African Elections Lecture

On tuesday of this week the Nation Building course had the great opportunity of having a session of class taught by Prof. Cheeseman of Oxford University. Prof. Cheeseman specializes his research in African politics and has done work for the UK and US government in various African countries. This session was extremely informative on the makeup of African legislation and specifically African elections. The reading that we had read for class was titled “The Surprising Significance of African Elections” and it basically described when the power in a country is transferred from one party to another there can be some significant benefits that come with it. In African countries many leaders stay in power for a extended period of time even when elections are held. The amount of corruption involved and also the inability of opposition to organize and present a front to compete with the incumbent makes it difficult for power to change hands. In countries that display instability usually dictators or oppressive rulers terms end in either military cues or guerrilla group uprisings. In many cases the military groups that take power do much of the same, oppress the population and gain great wealth. In Africa it is a reoccurring theme once a party is in office usually after a short amount of time the best interests of the people are no longer a concern to the government. Another term for this type of selfishness and self-serving behavior is called extractive government practice. The clarification and also the understanding that I gained from Prof. Cheeseman was great and it made me much more interested in the topic then I was after the reading. Another aspect of this lecture that I really enjoyed was hearing Prof. Cheeseman’s experiences working in Africa. The way that he described the progress that is being made in countries like Kenya was assuring that there is a lot of economic and social potential in this region of the world, China certainly sees this. Overall it was a great addition to the class and I am sure he will continue to be invited back to this program.

-Heppert

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