Libya – Journal 2

As of January of 2014, the primary legislative authority in Libya is the Council of Deputies, which has struggled to maintain order as internal conflict ensues between nationalists and Islamist. Corruption has become a political norm and the country lacks the necessary institutions to govern itself. The negative ramifications of widespread neopatrimonialism during the Gaddafi regime have come to the surface since the end of the civil war in 2011. Despite a democratically-elected government in power, neopatrimonialism continues to play a role in Libyan politics, which is evident by the government’s ties to certain rebel groups. A weak central government and ongoing domestic chaos has hindered Libya’s ability to create effective foreign policy and establish alliances since the end of the Gaddafi regime.
Libya epitomizes the adverse effects that neo patrimonialism can have on a country. Authoritarian dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was infamous for misusing government resources to bolster his personal wealth and acquire political support. In “Political Culture, State Elites and Regional Security in West Africa”, Taylor and Williams explain that personalized exchange and clientelism have become so customary that they are now ‘essential operating codes for politics in West Africa’. These ‘essential operating codes for politics’ are especially prevalent in Libya, as well. Corruption and self-betterment among high-ranking officials is so deeply embedded into the Libyan government that neopatrimonialism in current political institutions is inevitable.

Similar to countries in West Africa, Libya has never established a bureaucratic institution that can delegate and govern effectively. The most apparent example of Libya’s political immaturity is the government’s current usage of militias. Since the end of the civil war, the government has been unable to demobilize militias, and yet, it relies on them to maintain order in the absence of a military. Militias are on the state payroll and have attained a considerable amount of power within the Libyan government. The government spent nearly £1 billion on the militias in 2012. Individuals on the upper end of the political spectrum have contracted with certain rebel groups whose goals align with their own, rather than creating domestic institutions like a police force and an effective military. As Williams and Taylor put it, neopatrimonialism breeds resentment, which perfectly portrays the current political situation in Libya. The government’s patron-client-like relationship with militias and reliance on them to create security has just exacerbated internal, ethnic and tribal discord.

Libya has been in the process of reestablishing foreign relations and its place on the international level since the end of the civil war. Several countries aided Libya in ousting Gaddafi and have played a role in its transition to democracy but ongoing chaos is raising concerns in the international community. The UK, U.S. and France have publically expressed concern for the politically-motivated assassinations, tribal clashes and protests that are currently taking place in Libya. Throughout 2013, Libya’s south was a closed military region due to tribal tension and human and drug trafficking with Chad and Algeria, further hindering the country’s ability to establish effective international relationships. In response to the country’s current instability, Turkey, the US, UK and France have announced that they plan to train more than 8,000 soldiers to be merged into Libya’s army and police forces.

Neopatrimonialism continues to be an issue for many African countries, including Libya, because power has always been personalized and never properly institutionalized. Libya was subject to an autocratic regime for nearly half of a century, which has left it without the political institutions to govern its people and transition to democracy. It’s inability to maintain order domestically makes it impossible to create effective international relations and a foreign policy agenda. Libya has the potential be extremely influential internationally with its abundance of oil and access to the Mediterranean Sea. However, domestic conflict between armed groups has halted Libya’s progress of being recognized as a democracy in the international community. A drastic change of the political culture in Libya is necessary to create stability at home. A legitimate governing body that prioritizes democracy and operates independently of influential individuals will be imperative in regaining control within its borders. Only then, will Libya be able to create a foreign policy agenda and reintroduce itself to the world as a legitimate and stable state.



BBC News. Libya Profile. 6 August 2014. Accessed on 24 September 2014

Ian Taylor and Paul Williams. “Political culture, state elites and regional security in West Africa”. 12 June 2008. Journal of Contemporary African Studies.

Paul, Johnny. “Corruption in Libya continues to breed post-Gaddafi”. The Libyan Intelligence Group.

