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A growing literature has begun to more closely examine African legislatures. However, most of this research has been attentive to emerging democratic settings, and particularly the experiences of a select number of English-speaking countries. By contrast, Cameroon is a Francophone majority country that reintroduced multiparty politics in the early 1990s but continues to exhibit significant authoritarian tendencies. This article provides a longitudinal analysis of Cameroon's National Assembly and builds on a unique biographical dataset of over 900 members of parliament between 1973 and 2019. The article describes changes in the structure and orientation of the legislature as well as the social profile of its members, in particular following the transition to multipartyism. While the legislature in Cameroon remains primarily a tool of political control, it is more dynamic, and the mechanisms used to manage elites within the context of complex multiethnic politics have evolved.
Chapter 4 examines the second macro-political factor in Rwanda’s path to genocide: democratization. Political liberalization simultaneously posed a threat to Rwanda’s incumbent elite and created a new political opportunity for challenger elites. The chapter shows how Rwanda’s move to liberalize – in line with the trend across Africa in the early 1990s – collided with its civil war with calamitous effect. The unfortunate coincidence of these two processes pushed Rwanda towards ethnic confrontation. The chapter explores how their interaction exposed a dark side to three processes commonly associated with political liberalization: pluralism, competition, and participation. Pluralization led to the expression of a broad spectrum of political interests and ideologies in Rwanda including the re-emergence of an ethnicist ideology. The chapter shows that this ideology had only marginal support initially. Moderation was ascendant at first and political parties sought cross-ethnic support. However, as the threat posed by the war escalated, this changed. The internal political competition created by multipartyism interacted with this external military contestation. In the face of weak constraints domestically and internationally, ethnic extremism gradually moved from the background to the foreground of Rwandan politics and society. Liberalization also increased political participation and a new class of challenger elites emerged at the local level, a radical sub-set of which would become mobilizing agents during the genocide.
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