Findings on the impact of personalist rule: comparing African cases and structuring causal factors

A fish starts rotting from the head

—Liberian proverb

This chapter brings together the main insights from the first set of hypotheses (H1) assessing the impact of regime behavior on transitions from personalist rule. The purpose is to answer the first research question (Ql): What is the impact of personalist dictatorships on regime transitions in Africa? Here all original 15 cases of this study are used for comparing findings and contexts, and thus, a short synopsis of the remaining 7 cases is required.1 Table 7.1 offers a full overview of the relevant regime characteristics. Details on repression, coup-proofing and gatekeeping are omitted for these seven cases since the data on our selected regimes (marked in bold) suffice to make nuanced interpretations.

A closer look at the results of these seven cases’ transitions explains why they were not analyzed in full in this work. The personalist regimes of Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Somalia and Zaire/DRC all slid into civil war when their dictators tried to hang on to power. Regimes in Burundi, the Ivory Coast and Liberia were largely responsible for initiating this violence during their own successful power grabs. Guinea-Bissau, Somalia and Zaire/DRC all had violent legacies, but here civil wars were the result of years of exclusion, coup-proofing, hoarding and repression by these regimes. Besides Malawi, all cases faced severe security gaps (and capacity gaps) that precluded peaceful or democratic transitions. 1 chose the CAR to represent this larger group of regimes in detail in Chapter 4. In Table 7.2 an overview of all hypotheses is provided for all 15 cases.

In Burundi, Major Pierre Buyoya enacted a ‘creeping coup’ - his second attempt after he was pressured out of his first military takeover in 1993. Almost all members of the new (Hutu) government were tracked down on 21 October 1993 and killed in an orchestrated mutiny. In the words of G. Prunier: “those who organized the coup did it with the constitution in one hand and a gun in the other.”2 In the ensuing crisis, Buyoya - still in the

Reign

Regime & State Institutions

Resource Curse

Transition

Country

Dictator

Start

End

Duration ( Years)

Back

ground

Multi-

Party

Own

Party

R-Curse

R-C Detail

Leg.

Curse

Cap.

Curse

Sec.

Curse

Result:

Regime

Fate

Burkina Faso

Compaore

1987

2014

27

Cm

Yes

Yes

No

No

_

_

_

Coup

Ousted

Burundi

Buyoya II

1996

2003

7

M

No

N/a

No

No

-

-

-

Civil war

Negotiated

CAR

Bozize

2003

2013

10

M

No

N/a

Yes

Min.-A

Yes

Yes

Yes

Civil war

Defeat

Ghana

Rawlings

1981

2001

20

Cm

Yes

Yes

No

No

-

-

-

Elections

Controlled

Guinea

Contea

1984

2008

24

Cm

Yes

Yes

Yes

Min-CA

Yes

Yes

No

Coup

Ousted

Guinea-Bissau

Vieira I

1980

1998

18

C

Yes

No

Yes

Oil-Off.

Yes

No

No

Civil war

Defeat

Ivory Coast

Gbagbo

2000

2011

11

C

Yes

No

No

No

-

-

-

Civil war

Defeat

Liberia

Taylor

1997

2003

6

Cm

Yes

Yes

Yes

Min.-A

Yes

Yes

Yes

Warlords

Negotiated

Madagascar

Ratsiraka

1975

1993

18

Cm

Yes

Yes

No

No

-

-

-

Elections

Negotiated

Malawi

Banda11

1964

1994

30

C

No

Yes

No

No

-

-

-

Elections

Negotiated

Niger

Mai'nassara

1996

1999

3

Cm

Yes

No

Yes

Min.-C

No

Yes

Yes

Coup

Ousted

Nigeria

Abacha11

1993

1998

5

M

No

N/a

Yes

Oil-On.

Yes

Yes

No

Elections

Negotiated

Somalia

Barre

1969

1991

22

M

No

N/a

No

No

-

-

-

Warlords

Defeat

The Gambia

Jammeh

1994

2017

23

Cm

Yes

Yes

No

No

-

-

-

Elections

Ousted

Zaire/DRC

Mobutu

1965

1996

31

Me

No

Yes

Yes

Min.-CA

Yes

Yes

Yes

Civil war

Defeat

Source: Author’s own work based on Geddes et al. (2013), Wahman et al. (2013) and Simoes, Hidalgo (2011).