Libya Human Rights Watch. World Report 2014. Accessed on 25 September 2014

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Botswana is one of the few African states who are not hindered by neo-patrimonialism.  Botswana has a relatively strong  economy compared to its neighboring states. In fact it is safe to say that Botswana flourished since its “second independence” (Gordon 168).
Largely due to the civil rights era in the 60’s Botswana was able to declare independence from Great Britain without much resistance. The independence from Britain rule in 1966 led to Botswana taking command of their own economic future. Many African states suffering from neo-patrimonialism subsequently have suffering economies. One of the reasons why Botswana isn’t hindered so dramatically by neo-patrimonialism is because of it’s abundant natural resources.
Botswana’s natural resources (particularly in the mining realm) is the reason for such a stable state. Mining has helped Botswana’s economy stay afloat. Unlike many other African states whose economy has succumbed to dependency decolonization. Mining has helped Botswana gain capital and keep international relations relevant in Botswana’s government.
One theme I found interesting in explaining Botswana’s current economic and political stability, is the lack of Botswana leaders who are more responsive to the foreign policy concerns of their external patrons than tot he popular demands of their own people (Gordon 172).  The local government has always acted in the interest of the people of Botswana. Not in the interest of the internal elite, or external actors. Botswana’s loyalty to its people’s demands have led to the country’s stability politically, which has also led to the country’s stability within its borderlines. However, Botswana could be suffering and just not know it.
One could argue that Botswana’s lack of economic diversity could be a result of neo-patrimonialism and dependency decolonization. Colonial powers embedded this diamond powered economy for Botswana, however did little to develop Botswana’s economy other than that. In order for Botswana to truly accomplish it’s “second independence” economically speaking, they must venture out of extraction for profit and start looking into opportunities that can make their economy grow, not sustain.


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Zimbabwe’s Dysfunctional Political Culture

Zimbabwe first begins to look like a case of neo-patrimonialism when you realize how centralized its political institutions are around its President, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe moved the country down the path of one party (ZANU PF) rule in 1987 when he changed the constitution to eliminate the position of prime minister and appointed himself Executive President after being PM since independence in 1980. He further consolidated power in 2002 by passing the Public Order and Security Act which gave police nearly unlimited powers to violate the human rights of Zimbabweans especially dissenters (Mambo). Another sign of neo-patriomonialism is a political culture rife with corruption and disregard for the law despite constitutions and all the formal trappings of state bureaucracy. The part where it gets hazy is in trying to tell who are Mugabe’s clientele, as most of the country seems to have suffered as a result of his policies. One can argue that Western sanctions are the real reason for his economic failures and it is difficult and controversial to make authoritative claims about who are the beneficiaries from land reform policy (Scoones). Still, many Zimbabweans feel they receive some kind of benefit from Mugabe’s rule, if not simply the pride of a charismatic leader who’s not afraid to trash talk the West.

Immediately following independence, Zimbabwe’s colonial legacy was apparent in the patron role the UK began to play. In 1980, President Bishop Abel Muzorewa met British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington in London to sign the country’s first real constitution, the Lancaster House Agreement part of which gave Zimbabwe 44 million pounds to protect the land of white farmers for the next 10 years (PBS). The UK continued to give Zimbabwe aid in the tens of millions of pounds for the next decade or so in order to protect the rights of white farmers, but grew increasingly irked as Mugabe passed more and more land reform allowing the government to seize these properties for redistribution to the black majority (Banya). This culminated in 2001 when the UK gained US support for sanctions to put a credit-freeze on Zimbabwe.

The economy had already been suffering in the ‘90s from Mugabe’s neopatrimonial technique of “primary accumulation,” or using state power to create new economic classes and property rights through asset seizure. As the economy got worse, so did the level of democracy and Mugabe became more and more dependent on satisfying patron-client relationships to maintain support from his constituents. The counter-balancing elements traditionally associated with democratic systems such as multi-party systems, pressure groups, media, educational and research organizations can be costly to maintain. In this faltering economy Mugabe’s new patron became the IMF, who put Zimbabwe on a Structural Adjustment Program. However, due to a drought, a lack of official enthusiasm, and incorrect policy sequencing the program failed to improve economic conditions. The external funds perpetuated the patrimonial system as Mugabe was quick to forsake state sectors for the benefit of his more powerful supporters.

The market-based reforms included fiscal restraint, which reduced job security in the government sector and led to the closure of inefficient industries, causing a mounting opposition from civil society. Mugabe countered by adopting populist, essentially patrimonial policies aimed at buying back support from key constituencies. And so was born the radical land reform policies that gave poor Blacks the lands of white farm owners. Currency controls and a decision to get involved in a war in the DRC in 1997 created a terrible hyperinflation problem, which was made worse with payouts to the over 50,000 war veterans. Combined with the sanctions of the early 2000s, this economic misfortune has made the Zimbabwean currency the most inflated in the world. Since the sanctions, government consumption expenditure rates of the GDP have increased from 5.5% in 2003 to 47% in 2005 (Parsons). One can guess this is a result of Mugabe trying to insulate his supporters from the economic situation.   Prior to the 2008 elections, a plan emerged to transfer control of all companies including foreign banks and mining companies to local control under the black empowerment legislation. This suggests Mugabe may again have been seeking to influence key voters ahead of 2008 election (Mambo).

