Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Central African Republic: Patrimonialism as an Enabler of Violence

Catherine Samba-Panza, CAR's former president, essentially appointed by Chad's government.

Catherine Samba-Panza, CAR’s former president, essentially appointed by Chad’s government.

In March of 2013, Seleka, a coalition of marginalized Muslims, enacted a coup to overthrow the Central African Republic’s president, Francois Bozizé. Though an interim government was set up shortly thereafter, Seleka’s members proceeded to wreak violent havoc in the Bangui area, and a Christian opposition group called anti-balaka developed. Three years later, the conflict between Seleka and anti-balaka still rages. This violence does not illustrate the root of CAR’s problems, but it begs an important question: what kind of political culture exists where this is tolerated?

This is the kind of political culture that tolerates the following: in January 2014, President Idriss Deby of CAR’s neighbor, Chad, airlifted CAR’s interim president Michel Djotodia and the entirety of his senior government to meet in N’Djamena, strong-arming them into picking a new leader.

Though this seems unbelievable—imagine if Justin Trudeau summoned Obama and succeeded in turning his power over to Elizabeth Warren—CAR’s highest-ranking governmental position really did belonged to Djotodia’s replacement, Catherine Samba-Panza, for a whole two years.

Since French colonial rule, this artificially contrived nation has been seen by external actors—both private corporations and sovereign governments—as a resource ripe for the tapping. Even after independence, most industry within the country has been managed and distributed by these external actors, under the knowing oversight of the government. Rather than steeping the country’s bargaining power on the international stage in sovereignty, CAR’s leadership uses the allocation of goods and services as a means of retaining and gaining power. Within Lemarchand’s neo-patrimonial model, CAR has bred a two-way client/patron schema. The sitting government has grown to expect external actors to essentially run much of the country beyond the capital, while its members keep their titles. In this sense, the government plays the role of patron.

But because so many external actors have a stake in the nation’s stability (to the very lowest degree that will allow continued resource extraction), they appropriate the role of patron if and when they don’t like what they see on the ground. Even branches of government that might be in the public sphere in other neo-patrimonial state are privatized in the CAR, as rule of law falls into the hands of outsourced forces (such as the UN).

With this analysis, it becomes entirely unsurprising and even expected that Chad’s president would be able to so easily affect CAR’s power structure. In many ways, CAR does not act on the international stage as its own entity, but as a chess piece being pulled to all sides by the motley actors interested in what it has to offer. The citizens of CAR suffer, because their safety (beyond a minimum degree) is not a commodity that the patron can offer its clients. When organizations like Human Rights Watch and the UN condemn guerilla violence raging across this land-locked state, perhaps they should assess how their constant involvement prevents the sitting government from taking accountability for its own citizens. And when they respond that they wouldn’t be there if the violence hadn’t occurred in the first place, perhaps they should talk to the French, without whom the disparate peoples of the CAR would never have been forced to live under a series of governments that have never acted in their interests.


Pitcher, A, MH Moran, and M Johnston. 2009. “Rethinking Patrimonialism and Neopatrimonialism in Africa.” African Studies Review. 52(1). 125-156.

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.

The Washington Post,

Global Edge, Michigan State University,

Cultural Anthropology (Louisa Lombard),

Human Rights Watch,


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Political Institutions and Culture in Tanzania

Comparatively, the political institutions and political culture of Tanzania are relatively stable and have allowed for the development of a fairly representative, and democratic, system of governance to emerge. Since 1992, Tanzania has employed a multiparty system that allows for political expression through the National Assembly and Presidency (Pallotti). However, in spite of the multiparty system, governance has been dominated by a singular party, the CCM, since the state’s independence. Scholars have attributed the party’s control of power due to the weakness of social bases in society (Kelsall). The majority of opposition parties have been unable to garner mass support, or to appeal to across various political and ethnic differences.

The multitude of conflicting political opinions and existence of small ethnic groups–127– limits the ability of the National Assembly to create effective impact (Kelsall). However, the political culture is generally one of support for the government and consensus, which allows the political institutions to maintain control. In the 1990s and 2000s, political systems were organized in vertical networks, exemplifying the extensive practice of neopatrimonialism (Kelsall). Patronage politics was evidenced by a system of “vote buying;” however, due to the domination of the CCM party, individuals outside of the ruling party did not have much effect as a whole. Moreover, political struggles were often the result of neopatrimonialism, including issues related to corruption and rampant poverty.

