evidence and in the face of counter-arguments.

By completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Identify and discuss factors that tend to matter for whether tentative endings of violent conflicts lead to a durable peace;

  • Identify and elaborate on conflict and security trends in Sub-Saharan Africa;

  • Gain an understanding of how intergroup conflicts can be solved and peace be built, with reference to specific societies in the Sub-Saharan African region.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This is an interactive course, running across 14 two-hour sessions. The classroom is meant to serve as a forum for questioning ideas and images about African politics and conflict dynamics, and to explore answers in light of the course material. Students will be expected to participate by raising questions, engaging in discussion in 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, including by writing an essay about a question related to transitions from violent conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Roundtable debates (Weeks 3-7, 15%)
Journal (three entries, due at various points during the course; 15%)
Mid-term exam (Week 5, 30%)
Essay (due in Week 8, 40%)

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


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 Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr Ingrid Samset