The neo-patrimonial nature of Zimbabwe has had quite negative consequences on its foreign relations. Obama and the current UK government have extended their sanctions against Zimbabwe. It is worth noting that the sanctions are even tougher than those the US has against Iran because unlike Iranians, Zimbabwean government officials are banned altogether from visiting the US. Mugabe exacerbated tensions in 2002 when he passed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that banned any foreign news organizations from reporting in Zimbabwe (Mambo). Neo-patrimonial policies of land redistribution have also lead to food crises, because new inexperienced farmers are not as productive the previous white owners. This means that Zimbabwe, once referred to as the “bread basket of Africa” is now dependent on food imports.


Parsons, R. (2007), AFTER MUGABE GOES – THE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL RECONSTRUCTION OF ZIMBABWE. South African Journal of Economics, 75: 599–615. doi: 10.1111/j.1813-6982.2007.00147.x

Scoones,Ian; Marongwe, Nelson; Mavedzenge, Blasio; Mahenehene, Jacob; Murimbarimba, Felix; Sukume, Chrispen (2010). Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths & Realities. James Currey. p. 272. ISBN 978-1847010247.


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Journal Entry #2

Political Culture and Institutions of Benin


As mentioned in the last journal entry, Benin is heralded as one of the most successful democracies within Africa. Yet it was not always a democracy. In fact, it was previously a Marxist/socialist state. The switch to democracy came under the influence of the “democracy wind” that occurred after Perestroika and Glasnost were passed. These reforms by the Soviet Union influenced change in Benin. Because of the short-term economic shortfalls that liberalizing an economy can cause, Benin received SAP three times (1989, 1991, 1995). After pursuing the SAP and experiencing successful results, the country was able to become more economically viable in the international scene. Yet working with outside financial institutions is not always popular to the people in Benin. As Peter J. Schraeder acknowledges, “In the case of Benin, for example, the democratically elected government of Soglo was rejected in the 1996 presidential elections” (Schraeder 197) because the Soglo heavily supported the SAP program.

The first successful election was held in 1991. A president is elected every five years and can only hold office for two terms. The president is able to choose cabinet members, and members of parliament are elected to four-year terms. The President must pass some pre-requisites, just as in the US, in order to run. Those perquisites include being Beninese by birth or have had Beninese nationality of 10 years, between the ages of 40 and 70, and have been approved to be mentally stable by three doctors. The national assembly meets twice a year. There is also a judiciary branch manifested in the Constitutional Court.  In this multi-party democracy many different parties formed and most were based off of old-patron client relationships, evidenced by the elections in the 1990s. Yet this trend is seemingly changing and moving away from parties that are based off of patron client relationships.

There are many political parties in Benin. The two major parties right now are the Cauri Forces for an Emerging Benin, which holds 41 seats in parliament, and Unite the Nations, which holds 30 seats in parliament. There are 6 other parties that hold 2 seats on the parliament.

Because Benin is a successful democracy, the international community views Benin as an example for other African countries. Democracies around the world have built ties with Benin, including the United States, and benefit from trade agreements. There is resentment within Benin of the reliance on the International agencies, just as there is resentment in many other African countries of International institutions.

The current president of Benin is Yayi Boni, who was originally elected in 2006. He worked as a banker for many organizations prior to devoting his life to public service.  While originally a Muslim, he converted to Christianity and is now an evangelical protestant. There have been multiple assassination attempts on his life.  He served as the chairperson for the AU from January 29 2012 to January 27 2013. He was the first president to win an election without a runoff since the restoration of democracy in 1991.







African International Relations- Peter J Schraeder

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Political Culture of South Africa

As a parliamentary representative democratic republic, South Africa is widely regarded as exceptional for its political stability relative to other African countries. The contrast between its political culture and that of the continent’s other economic powerhouse, Nigeria, is stark. In characterizing Nigeria as a country “synonymous with corruption and malgovernance,” Taylor and Williams reference South Africa for a reporter’s patronizing comment on the unruly state of Nigerian elections. Yet South Africa’s record of four successful national elections since the end of apartheid should not be taken as evidence of a perfect democracy. Voter turnout among the entire voting age population has declined by over a third since 1994, and current President Jacob Zuma has repeatedly campaigned on the country’s progress since then rather than since the most recent national elections. If neo-patrimonialism is taken to mean government’s prioritization of regime security over individual security and rights, there is certainly some evidence of it in the way the African National Congress (ANC) and Zuma have personalized politics—blurring the division between party and state and undervaluing the needs of its poor—in an effort to cultivate its international image as a champion of African interests.

Throughout the twenty years the ANC has dominated South African politics, the party has carried with it the culture of a liberation movement. Because the party continues to be viewed as the body that did most to end apartheid, it benefits from international respect and a domestic network of loyalty that keeps its national politicians in power despite declining quality of services and politically biased contracting. Opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance (DA), are severely disadvantaged by the stigma of being “against the liberator” as well as the country’s inequitable distribution of public funding and lack of rules governing private and foreign donations. These factors that help to explain the ANC’s sizable majority vote in the past four elections.

Zuma in particular has taken advantage of this network of loyalty in his intimate dealings with the party’s National Executive Committee and the Progressive Business Forum, two groups of highly paid senior officials and businessmen. By sharpening competition for public offices and normalizing a culture of favor exchange and mutual protection, these relationships help clientelist politics to thrive. Zuma’s willingness to entertain petitions from leaders of the African corporate world has resulted in numerous corruption charges against him. He was dismissed from the deputy presidency in 2005 for his involvement in a controversial arms deal and has more recently been accused of using tax money to fund a twenty-five million dollar renovation of his private home. Though he and the ANC managed to emerge from these accusations relatively unscathed, the quality of life of the South African people has suffered as a result of the party’s preoccupation. Though South Africa attempts to dissociate from the West as a BRIC country and protector of African interests, severe income inequality, high unemployment, low educational standards, and widespread HIV/AIDS have made it more receptive to the U.S. for development aid.

Even with its many failures, the ANC remains a mass-based party, which distinguishes South Africa in the broader African context. Though the ANC has been implicated in numerous scandals, the fact that scandals happen at all is evidence of “a relatively lively media, a public sphere, and a public discourse which does not always allow legitimization of corruption” (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung). That said, if the ANC remains complacent and does not make the necessary reforms to improve its economy, it may face greater challenges to its legitimacy as the gap between liberation and present politics widens.


Ian Taylor and Paul Wiliams, “Political Culture, State Elites and Regional Security in West Africa,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies

“Political Culture in the New South Africa,” Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

 Tom Lodge, “Neo-Patrimonial Politics in the ANC,” African Affairs

“Where Will the Rainbow End?” The Economist

McKaiser, “Mind the U.N.-A.U. Gap,” The New York Times

T.O. Molefe “South Africa’s Political Fires,” The New York Times

T.O. Molefe, “South Africa’s Party Game,” The New York Times


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Political Culture in South Sudan

Although South Sudan only gained independence from Sudan in 2011, it had already had a government in place since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.  Salva Kiir, the former leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) military wing, had been president of the South Sudanese Government since 2005 and simply continued in his role following the independence referendum.  Under the new constitution implemented post-independence, Kiir serves as the head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the army.   The legislative branch consists of two houses: the National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States.  Finally, an independent judiciary branch is headed by the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the South Sudanese government was never really able to stabilize following independence.  In late 2013, internal conflict erupted as a result of a power struggle between President Kiir and his deputy Dr. Riek Machar.  Violence between government troops loyal to Kiir and rebel groups quickly spread throughout the country, killing thousands and displacing millions.  Despite several efforts at ceasefire agreements and the threat of external sanctions to both sides, the fighting continues to ravage South Sudan.  The extent of the conflict and its consequent disruption in such a young country means that it can be difficult to identify a specific political culture in South Sudan.  Nonetheless, we can point to certain themes and characteristics of political culture in relation to the conflict, many of which can be linked to underlying causes of the violence.

