Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa: Causes and Consequences

In This Review

Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa: Causes and Consequences
By Stephanie M. Burchard
Lynne Rienner, 2015
192 pp.

In late 2007, a contested presidential election in Kenya resulted in widespread violence, leading to 1,300 deaths and rendering homeless hundreds of thousands of Kenyans. The fighting made headlines, but it was not particularly novel: since 1990, more than half the multiparty elections held in sub-Saharan Africa have resulted in violence. Burchard examines the Kenyan case, along with episodes in Liberia and Senegal. In all three countries, pro-government and opposition groups both took part in the violence, but state forces were more likely to do so in a premeditated, strategic manner. Burchard shows that when elections are followed by chaos and bloodshed, it negatively affects turnout the next time around and serves to undermine public support for democracy. Burchard notes that postelection violence is far less common in a handful of democratic countries in the region that have relatively strong and independent democratic institutions, such as news media, electoral commissions, and judiciaries.

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