My research to date has focused on party politics, democratisation, and security in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Eloise Bertrand and Dr Samiratou Dipama present the project at a workshop in Burkina Faso. Behind them, a powerpoint presentation shows the project's title.

Security, democratisation, and elite politics in the Sahel

Violent extremism has been spreading through the West African region Sahel, fuelling humanitarian emergencies and political upheavals that have threatened recent democratic progress. Governance and security dynamics are closely connected, yet their mutual effects and the role of political elites in shaping these dynamics is still poorly understood. This project aims to identify ways to simultaneously promote security and democratic outcomes, through original and collaborative interdisciplinary research. Our research will address how democratisation, security, and elite politics intersect in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria: three countries spanning across two conflict zones (the Central Sahel and Lake Chad Basin) and displaying distinct historical trajectories, but facing similar challenges to their security and democratic prospects.

Conducted in partnership with the IGD, the University of Ibadan, and RUSI, the project involves multi-disciplinary, collaborative qualitative research in these countries to investigate the mutual effects of democratisation processes and institutions, security approaches, and elites’ political survival strategies, and the implications of these findings for domestic and international policymakers’ engagement in the region.

This project is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Details and updates about the project are available here.

An MPP campaign poster showing a message about security during the 2020 electoral campaign in Ouagadougou.

Security as a campaign issue: electoral mobilisation in Burkina Faso

Working with Abdoul Karim Saidou (University Thomas Sankara, Ouagadougou) and a research team, we conducted a study on how presidential candidates campaigned around security issues during Burkina Faso’s 2020 elections. This research was funded by the Centre pour la Gouvernance Démocratique (CGD). This study shows the often overlooked place of substantive issues in African electoral campaigns. Our findings were shared in a report for the CGD (in French), and in a journal article published in Democratization.

© Photo by Moussa Pounaba

UPC supporters stand in front of a campaign poster reading "Je vote Zeph" in French, at a rally in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, November 2015.
The FDC office in Soroti District, Eastern Uganda.

The role of opposition parties in African hybrid regimes

Understanding African opposition parties better is crucial if we want to foster more democratic politics. My doctoral research, conducted at the University of Warwick, addressed how opposition parties emerge, organise, and operate in Burkina Faso and Uganda, two hybrid regimes in which their chances of getting into power are severely constrained.

Based upon rich empirical, qualitative data and an original comparative framework cutting across the linguistic and regional divides pervasive in the field of African studies, my PhD provided a novel approach to understanding the role of opposition parties within these settings. It challenged the common notion that African opposition parties are universally weak, and made a key contribution to academic and practitioner debates about parties and democratisation on the continent.

Several papers drawing from this research project are currently in preparation or under review, and I am working on turning my dissertation into a book proposal. The full dissertation is available here, and the abstract can be downloaded in English or in French below.

Frontcover of A Dictionary of African Politics (OUP 2019).

A Dictionary of African Politics

In collaboration with Nic Cheeseman and Sa’eed Husaini, I co-authored a Dictionary of African Politics, published by Oxford University Press in 2019. This comprehensive volume covers the diverse and creative language of politics across the continent, from “Alternance” to “Political Nomadism” to “Zoning”, and is an essential resource for students, scholars, and journalists.

The dictionary is accessible here (subscription needed).

You can also read this piece on The Conversation about it.

A mural in Ouagadougou depicts the flag of Burkina Faso.

A Historical Dictionary of Burkina Faso

I am currently working on developing a brand new edition of the Historical Dictionary of Burkina Faso for Rowman & Littlefield, in collaboration with Salif Kiendrebeogo (University Norbert Zongo, Koudougou). We want this volume to encompass the rich historical, cultural, and political contribution the “country of upright people” has made to the world. We expect this dictionary will be published in 2024. In order to ensure the dictionary is as comprehensive as possible, we welcome entry suggestions. If you would like to contribute, feel free to contact us.