Elite Management and Ethnic Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethnic conflicts are a major threat to global peace and security. To explain ethnic conflict, research has identified ethnic power relations (EPR) as particularly relevant. The concept of EPR evaluates if and how ethnic groups in a country are politically included or excluded in the government. EPR can take various forms, ranging from proportional representation in ethnically shared governments to complete ethnic monopolies, in which the entire government is controlled by a single ethnic group. Scholars argue that ethnic conflicts are the result of competing ethno-nationalist claims to state power. If politically relevant ethnic groups are not appropriately represented in the government, they are likely to develop grievances and in turn mobilize for rebellion.

The planned research project seeks to advances theories and empirical research on the relationship between EPR and violent conflict by improving both its conceptualization and measurement. Two research questions guide the analysis: (1) Why do rulers implement specific strategies of ethnic elite management and (2) how do these different strategies affect the outbreak of ethnic conflict. To answer these questions, the project advances a theoretical framework, which considers how the threat perception of African rulers determines their strategy of ethnic elite management, which in turn influences the outbreak of ethnic conflict.

For the empirical analysis, the project will compile a comprehensive database on the ethnic composition of African governments. This data will provide more rich and fine-grained evidence that allows to reevaluate and extend theories and findings about the relationship between EPR and violent conflict.

Project director:
  • Janota, Zrinka
  • Deutesfeld, Samantha
  • Harth, Lukas


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)