Unsurprisingly for a country that has been ranked as the most “failed state” in the world, neo-patrimonialism, patronage, and corruption are all major features of South Sudan’s political culture.  These are perhaps most visible in the distribution of the country’s oil wealth.  Before fighting began, the government owned 80% of the country’s vast oil production, which is by far its most important source of revenue.   The oil wealth, however, and its heavy concentration in the hands of the government make the country particularly susceptible to patronage.  As Taylor, Ian and Williams point out, when the government controls such a huge share of the country’s wealth and resources, it is hard to make it in society unless you are somehow connected to the government or the army.  Although there is no single dominant ethnic group in South Sudan, there is ethnic competition amongst the more than 200 different groups that make up the country.  In particular, tribal allegiances amongst Kiir’s Dinka tribe and Machar’s Nuer have played a major role in escalating the fight between the two men.

Another important factor in South Sudan’s political culture is the country’s relative youth and its rebel past.  Because South Sudan fought a long, violent struggle for independence, the main rebel group and current leading party, the SPLM, holds a lot of power and influence in the country today.  The structure of the army itself is one of patronage and loyalties.  The government is dominated by members of the SPLA former rebel group, ex-fighters who are not politically equipped or experienced enough to successfully run a government.  The army connections and personal relationships are stronger than the newly created institutions and as the Economist points out, South Sudan remains the domain of “commanders’ fiefs.”  The country’s youth means that its institutions are very new and relatively weak, with little history to draw credibility from.  A number of authors have looked at the role that patronage and institutions play in nation building.  In the case of South Sudan, the weakness of the government and its institutions results in a situation where other, patronage-based allegiances (ethnic, personal, business) are still much stronger than the systems of government and feelings of national identity.  This is a challenge that South Sudan will have to overcome if it is to build a strong and successful nation.

At the present time, the country is so consumed by internal conflict that any sort of foreign relations policy seems to have faded into irrelevance.  Relations between South Sudan and the rest of the world center mostly around peace negotiations and aid efforts.  Prior to the conflict, South Sudan had been trying to develop its global presence as a newly created state, establishing diplomatic relations with many countries around the world and attaining membership in supranational organizations like the United Nations and the African Union.  Past that, it is difficult to see how the country’s political culture directly impacts foreign relations through the chaos of a massive domestic conflict that dominates political life in South Sudan.



Sources Used:

Dewaal, Alex, “Is South Sudan ‘the World’s Most Failed State?’ ”

Integrated Regional Information Networks, “Briefing: What analysts are saying about South Sudan’s crisis”

Wikipedia, “Politics of South Sudan,”

Van Oudenaren, Daniel, “Political Dimensions of the South Sudan Crisis,”

The Economist, “Can ethnic differences be overcome?”

Central Intelligence Agency, “The World Factbook: South Sudan,”

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Senegalese Government

Since achieving independence in 1960, Senegal has adopted a semi-presidential representative government system similar to the French government. Senegal elects a president for a seven-year term by popular vote, the president then appoints a Prime Minister to be the head of the government and his Counsel of Ministers. The legislative branch of their government is unicameral with 150 seats, 90 of which as elected by popular vote and 60 that are appointed based on party vote percentages all of which serve a five-year term. The judicial system mimics the French civil law system and up holds a constitution that was written in 1959 and has been amended several times since. The thirteen Appeals Court Judges are appointed by the president and serve six-year terms with no term limit. Senegal has a multi-party system with universal suffrage over the age of 18 and has held consistently contested elections since its independence. In 1982, Senegal official split with Gambia over ethnic integration and cultural differences.

Though Senegal is known for being one of the strongest democracies in Africa, the government and its political culture do still show signs of “Big Man” politics. The president in particular has more freedom within the constitution than other branches of the government. The president chooses the prime minister and the Counsel of Ministers completely on his own and dominates executive decision-making. The legislative body infrequently initiates bills or votes down legislation proposed by the president. The legislative branch is dominated by the president’s party, giving the president more control over the legislative branch. The president also heavily influences the judicial branch. The president makes judicial appointments, and because there is a term limit, future appointments to the court system are in the hands of the president as well making judges sympathetic to the presidents policies and actions. The current president decreed a two-term limit for the president, but argues that his first term was under the old constitution and he is allowed a third. The strength of the executive branch shows a preference for a single authority in the government and a faith in one man.

Despite the dominance of the executive branch, Senegal has a strong democratic political culture. It has never experienced a coup or strong authoritarian governments like most of its neighbors. The preference for a strong, but democratic leader dates back to Senegal’s colonial ties to France. France has similar strength in their executive branch while still holding free and fair elections in a multiparty system, and the allowance of Senegalese representation in the French government enabled Senegal to seamlessly mimic the French system. Being one of the strongest democracies in Africa has lead Senegal to the role of international peace-keeper and African moderator. Senegal’s long history of democracy allows them to mediate between African countries that are struggling with authoritarian rule and civil rights disputes. Having a single strong leader similar to western leaders puts Senegal in a central role between Africa and Europe. Senegal maintains many similarities the to French government including a strong central executive.

