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Rwanda and Ethiopia: Developmental Authoritarianism and the New Politics of African Strong Men

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2015


Current classification systems create typologies of authoritarian regimes that may overlook the importance of national policies. Rwanda and Ethiopia in particular are perplexing case studies of post-1990s governance. Both nations are characterized by high growth economies with significant state involvement and the formal institutions of democracy, but deeply troubling patterns of domestic governance. This article proposes a new category of authoritarianism called “developmental authoritarianism,” which refers to nominally democratic governments that provide significant public works and services while exerting control over nearly every facet of society. The article then reflects upon the durability and implications of this form of governance.


Les systèmes de classification actuels créent des typologies de régimes autoritaires qui ne tiennent pas toujours compte de l’importance des politiques nationales. Le Rwanda et l’Ethiopie en particulier sont de troublantes études de cas sur la gouvernance des années post 1990. Ces deux nations sont caractérisées par des économies à croissance élevée avec un engagement significatif de l’État et des institutions officielles de la démocratie, mais qui présentent toutefois des modèles de gouvernance nationaux profondément troublants. Cet article propose une nouvelle catégorie d’autoritarisme, appelé “autoritarisme du développement” qui se réfère à des gouvernements qui se disent démocratiques. Ils fournissent d’importants travaux publics et des services tout en exerçant cependant un contrôle sur presque toutes les facettes de la société. L’article se penche ensuite sur la durabilité et les implications de cette forme de gouvernance.

Copyright © African Studies Association 2015 

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