The Consequences of Divide-and-Rule Politics in Africa South of the Sahara

Felix S. Bethke 1
  • 1 PhD student, University of Greifswald, Chair of International Politics, Baderstr. 6/7, 17487 Greifswald, Germany


In post-colonial Africa many rulers relied on so called ‘divide-and-rule’ politics to survive in office. The concept of divide-and-rule describes a strategy for rulers to sustain power by exploiting coordination problems among potential rivals. Rulers can break up rival concentrations of power by making discriminatory offers/sanctions or simply destroying communication channels among potential rivals. In this paper I will study the consequences of ‘divide-and-rule’ politics using original data on cabinet changes. In the empirical analysis I focus on the question whether cabinet shuffles affect the probability that a ruler is deposed in a coup d’etat and the probability of a coup attempt respectively. The analysis reveals that the incidence of a cabinet shuffle decreases the probability of a successful coup. This result proved to be robust even when accounting for endogeneity using an instrumental variable approach. The results also showed that if rulers excessively reshuffle their ministers they risk a higher probability of coup attempts. Cabinet volatility, measured as the frequency of cabinet shuffles within six month is positively related to the probability of a coup attempt.

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The main objectives of Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy are to further research in Peace Science and Peace Economics, to expose the scholarly community to innovative peace-related research, to disseminate the study of peace economics to a wider audience.