skip to content

Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


CGHR Research Group Seminar

Presidential succession crises in Africa: lessons from South Africa and Namibia

Dr Ian Cooper (POLIS, University of Cambridge)

Discussant: Professor Laurie Nathan (Centre for Mediation in Africa, University of Pretoria)

Seventy percent of African presidents who left office before 1989 were overthrown or assassinated. This pattern has changed since democratisation, as political parties dominate the processes by which presidents are chosen. Many African parties, however, split almost every time a change of leadership is effected. These ruptures have in turn caused electoral competition to intensify, governments to lose power and outbreaks of violence to occur. My paper asks: why do some succession crises lead to party fragmentation, whilst others do not? It involves comparative analysis of South Africa and Namibia, using original data gathered in the field. By describing the changing character of succession, developing a comparative approach to the study of these events and demonstrating a connection between autocratic leadership and party fragmentation, it makes a significant contribution to the democratisation literature.