(Sources: CIA World Fact Book: Senegal, Wikipedia: Senalgal’s Government, Lemke, Hyden)

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Cameroon’s Non-confrontational International Relations

Cameroonian politics are rooted in the traditions learned from their joint British and French colonial rule. Their legal system is based mostly on the French civil custom along with elements of British common law. In 1991, Cameroon first legalized a multi-party system of politics, which was a step in the direction of a free state. This came amid a wave of African countries allowing for multiple political parties to enter their political arenas in the early 1990s. Currently Cameroon still has a multi-party system, despites very legitimate questions of its competitiveness. Despite their multi-party system and popular-vote elections, the Freedom House still classifies Cameroon as being “not free.”

Every seven years, Cameroon holds popular-vote elections to decide who their next president will be. Their current president, Paul Biya, was easily elected received 70.9% of the vote with the next candidate receiving only 17.4% of the vote. These results exemplify just how uncompetitive these elections often end up being. To have such uncompetitive presidential elections is alarming especially given the immense powers given to the President of Cameroon. The President of Cameroon is truly just a dictator, with unilateral powers and the responsibility to appoint the Prime Minister. Due to this unilateral power afforded to the president, there is neo-patrimonialism in many aspects of Cameroonian politics. Biya has the ability to appoint anyone to any position and exclude any and everyone from meaningful power, if he so chooses, which displays this strong sense of neo-patrimonialism. This patrimonialism is most likely a main cause for the extreme levels of corruption throughout Cameroonian politics. However, in the first few years of his term, Biya has been anything but tyrannical, even commuting the prison sentences of nearly all inmates.

Unlike many other countries rife with neo-patrimonialism and with a leader who has dictatorial powers, Cameroon is very “non-contentious” on in its international relations. Cameroon possesses many bi-lateral agreements, including with world powers like China, Russia and France along with developing power India. They recently were involved in a conflict with neighbor and former sub-colonizer Nigeria over an “oil-rich region,” however that dispute ended in 2006. They are in the midst of trying to ratify a border agreement with Nigeria and other countries over land surrounding Lake Chad, which has met great resistance from all parties involved.

Cameroon is also a member of the United Nations, which improves and contributes greatly to its international relations outside of the continent. In the United Nations, it is very active in issues like environmental protection and the development of “Third World” economies. Recently, it has supported U.N. Peacekeeping actions in the surrounding central African countries and avoided conflict for the most part with any other countries in the region. Overall, Cameroon’s non-confrontational approach on the world stage allows it to remain in good standing with many other countries, on the continent and around the world.

Gordon and Gordon, “Understanding Contemporary Africa.”

Le Vine, “The Cameroon Federal Republic.”

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Nigeria: Political Culture, Neo-patrimonialism and IR

Nigeria is a multiparty democracy. The first several rounds of Nigerian elections (1999-2007) were declared fraudulent due to observations of fake ballots, misreporting of turnout, and other forms of manipulation (Taylor, Ian & Williams 2008). International monitors judged the 2011 elections to be legitimate, and current president Goodluck Jonathan has listed anti-corruption as a goal of his presidency. However, the recent presidential election demonstrated a religious split among Nigerian voters, with voters in predominantly Muslim areas favoring Jonathan’s opponent (a supporter of Sharia law). Religious, ethnic, and cultural divisions within society have important implications for Nigeria’s viability as a political community, a common theme among post-independence African states. The most recent manifestation of this issue in Nigeria is the mobilization of Islamist militants from the north under the name of Boko Haram. Boko Haram can be described as a non-state actor with state-like ambitions – it seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate and is engaged in a ground war for territory with government forces. Although Lemke’s 2003 article urging the expansion of African IR scholarship to include non state actors was published years before Boko Haram emerged in Nigeria, the case could serve as a current example of his thesis. Although Nigeria plays a role in most international collaboration in the region, the government headed by Goodman is not seen as legitimate by separatist Nigerians, and although Nigeria appears to have few “interstate” conflicts, Lemke would suggest that the varied conflicts within Nigeria’s borders are themselves of interest from an IR perspective.

