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Preventing Civil Conflict: Effective Leadership and Good Governance

Anywhere an African polity does not fulfill the functions of a modern nation-state and discriminates against some of its own people; anywhere African leaders look after themselves, their lineages, and their kin rather than their entire citizenry; anywhere leaders appear to steal from their people; anywhere in Africa that is consumed by flamboyant corruption and criminality; anywhere in Africa dominated by greed without a social conscience; and anywhere lacking strong separation of powers and rule of law, plus a military subordinate to civilians,  is at risk of a countervailing popular reaction and cataclysmic civil conflict. That is precisely what has happened so many times already in sub-Saharan Africa (as well as in 2011 and 2012 in North Africa and the Middle East).

Human agency brought Africa to its current state of disarray. Human agency must, equally, provide the wisdom and energy to meet Africa's critical challenges and to chart a successful path forward. Those are the striking conclusions of an analysis of the determining role of leadership in all developing societies, as well as of a broad understanding of Africa's history since 1960. Leaders clearly make a difference; the smaller and the more fragile the state, the more leadership actions are substantial and critical. Hence, the failed states of Africa never failed by themselves or on their own. They were driven to failure and thus to internal warring by purposeful leadership actions.

Intrastate conflict occurs in Africa and elsewhere not primarily because of colonial legacies or poorly drawn borders, not because of ancient hatreds between peoples, not exclusively because of competition for scarce resources, and not completely because of innate avarice. Instead, it is the failure of the modern nation-state in Africa and elsewhere to perform adequately – to deliver the essential political goods that are fundamental to the existence of a nation-state and that satisfy the expectations of its citizens – that causes ruptures of trust, the breaking of the implicit social contract between the state and its citizens, and outbreaks of reactive war.


Download the Policy Idea Papers of the Plenary Lectures