Born powerful? Authoritarian politics in postliberation Eritrea and Zimbabwe

Sara Rich Dorman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Eritrea and Zimbabwe are African states liberated from colonial rule after years of guerrilla warfare. Both generated great hope and enthusiasm in their early years of independence yet they have now become bywords for authoritarianism, fear, and violence. There are many similarities in their experiences of war and of peace. However, they also raise questions about the impact of guerrilla warfare and of transitional arrangements on the prospect of democratic governance after conflict. Political scientists expect liberation wars to result in governments “born powerful”-with the capacity to mobilize their populations and reform institutions and transform state-society relations in dramatic ways. Nevertheless, in his 1995 account of African politics, Chris Allen concluded that despite winning independence through “prolonged warfare” African postliberation states were “following similar paths to … the peacefully decolonised majority."1 As Allen noted, the dominant party states formed after the end of the cold war organized state-society relations in much the same way as the earlier generation of states.2 However increasing authoritarianism and destabilization has now overtaken many of these states and “liberation” has become a rallying cry of aging politicians seeking to justify their continued rule.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Revolutionary Movements to Political Parties
Subtitle of host publicationCases from Latin America and Africa
EditorsK. Deonandan, D. Close
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780230609778
ISBN (Print)9781403980106, 9781349538720
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • daily news
  • national service
  • guerrilla warfare
  • authoritarian politics
  • nationalist rhetoric


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