From Algeria to Sudan and Senegal to Ethiopia, African youth have been rising up against entrenched authoritarian rulers. Across Africa, there is little faith in elections as the endpoint of political competition. Yet elections remain important, less for the predetermined outcome at the ballot box, but more for the opportunities they provide for other forms of political mobilization, especially popular protest. This talk examines the capture of African elections by political elites and how youth in particular are challenging political power through non-electoral means. By tracing the legacies of 20th century African protests, Mampilly shows how popular uprisings were coopted by political elites with support from the international community. As a result, today's youth activists are less concerned with bringing change through the ballot box than they are in taking actions that can lead to a broader transformation of the political and economic system itself. In this sense, rather than a "retreat of African democracy," Mampilly suggests we are witnessing a democratic deepening as African youth question the very meaning of a system that reduces democracy to nothing more than the holding of occasional elections. 

 

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