The current president of Tanzania, Magfuli, has instituted a number of reforms aimed at fighting corruption and ending the legacy of neopatrimonialism. He is generally well reputed for his honesty and dedication to improving economic performance. However, unrest and protests have increased in recent years, especially since the 2015 election. Recently there have been limits placed on the media and political activity, and opposition groups are blaming the government for a lack of transparency and claiming that Magfuli is a dictator (Malanga). These opposition groups are attempting to compete with the CCM and are pushing the blame of recent unrest on the CCM, claiming they are using it as a way to maintain power.

Despite recent unrest, Tanzania functions as a largely successful democracy and has experienced transitions of power between leaders, even if those leaders are from the same political party. Magfuli’s efforts to end corruption are an important step forward for political institutions to become more reputable and representative. Furthermore, Tanzania is working hard to improve its weak economy: for a democratic state, its economy does not reflect the same evidence of growth seen elsewhere. The state does enjoy a vibrant tourism industry, due to Kilimanjaro and national parks, which helps bring in a steady flow of revenue; thus, it is in their interest to maintain good relations with the international community. The relative stability of Tanzania’s political institutions and political culture, as well as its ability to function as a unified state with little internal strife, remains promising for both the economic and political future of the state. The government should work to further develop foreign policy plans that will help stimulate economic growth, a prospect that is plausible, assuming Tanzania continues to enjoy domestic stability.

Word Count: 509


Kelsall, Tim. “Governance, Democracy, and Recent Political Struggles in Mainland Tanzania.” Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 41.2 (2003): 55-82. Taylor & Francis Online. Web.

Malanga, Alex. “Tanzanian Diaspora Weigh in On ‘Unrest'” The Citizen. All Africa, 31 Aug. 2016. Web.  (

Pallotti, Arrigo. “Tanzania: Decentralising Power or Spreading Poverty?” Review of African Political Economy 35.116 (2008): 221-35. Web.

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The political institutions of Botswana and their impact on foreign policy

In relation to other African states, Botswana’s political system is often considered a high-achieving outlier. Its relatively strong, democratic political institutions and inclusive political culture have enabled the state to translate its natural resource wealth into goods and services for the people of the country, mostly avoiding the neopatrimonialism that has kept benefits in the hands of a few elites in other African states. However, much of the state’s political power rests with the president. Together, this generally strong democratic political structure and the dominant presidency have contributed to Botswana’s current pivot to “ethical” foreign policy.

Botswana’s political institutions are considered a success in Africa, as the country has experienced more than forty years of continuous civilian leadership. For instance based on the quantitative indices, Botswana is considered a “free” country by Freedom House. Additionally, Botswana scored a 75 overall by Freedom House in 2011, placing it in the highest ten African states, with especially high marks for its electoral process and institutional freedom. The CIRI assessment further placed it as one of only six countries in sub-Saharan Africa with an independent judiciary. Lastly, Botswana’s democratic performance was the fourth-highest scoring in Africa according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

There are, however, aspects of Botswana’s government that are less exceptional: though the state has held freely contested democratic elections since independence, only one political party (the Botswana Democratic Party) has ever held majority control. The president additionally holds outsize power in government, and current president Khama has been accused of “personalizing and militarizing the government” (Molila and Molebatsi 2014). The state further owns half the sole diamond-mining company in the country.

These elements—the essentially one-party rule and state ownership of the main revenue-generating industry in the country—could seem to suggest prime conditions for neopatrimonialism. Yet Botswana’s political institutions have instead directed the income toward public works (e.g. infrastructure, education, health) that have benefited the state as a whole. Botswana’s political culture may be helping the state resist the pull of neopatrimonialism. Botswana has a history of constraints on political elites from the pre-colonial era, such as through the public meetings of the kgotla system. This custom of inclusivity still pervades the political culture of the state, potentially curbing any neopatrimonialist inclinations.

In the last few years, Botswana has adopted a markedly different “ethical” foreign policy approach, which could be seen as stemming from its domestic political system. Botswana has become extremely vocal in denouncing political injustices and human rights abuses in other African states. For instance only a few days ago President Khama called for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to step down. Botswana’s status as a relatively democratic, free, and stable state provides Botswana with the justification and platform to criticize these political problems on the continent. Further, the dominance of the presidency in Botswana’s government allows foreign policy to be strongly shaped by the president; President Khama can thus unilaterally push Botswana toward this “ethical” foreign policy direction with little pushback from the rest of the government.


Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., & Robinson, J. A. (2015). An African success story: Botswana. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Harbeson, J.W. (2013). Chapter 5: Democracy, Autocracy, and the Sub-Saharan African State In J. Harbeson and D. Rothchild, eds., Africa in World Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Malila, I.S. and Molebatsi, R.M. (2014). Botswana’s Experimentation with ‘Ethical Foreign Policy’. Southern African Peace and Security Studies, 3(1), 5-25.

CIA Factbook


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Uganda LGBT

Uganda shows they have no respect for the LGBT community and are even threatening arrests for those who show support for LGBT pride. The Ethics Minister supports the Colonial penal code that bans gay sex and has also blatantly lied about anti-gay violence. It is hard to progress and advance when these types of laws and people are in places of power.


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Violent clashes in DRC

In Kinshasa. 09/19/2016. Photo Creds.: Eduardo Soteras/AFP

In Kinshasa. 09/19/2016. Photo Creds.: Eduardo Soteras/AFP

I was looking for some news on Guinea but could not find anything, but instead found this:

Basically, 17 people died today including 3 police officers in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, following clashes between civilians and the police. Many (young) people were out in the streets protesting and calling for the presidential election to take place on time; there were multiple arrests, including that of several journalists whom were released soon after.

I know DRC is not my country of focus but this kinda hit close to home. Elections in Haiti are due for the 5th of next month after they have been postponed for almost a year now. Though it’s been a few weeks since the campaign season has officially started, tensions have been high for months now. There’s a strong possibility that the elections might not happen, and if it doesn’t, widespread violence will erupt.

Also, there is definitely some parallel with the incidents that occured in Gabon a few weeks ago.

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Legislative Gender Quotas… Argentina and Mexico… Talk on Sept 22 | Michael Nelson

Prof. Jennifer Piscopo (Occidental College) to speak this Thursday, September 22, on “Legislative Gender Quotas and Feminist Policymaking in Argentina and Mexico.” The talk is in PAC 002 at 4:30 PM.

Source: Legislative Gender Quotas… Argentina and Mexico… Talk on Sept 22 | Michael Nelson

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Country Post #1 – Nigeria and Eritrea

The colonization of the African countries Nigeria and Eritrea had a major effect on the development of each country’s internal infrastructure. Before colonialism, both Nigeria and Eritrea were two African countries located along the different parts of the African coastline that contained rich histories of beneficial trading with European countries. However, due to their potentially high values for trade and resources, European powers such as Italy and Great Britain immediately took advantage of acquiring dominance in these countries. Although these two countries share similar pre-colonial situations, the different ways in which each country was colonized by their European powers significantly influenced the way in which each country gained its independence as well as each country’s internal politics.

Although Nigeria and Eritrea were both colonized by European powers, there were different reasons behind the colonization of each country as well as different courses of action taken by the European powers colonizing them. In Nigeria, Great Britain greatly focused on establishing trade stations within Nigeria so that they could have access to the valuable palm oil that was prominent along the Niger River that passes directly through Nigeria. Great Britain did this by enacting British anti-slavery policies that freed many slaves from the grasps of other European powers in the region as well as strategically allowing for there to be “indirect rule” within the country, which allowed for traditional leaders to continue in power while owing allegiance to the colonial authority. This course of action would proceed for the next 40 years while Great Britain concurrently would split the country of Nigeria into three separate regions (North, East, and West) until the later 1950s when Nigeria gradually achieved its own political infrastructure with the creation of a federal prime minister and the Northern, Western and Eastern regions being granted internal self-government. By 1960, Nigeria would gain its full independence. However, due to Great Britain’s initial separation of Nigeria into separate regions, this would cause great internal conflict within the country and eventually lead to a bitter and intense civil war that is the first post-independence African war to receive widespread coverage.

In Eritrea, however, Italy would have much different intentions for colonizing as intended to strategically use Eritrea in order to invade Ethiopia. After failed attempts to colonize Ethiopia, Italy shifted its focus and had more administrative involvement in the country as Italian would segregate the educational systems within between Italians and Eritreans, preventing the Eritreans from a proper education that would allow them to grow and develop their own native country. This sort of apartheid that was established by the Italians would force Eritreans to rely on other colonial powers to help them eventually gain their own independence. Once Great Britain eventually dismantled Italy’s rule in Eritrea, it would still take Eritreans thirty years (1991) to gain their own independence due to the hostility between the Eritreans and their neighboring country of Ethiopia who had previously annexed them in 1961.

Ultimately, the different ways in which European powers initially controlled these Nigeria and Eritrea would greatly affected the ways in which these two similar countries would gain their independence.

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Country Post 1- Federal Republic of Somalia and Eritrea

The Suez Canal was created in the late 1800’s, and allowed the European international trading economy to explore beyond the Red Sea and into the various ports along the Indian Ocean. This particular geographic factor becomes the primary motivator for how European colonization of both the Republic of Somalia and Eritrea affect the regions current political and foreign relations. In an effort to secure the economic benefits of these port nations the foreign powers were highly aggressive in their acquisition of land and how control was maintained. The methods employed often stifled the development of local institutions for governance and fragmented the local structures that were already in place. These colonization tactics largely employed by the British, French and Italians left these East African countries unable to create legitimate or authoritative power after their departure. While the results from their shared colonial legacy are similar, the methodology in which it occurred is different between Eritrea and Somalia.

