The Institutionalization of Political Power in Africa

Across sub-Saharan Africa, formal institutional rules are coming to matter much more than they used to, and have displaced violence as the primary source of constraints on executive behavior. From decolonization in the early 1960s through the 1980s, most African rulers left office through a coup, assassination, or some other form of violent overthrow. Since 1990, however, the majority have left through institutionalized means—chiefly through voluntary resignation at the end of a constitutionally defined term or by losing an election. While institutional rules may not yet always determine outcomes in Africa today, such rules are consistently and dependably affecting the strategies through which those outcomes are reached.