Legend: “Leader was incapacitated or dead at the time of the transition.

Background denotes the nature of regime institutions of the cases. M = Military; C = Civilian; Cm = Mostly civilian; Me = Mostly military.

R-C Detail marks first of all these regimes primary resource export dependence: Oil-Off. = Offshore oil/gas deposits; Oil-On. = Onshore oil/gas deposits; Min.-C = Mineral resources (concentrated); Min.-A = alluvial mineral deposits; Min-CA = both types of mineral deposits.

shadows - bullied the embittered Hutu ruling coalition in total obedience of their Tutsi minority coalition partner through a series of targeted violent confrontations. After the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda, apocalyptic fears and provocations escalated to ethnic strife in the countryside, engulfing the whole country in civil war by mid-1996. After taking over officially in 1996, Buyoya started realizing he could not win by military force (by 1999). He negotiated a transition and reconciled warring sides with support of the international community using his undisputed power position to leash his own dogs of war.

After the death of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the Ivory Coast finally opened up its one-party system in 1993. But a series of disputed and boycotted elections (1995,2000,2010) kept pinning regional political groupings against each other while short-lived military coup-leaders stole the vote. Ultranationalist hate-speech and ethnic discrimination against rivalling presidential candidates fueled tensions between the (Muslim) north and (Christian) south. Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters ousted the latest military usurper in the capital (in the south), claiming the electoral victory of 2000. Clashes with northern groups, whose candidate, Alassane Ouattara, had been excluded from the presidential race due to his disputed citizenship, ended in civil war and ethnic cleansing by 2003. French troops intervened, separated both camps, and a long game of negotiations altered by skirmishes stretched this uneasy stalemate until new presidential elections in 2010 declared Ouattara the winner. Gbagbo refused to hand over power and single-handedly plunged the country back into a full civil war claiming 3,000 lives with 1 million displaced.3 With help from the French and UN, pro-Gbagbo troops were finally defeated after a long siege. Gbagbo himself and his wife were captured and trialed.

Liberia, Zaire/DRC and Somalia’s transitions all ended up with warlords and the full breakdown of state authority. Backed by Burkina Faso and Libya, Charles Taylor’s regime started as one of many warring factions in 1989 and won elections in 1997 because the Liberian population was too terrorized to vote against him. The inevitable Second Liberian Civil War turned the tables as new rebel groups linked up with his former enemies, making President Taylor increasingly battered, surrounded and cash- strapped. With his back against the wall, he negotiated his resignation 2003 and went into exile in Nigeria, until a criminal case against him was ready and he was arrested in 2006 and put on trial in The Hague.

Somalia and Zaire/DRC were likewise defeated by armed rebellions that surfaced at a later stage during their reign. For Somalia the regime of Siad Barre lost all legitimacy after it was defeated in the Ogaden war with Ethiopia and resorted to mass terror at home to maintain power. Joseph Mobutu’s case is well known, and this anti-Communist island lost its raison-d’etre and lifeline after the Cold War.4 As state control shrank to major cities, this lawlessness invited foreign predation, and sparked into ethnic violence and warlordism, exacerbated by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Both countries ended up as ‘failed states’ as a result of these civil wars. Like Liberia, their violent legacies are still felt today.

Guinea-Bissau did not fare much better: After the Portuguese colonizers retreated from Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau in 1974, General Joao Bernardo Vieira meticulously used his position as commander of the armed wing of the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde), a guerrilla liberation force, to challenge the political leadership on the mainland. After a coup d’etat in 1980, he molded the party into an apparatus for personalist domination. His political control was strong, so Vieira could afford a multiparty system, winning the presidency in the 1994 elections. Recurrent attempts to harness the mutinous armed forces finally backfired in 1998. A civil war broke out and eventually Vieira fled to Portugal in 1999.

Malawi is the odd one out, with a 90-year-old dinosaur at the helm of an insulated, dirt-poor, anti-Communist, one-party state. Hastings Banda reigned for three decades under a tyrannical peace, and indeed never saw armed challengers to his rule. His regime collapsed in a single bust as his own competing security forces collided violently, while the ‘Gwazi’ (chief- of-chiefs) himself was incapacitated, undergoing brain surgery in South Africa. A negotiated transition followed, but democracy did not consolidate.

 
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