Pre-colonial Somalia existed as a rather homogenous collection of a single ethnic group that had the normal divisions of various clans and rival powers. The large Arabic and Persian presence that was result of its trading history also heavily influenced it. The general land was arid, with the interior population living separate existences from the coastline population groups. The lack of a single governing institution allowed for European domination to be rather swift and subsequent fragmentations into French, Italian and British domains rather simple. As suggested by Nunn the lack of a significant pre-colonial force made the colonial institution that much more destructive. The important difference between the Eritrea and Somalia was the particular severe fragmentation of Somalia. In the case of Eritrea they were more dominantly influenced by the Italian occupiers and adopted a large part of the foreign culture. In the case of Somalia however their current political system is largely an attempt to recover from the split amongst four separate vying powers (Ethiopia, Britain, French, and Italy). This split presently causes regional conflict between local governance and ethnic clans. Due to unification being their most pressing goal, foreign relations has often been on the back burner of situations in which in many instances they have maintained neutrality.

Pre-colonial Eritrea was definitely more unified in comparison to Somalia despite its nine ethnic groups, because of a shared antagonism towards neighboring Ethiopia. The land was also arid and agriculturally challenging, enough so that the Italians entertained the idea of it being a penal colony rather than a breadbasket nation to feed the masses. Italian occupation of Eritrea however imposed more of a racial hierarchical system, which heavily influenced local governance with that of Italian fascism. This system was not much unlike South-African apartheid, a social reality that Eritrean citizens came to truly resent. This particular legacy has lead to the current autocratic governments seen currently within the nation.

Somalia is definitely a microcosm for the disastrous effects of colonialism in which borders were just arbitrarily drawn. These two countries along the Horn of Africa subsist in the current failed states because of the legacy of harsh colonial rule that ended abruptly, leaving a vacuum of power. In these particular cases foreign aid and intervention seem like unlikely solutions, to a greater systematic issue that must be solved by civil revolution.

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Journal 1

Egypt’s colonial history has certain parallels with Eritrea’s, but ultimately was far less violent, traumatic, or long lasting. The violent occupation by Italian forces of Eritrea and the ensuing apartheid government they established left physical, psychological and economic scars on the country. Egypt’s colonization was largely peaceful on the other hand. Egypt was colonized through a form of economic conquest and was not controlled nearly as stringently as Eritrea.

Egypt had spent a vast portion of its national treasury on the construction of the Suez Canal, finished in 1869. This remarkable engineering feat encouraged large amounts of trade for the region, but had left the Egyptian government bankrupt. The government had borrowed most of the money needed for the canal’s construction from European banks. In order to pay off its debt Egypt sold its share of the canal to the British. The British quickly became the effective rulers of Egypt as they manipulated the country’s politics through their control of the canal and the European banks who still held bonds of debt issued by the Egyptian government. This economic occupation meant that the British’s limited military presence in Egypt did not lead to mass scale violence. The only incident of organized military conflict occurred at the battle of Tel El Kebir in 1882 in response to a popular Egyptian independence uprising.

British occupation of Egypt was very limited compared to the Italian conquest of Eritrea. The British did not even officially declare any degree of sovereignty in Egypt until 1914, when the outbreak of WWI compelled them to declare that Egypt was a protectorate of the British Empire. Even this limited form of official control ended quickly. By 1922 uprisings in Egypt led to the British making a unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence (though British control of the canal would not end until 1956).

Impactful British influence was very limited in Egypt compared to Eritrea in large part because the British did not view Egypt as a new frontier for settlement, but instead focused on extracting economic value from it. The British certainly had a presence in Egypt but it was small in terms of actual people and was primarily limited to a few large cities, namely Alexandria. The Italians sought to establish a whole new Italian society in Eritrea, leading them to focus on clearing the land of its native people to make space for its own citizens. Because they felt a need to control Eritrean society, the Italians took a very active and often violent role in shaping how natives fit into their new structure. The British never imposed a system of apartheid because it would have been counterproductive to their goals, as they were dependent upon the cooperation of the Egyptian people. It was the Italian’s focus on settlement rather than economic exploitation that led to their fraught and traumatic relationship with the native population.

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Film Event: Dukale’s Dream, Sept 26 | African Studies News @ Wesleyan

Source: Film Event: Dukale’s Dream, Sept 26 | African Studies News @ Wesleyan

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