Autocracy and Instability in Africa
By Africa Center for Strategic Studies, March 9, 2021
Mar 30, 2021 - 5:19:21 PM

The lack of legitimacy and accountability are at the root of many of Africa’s armed conflicts, reflecting an inability of these political systems to accommodate participation, contestation, and power-sharing.



Sixteen African countries are experiencing sustained armed conflict. While each is the result of unique, context-specific circumstances, some general patterns are evident. Chief among these is the role of governance.


  • Three-quarters of the African countries facing armed conflict (12 out of 16) have either autocratic or semi-authoritarian governments.
  • Of the 12 armed conflicts with authoritarian-leaning governments, 8 are political conflicts or civil wars.
  • The four democratizing governments that are experiencing armed conflict, by contrast, are all facing militant Islamist insurgencies.
  • Armed conflicts in Africa’s authoritarian-leaning countries have been ongoing for roughly twice as long, on average, as those in democratizing countries.
  • 7 of the 9 autocracies facing armed conflict have leaders who have come to power via a coup or prolonged their time in office by evading term limits.
  • 8 of the 10 countries of origin for Africa’s record levels of forced displacement are autocratic or semi-authoritarian.
  • 9 of the 10 African countries facing the most acute food insecurity are autocratic or semi-authoritarian.
  • Overall, 9 of Africa’s 16 autocracies—56 percent—are experiencing armed conflict.
  • None of Africa’s democracies, by comparison, are in conflict.

Source: Ocnus.net 2020