African Security: Past, Present and Future Developments

Course content

Since the struggles for independence, post-Colonial Africa has been the stage of a variety of civil wars, numerous coups and various failed military incursions into the body politic. The course aims to develop and deepen participants’ understanding of key concepts, the security dynamics of and their ramifications on the African continent. To assess and analyze how a variety of developments contribute to insecurity and violent conflict in Africa, the course relates the aforementioned events to theoretical perspectives on youth, violent extremism, civil-military relations, and peacekeeping. Secondly, to set the stage for further critical engagement, participants will be introduced to various regions in Sub-Saharan Africa (such as the Sahel, the Great Lakes or the Horn of Africa) and their particular security issues. Foregrounding these regions enables a further unpacking of the root causes and dynamics of insecurity specific to these areas. The course will be divided into two interrelated parts. The first part will introduce participants to relevant concepts and theory relating to African security. It will proceed to sketch the security landscape, while reflecting on historic developments, such as colonialism, but also (current) political and societal developments of the Sub-Saharan African states. Socio-economic and demographic developments could also be the source of conflicts and violence, thus the course will prominently feature these as well. The objective of the course is to deepen participants’ knowledge and understanding of contemporary conflict dynamics, it therefore aims for students to able to analyze (current) security developments on the African continent and their impact on the world, for example, piracy in the Gulf of Aden or Gulf of Guinea and its impact on international trade. The course will close with students’ observations and analyses of current security developments on the African continent.

The topics that will be treated in the course are, among others:

  • Introduction: Security in Africa: African landscape; Current Trends and Emerging Challenges
  • Coups and Civil-Military: General Theory + Post-independence Military Takeover in Africa
  • Youth and African Conflict: Youth theory and Civil-wars: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.
  • Gender in Africa.
  • Great Lakes Region: The Lord Resistance Army; Rwanda, and Burunda.
  • Terrorism and Extremism: the Sahel and Somalia; French Intervention; Boko Haram and Al Shabbab.
  • Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding: peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding initiatives.
  • Maritime Security: Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea.
  • Private Military Security Companies and Security in Africa.


The course will treat contemporary security challenges facing African states; provide insight to the drivers of conflict in Africa, show their interrelated nature; and highlight the key responses to these challenges.


Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS

Students at MSc Security Risk Management have 1st priority.

Political Science students: Limited intake

The course is unfortunately not for exchange students.

Learning outcome


  • Become familiar with key concepts relating to African security.
  • Become familiar with the most important security challenges in Africa.
  • Enhance the knowledge of participate to be able to contextualize the complexities of Africa’s security landscape.



Upon completion of the course, the participants will be able to:

  • Analyze security trends in African context.
  • Compare and reflect on various drivers of insecurity and violence.



  • Be able to ask original research questions that might advance knowledge relating to the study of security in Africa.
  • Critically evaluate and assess different debates.


The Class will comprise of a combination of lecture parts, group presentations and debates, and discussions.

  1. 1. Introduction: Security in Africa: African landscape; Current Trends and Emerging Challenges:
  2. Williams, P.D. 2017. Continuity and Change in War and Conflict in Africa, Prism, 6 (4): 33-46.

  3. Williams, P.D. 2016. War & Conflict in Africa. 2nd edition Chapters 3 and 4.
  4. Collier, P. 2015. Security Threats Facing Africa and its Capacity to Respond. Prism, 5 (2): 30-45.

    2. Civil-Military: General Theory:
    Huntington, S. 1957. The Soldier and the State. Introduction.

  6. Janowitz, M. 1960. The Professional Soldier: A social and social political portrait. Introduction.
  7. Feaver P.D. 1999. Civil-Military Relations. Annual review of Political Science, 2, 211-241.
  8. Feaver, P. D. 1996. The Civil-Military Problematique: Huntington, Janowitz and the Question of Civilian Control. Armed Forces & Society, 23, 149-178.
  9. Travis, D. S. 2019. Pursuing Civilian Control Over the Military. Armed Forces & Society, 45, 546-560.
  10. 3. Coups in Africa: post-independence:
    First, R. 1970. The Barrel of a gun: Power in Africa and the Coup d’etat. Chapter. 2.

  11. Decalo, S. 1989. Modalities of Civil-Military Stability in Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies 27(4): 547-578.
  12. McGowan, P. 2003. African military coups d'état, 1956–2001: frequency, trends and distribution. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 41, 339-370.
  13. 4. Post-independence Military Takeover in Africa:
    Nugent, P. 2004. Africa Since Independence. A Comparative History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Introduction
  14. Welch, C.E. 1967. Soldier and State in Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 5, 305-322.
  15. Gutteridge, W. 1985. Undoing Military Coups in Africa. Third World Quarterly 7, 78 - 89.