Elites hold disproportionate economic and political power in Nigeria. Taylor, Ian, & Williams (2008) argue that Nigeria exists as a political unit to serve, in large part, elites who benefit from the territory’s oil reserves. They also report that many government employees reap personal benefits from their positions and deliver local kickbacks with impunity. Over half the population of Nigeria lives in poverty, even in areas where the nation’s oil wealth originates. Oil first became economically important for Nigeria in the 70s, but since that time Nigeria has exhibited symptoms of the “resource curse”. The “resource curse” argument asserts that the presence of fuel and mineral resources in a given nation is correlated with unfavorable economic and political development, such as inequality and violent suppression, which were both seen in Nigeria in the late 20th century. Due to the nature of oil infrastructure and the exportable nature of oil wealth, a poorly overseen oil industry will not necessarily benefit local economies. In Nigeria’s case, president Olusegun Obasanjo was indicted for awarded over $2b in energy contracts without due process. Such lack of accountability combined with Nigeria’s high level of wealth inequality suggests that corruption and neo-patrimonialism are embedded to some degree in Nigeria’s political culture. Of course, these are generalizations; Nigeria is such a large and diverse country that while the public and private spheres are likely often “blurred” (per Taylor, Ian & Williams’ description of patronage and corruption), the structure of clientelistic relationships is likely to vary across different areas of the country.


Chapter 6, “African International Relations” by Peter J. Schraeder.

Lemke, Douglas. 2003. “African Lessons for International Relations Research.”World Politics.

Taylor, Ian, & Paul D Williams. 2008. “Political culture, state elites and regional security in West Africa.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 26(2), 137–149.


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Political Culture of Angola

Angola’s first elections took place in 1992, moving the nation from a Marxist-Leninist one-party system to a multi-party democracy. A year after these elections, however, fighting resumed in the ultimately 27-year-long civil war between the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The MPLA, headed by Dos Santos was ultimately victorious, and Dos Santos was re-installed as president in 2012 (though his reign as chief of state has run continuously since 1979). Angola has a unicameral National Assembly of 220 members elected by proportional vote and serving five-year terms. Dos Santos pushed through a new constitution in 2010 that made the election of the resident a function of the legislative branch. Under the new constitution, the National Assembly members will vote for a party, and the leader of the winning party becomes president. The 2010 constitution imposes term limits of two five-year terms, the first of which Dos Santos is serving now (despite his actual 34-year reign).

Neopatrimonialism is alive and well in Angola. A commonly cited report on the current political system in Angola by Paula Roque points to the fragility of the government formally ruled by the head party, the MPLA, in contrast to the “shadow” government controlled by President Dos Santos and funded by the national oil company. Dos Santos is said to be responsible for over 90 percent of laws passed in Angola, and the wealth he and his family has amassed is infamous (his daughter was Africa’s first woman billionaire and is the richest woman on the continent). Dos Santos’ record on political repression has worsened since the 2012 elections and the violent dispersal of widespread protests and demonstrations throughout 2013. The President and his government harass and intimidate the independent media and dissidents. This repression in large part has led to the Freedom House rating of not free, which gives Angola extremely low marks in terms of civil liberties, freedom, and political rights. A particular low point for the president came last November, when the four opposition parties abandoned the National Assembly in protest of the ruling party’s extreme and uncompromising hold on power and the “violence and political persecution” carried out by the ruling party. The parties have returned to the Assembly, but tensions have not shifted.

In terms of civil liberties, the freedom of expression guaranteed in the constitution is a thing of fiction. The state owns the national newspaper, radio station, and the main television stations. Journalists are constantly targeted, harassed, and arrested for reporting on protests or corruption, while the high-profile disappearance (and alleged torture and killing) of protestors Emilio Catumbela and Antonio Kamulingue are the rule rather than the exception.

The effect of this repressive political system, led by “big man” Dos Santos, on international relations is a little unclear after doing basic research. Angola’s relations with other African nations seem to focus largely on oil and defense agreements. The United States backed the opposition party, UNITA, during the long civil war, but relations between the two countries have improved since the renunciation of Marxism-Leninism in 1992. Angola is part of the CPLP, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, and has expanded cultural ties and trade particularly with Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina.


Roque, Paula. “Angola: Parallel Governments, Oil and Neopatrimonial System Reproduction.” Institute for Security Studies. 2011. <> – .VCNeVyldU7p

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