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Paths from Personalist Rule: Understanding Institutional Transformation in Contemporary Africa

This project analyzes the fates of rulers and regimes which came to power in Africa in the 1980s-90s. They all had ambitions of reforming politics and changing society. The extent to which exercise of power and authority became institutionalized was shaped by the nature of coalition politics in the initial years. Governing coalitions that were broadly inclusive of a wider section of elite political players resulted in progressive institutional change at the level of exercising decision-making power. But such inclusive politics tended to undermine progress in strengthening the capacity and autonomy of the state. On the other hand, ruling coalitions that excluded some major actors led to centralized decision-making but also resulted in stronger state bureaucratic capacity. This project is a comparative analysis of the two contrasting trajectories represented by the cases-studies of Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, and Uganda. The first trajectory is conceptualized as representing the path of democratic institutional transformation while the second is one that is authoritarian in orientation and texture.


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