    5. Youth and African Conflict: Youth theory and Civil-wars: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau:
    De Boeck, F and Honwana, A. 2005. Makers & breakers: Children and youth in postcolonial Africa. Introduction.

  17. Abbink, J. 2005. Being young in Africa: The Politics of despair and renewal. Introduction.  
  18. Vigh, H.E. 2009. Conflictual Motion and Political Inertia: On Rebellions and Revolutions in Bissau and Beyond. African Security Review, 143-164.
  19. Utas, M and Jorgel, M. 2008. The West Side Boys: Military Navigation in the Sierra Leone Civil War. Journal of Modern African Studies.
  20. Hoffman, D. 2011. The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Preface and Introduction.

    Gender in Africa:
    Cornwell, A. 2005. Introduction: Perspectives on Gender in Africa, in: Readings in Gender in Africa, 1-14.

  22. Trip, A.M. 2003. Women in Movement Transformations in
  23. African Political Landscapes. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 5(2): 233-255.

  24. Great Lakes Region: The Lord Resistance Army; Rwanda, and Burundi:

  25. Allen, T and Vlassenroot, K. 2010. The Lord’s Resistance Army: Myth and Reality.

    Terrorism and Extremism: the Sahel and the French intervention:

  27.  Sahel (Guest lecture by Signe Marie Cold-Ravnkilde/ Katja Lindskov Jacobsen)
  28. International Crisis Group. 2017. The Social Roots of Jihadist Violence in Burkina Faso’s North. Africa Report No. 254. October 12.
  29. Wing, S.D. 2016. French intervention in Mali: Strategic Alliances, Long-term Regional Presence?. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 27 (1): 59-80.

    Boko Haram:

  31. Thurston, A. 2018. Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Introduction.
  32. Loimeier, R. 2012. Boko Haram: The Development of a Militant Religious Movement in Nigeria. Africa Spectrum, 47(2-3): 137-155.

Somalia and Al Shabbab:

  • Mwangi, O.G. 2012. State Collapse, Al-Shabaab, Islamism, and Legitimacy in Somalia. Politics, Religion & Ideology, 13(4): 513-527.
  • Mueller, J.C. 2018. The Evolution of Political Violence: The Case of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab. Terrorism and Political Violence, 30(1):116-141.
  • Anderson, D.M. and McKnight, J. 2015. Understanding al-Shabaab: clan, Islam and insurgency in Kenya. Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (3): 536–557.



  • Karlsrud, J. 2015. The UN at war: examining the consequences of peace-enforcement mandates for the UN peacekeeping operations in the CAR, the DRC and Mali. Third World Quarterly 36(1): 40–54.
  • Fortna, V.P. and Howard, L.M. 2008. Pitfalls and prospects in the peacekeeping literature. Annual Review of Political Science 11(1): 283–301.
  • Fortna, P.V. 2004. Interstate Peacekeeping: Causal Mechanisms and Empirical Effects. World Politics, 56 (4): 481-519.

Maritime Security: Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea:

  • Guest lecture Christian Bueger
  • Vreÿ, F. 2009. Bad Order at Sea: From the Gulf of Aden to the Gulf of Guinea. African Security Review18 (3): 17-30.
  • Bueger, C. 2013. Practice, Pirates and Coast Guards: the

grand narrative of Somali piracy. Third World Quarterly 34 (10): 1811-1827.

  • Bueger, C and Edmunds, T. 2020. Blue Crime: Conceptualising transnational organised crime at sea.
  • Private Military Security Companies and Security (Guest Lecture by PMC actor?):  
  • Leander, A. 2005. The Market for Force and Public Security:

The Destabilizing Consequences of Private Military Companies. Journal of Peace Research 42 (5): 605–622.

  • O’Brien, K.A. 2000. PMCs, Myths and Mercenaries: The Debate on Private Military Companies. Defence and International Security.
  • Senekal, B. 2010. The Controversy Surrounding Private Military Companies (PMCs): Looking Back on Executive Outcomes. Journal for Contemporary History.


  • Reflections on Current Affairs and their possible security implications on the African continent by Students.

Ideally, a good general knowledge of the African continent and the place of security issues therein. In other words, an interest in African security is useful, but not essential or necessary.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Obviously if a student needs extract explanation, I will be available for that. 


7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free Written Assignement
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28