Goldstein Program in Public Affairs

Date: 7:00pm EDT October 3, 2017

The Rise of Electoral Authoritarianism in the East African Community

The Goldstein Program in Public Affairs is pleased to host scholar Yolande Bouka for a discussion on trends in the rise of electoral authoritarianism in East Africa.

It has been over 25 years since the end of the Cold War, and around the world, most countries now hold regular elections with varying degrees of competitiveness. Today, in many African countries where blatant fraud initially characterized multi-party elections, international observers laud the organized and peaceful manner in which elections take place. What is less often discussed, however, is how ruling parties determined to hold on to power have fine tuned their tactics to abide by superficial criteria of “free and fair” polls on elections day. As monitoring tools, international missions and electoral processes became more sophisticated, autocratic regimes moved from overt rigging to mimicking democratic rituals and behaviors while manipulating elections to strengthen their hold on political power. Increasingly, savvy heads of states have been able to leverage democratic institutions to promote durable dictatorships. Interestingly, these authoritarian trends have had a tendency propagate from one country to the next in Africa. Between 2015 and 2017, all five states of the East African Community held elections and enacted similar legislations and restrictive policies before and during their elections. Dr. Bouka explores the rise and contagion of electoral authoritarianism in the East African Community.


Dr. Yolande Bouka is a scholar-practitioner working on politics, dynamics of war, and gender and security in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is a postdoctoral fellow at Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She is also Co-Director of Studies of the RVI Great Lakes Course and the Research Team Leader in RVI’s Women in Politics in Kenya research project. Between 2014 and 2016 she was a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, focusing on the Great Lakes Region. She has published numerous reports and articles on politics and security in Burundi and Rwanda. In the course of her research, she has also conducted extensive fieldwork in conflict-affected countries, including Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, and Rwanda. She holds a PhD in International Relations from the School of International Service at American University.