This paper draws on the recent experience of Kenya and Zimbabwe to demonstrate how power-sharing has played out in Africa. Although the two cases share some superficial similarities, variation in the strength and disposition of key veto players generated radically different contexts that shaped the feasibility and impact of unity government. Explaining the number and attitude of veto players requires a comparative analysis of the evolution of civil–military and intra-elite relations. In Zimbabwe, the exclusionary use of violence and rhetoric, together with the militarisation of politics, created far greater barriers to genuine power-sharing, resulting in the politics of continuity. These veto players were less significant in the Kenyan case, giving rise to a more cohesive outcome in the form of the politics of collusion. However, we find that neither mode of power-sharing creates the conditions for effective reform, which leads to a more general conclusion: unity government serves to postpone conflict, rather than to resolve it.