Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-8hm5d Total loading time: 0.379 Render date: 2022-05-28T00:47:51.192Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

Citizens and Foreigners: Democratization and the Politics of Exclusion in Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2014


In the ongoing context of political liberalization, many African leaders have adopted the rhetoric of democracy while at the same time devising ways to limit political competition. This article focuses on one such strategy: the effort to disqualify or discredit political opponents based on challenges to their citizenship. In recent years, several African leaders have initiated court cases and produced evidence to question the right of opposition candidates and other critics to participate in the political process. By examining specific examples in Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia, and elsewhere, the article explores the implications of this strategy. While citizenship rights are clearly important in any democracy, their explicit manipulation for the ruling party's political purposes is a risky approach that threatens to slow or even reverse the process of democratization. In the end, a tactic initially designed to exclude specific individuals from the political process has the potential of fueling broader xenophobic sentiments and legitimizing exclusionary nation-building strategies. At best, the resulting widening of social cleavages reduces the likelihood of democratic consolidation. At worst, it plants the seeds for future political conflict and possibly even war.



Dans le contexte présent de libéralisme politique grandissant, bien des leaders africains ont adopté un discours démocratique tout en cherchant les moyens de limiter la compétition politique. Cet article traite principalement de la stratégie adoptée consistant à discréditer ou disqualifier les opposants politiques sur des attaques liées à leur citoyenneté. Depuis quelques années, plusieurs leaders africains ont initié des procès et montré des pièces à conviction destinés à mettre en question le droit de participation à la scène politique de certains candidats de l'opposition ou d'autres critiques. A travers l'analyse d'exemples spécifiques en Côte d'Ivoire, Zambie, et ailleurs, cet article explore les implications d'une telle stratégie. Bien que les droits de citoyenneté ont une importance certaine dans toute démocratie, toute manipulation de ceux-ci par le parti au pouvoir pour des objectifs politiques constitue une approche risquée, menaçant de ralentir ou même d'entraver le processus de démocratisation. Au final, une tactique initialement prévue pour exclure des individus spécifiques de la scène politique a le potentiel d'encourager des sentiments xénophobes plus larges et de légitimer des stratégies nationalistes exclusives. Au mieux, l'élargissement résultant des clivages sociaux limitera la possibilité de consolidation démocratique. Au pire, cette stratégie plante les racines de conflits politiques futurs et possiblement d'une guerre.

Research Article
Copyright © African Studies Association 2005

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Amnesty International. 1997. ”ZAMBIA: Forcible Exile to Suppress Dissent.” AI Index AFR 63/04/97, 11 13.Google Scholar
Armstrong, Allen. 1987. “Evolving Approaches to Planning and Management of Refugee Settlements: The Tanzanian Experience.” Special Report No. 3. Dares Salaam: Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service.Google Scholar
Brubaker, Roger. 1995. “National Minorities, Nationalizing States, and External National Homelands in the New Europe.” Daedalus 124: 107–32.Google Scholar
Daddieh, Cyril K. 2001. “Elections and Ethnic Violence in Côte d'Ivoire: The Unfinished Business of Succession and Democratic Transition.” African Issues 29 (1·2): 1419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gray, Christopher J. 1998. “Cultivating Citizenship through Xenophobia in Gabon, 1960–1995.” Africa Today 45 (3–4): 389410.Google Scholar
Handmaker, Jeff, and Parsley, Jennifer. 2001. “Migration, Refugees, and Racism in South Africa.” Refuge 20 (1): 4051.Google Scholar
Heilman, Bruce. 1998. “Who Are the Indigenous Tanzanians? Competing Conceptions of Tanzanian Citizenship in the Business Community.” Africa Today 45 (3–4): 369–87.Google Scholar
Herbst, Jeffrey. 1998. “The Role of Citizenship Laws in Multiethnic Societies: Evidence from Africa.” In State, Conflict and Democracy in Africa, edited by Joseph, Richard, 267–83. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
Horowitz, Donald. 1991. A Democratic South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Human Rights Observer. 2000. “Winds of Change: The Election Process in Malawi.” Human Rights Observer 1(1).Google Scholar
Kouamouo, Theophile. 2001. “Trouble in the Hospitable Land.” Unesco Courier (09): 3032.Google Scholar
Lijphart, Arend. 1977. Democracy in Plural Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Linz, Juan J., and Stepan, Alfred. 1996. “Toward Consolidated Democracies.” Journal of Democracy 7 (2): 1433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Linz, Juan J., and Stepan, Alfred. 1992. “Political Identities and Electoral Sequences: Spain, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.” Daedalus 121: 123–39.Google Scholar
Ocheing', Philip. 2001. “Opinion: Too Appalling This Letdown, Ndugu Mkapa.” The Nation [Nairobi], 02 18.Google Scholar
Pinto-Duschinsky, Michael. 1999. “Restrictions on Candidacy.” Administration and Cost of Elections. (ACE) Project ( Scholar
Przeworski, Adam, et al. 1995. Sustainable Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reilly, Janet E. 2001. “Nation Building and the Construction of Identity: Xenophobia in South Africa.” Refuge 19 (6): 411.Google Scholar
Simba, Iddi. 2003. “A Concept of Indigenisation.”Google Scholar
Snyder, Jack. 2000. From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
Tripp, Aili Mari. 1997. Changing the Rules: The Politics of Liberalization and the Urban Informal Economy in Tanzania. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
United Nations Population Division. 2003. Trends in Total Migrant Stock: The 2003 Revision. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.Google Scholar
Van Donge, Jan Kees. 1998. “Reflections on Donors, Opposition, and Popular Will in the 1996 Zambian General Elections.” Journal of Modern African Studies 36 (1): 7199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Whitaker, Beth Elise. 1999. “Disjunctured Boundaries: Refugees, Hosts, and Politics in Western Tanzania.” Ph.D. diss, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
Wimmer, Andreas. 1997. “Explaining Xenophobia and Racism: A Critical Review of Current Research Approaches.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 20 (1): 1741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Citizens and Foreigners: Democratization and the Politics of Exclusion in Africa
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Citizens and Foreigners: Democratization and the Politics of Exclusion in Africa
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Citizens and Foreigners: Democratization and the Politics of Exclusion in Africa
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *