Goldstein Lecturer to Discuss African Elections


Yolande Bouka

Yolande Bouka, who studies politics, the dynamics of war, and gender and security in Sub-Saharan Africa, will visit Washington College October 3 to speak on the rise and “contagion” of electoral authoritarianism in East Africa. The lecture, sponsored by the Louis L. Goldstein Program in Public Affairs, begins at 7 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, and is free and open to the public.

Bouka, 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, examines the deceptive appearance of free and fair elections in many African countries. International observers have lauded the organized and peaceful manner in which elections now take place in many African countries, where blatant fraud initially characterized multi-party elections. 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 have become more sophisticated, autocratic regimes have 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 legislation and restrictive policies before and during their elections.

Bouka is 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.


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