African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 382

Full Length Research Paper

Democratization and armed conflicts in post-cold war Africa (1989-2012)

Adrien M. Ratsimbaharison
Department of Social Science and Criminal Justice, Benedict College, Columbia, SC 29204, USA.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Received: 23 July 2015
  •  Accepted: 15 October 2015
  •  Published: 31 December 2015


The coming of the “Third Wave of democratization” to Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s coincided with the dramatic increase of armed conflicts on the continent.  The purpose of this study is to revisit the connection between democratization and occurrence of armed conflicts, and to address specifically the following questions:  To what extent has Africa been democratized since the end of the Cold War? To what extent could the democratization process contribute to the increase of armed conflicts on the continent?  And under what conditions could a democratization process lead to an armed conflict?  This study finds that the democratization since the end of the Cold War has been limited in space and depth in Africa, and could not be considered the major factor that led to the increase of armed conflicts on the continent.  Nevertheless, in the context of democratization, an armed conflict could break out under the following conditions: overlapping social cleavages, incomplete democratization, mobilization of armed groups (or militia), and intense power struggle among political leaders or groups.


Key words: Africa, democratization, armed conflicts, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Guinea-Bissau.