The African Politics Conference Group (APCG) calls for nominations for four awards honoring outstanding achievements in the study of African politics in 2015/16. Details of the four awards are below. All nominations must be submitted to the chair of each award committee by April 30, 2016.


The APCG-Lynne Rienner Best Dissertation Award Committee invites submissions for the best dissertation in African politics 2015. The award carries a prize and is intended to recognize outstanding scholarship in African politics. Only one dissertation may be nominated per department. Dissertations that were completed and accepted in calendar year 2015 are eligible for this award.

This year’s committee members are Milli Lake (Arizona State University), Adam Sandor (University of Ottawa), and Alice Kang (University of Nebraska-Lincoln).

Departments are requested to submit a letter of nomination and an electronic copy of the dissertation to committee chair Milli Lake at [email protected] The deadline for nominations is April 30, 2016.


The APCG-African Affairs Best Graduate Student Paper Award Committee seeks nominations for the 2015/16 award. The award carries a cash prize and is intended to recognize outstanding scholarship in African politics. Eligible papers must be:
•    nominated by a member of the APCG (self nominations are not allowed),
•    written by a graduate student,
•    presented at the 2015 APSA, 2015 ASA, 2016 ISA, or 2016 MPSA annual meetings, and
•    NOT have a co-author who holds a Ph.D.

This year’s committee members are Rachel Ellett (Beloit College), Yonatan Morse (Georgetown University), and Carrie Manning (Georgia State University).

To nominate a paper, please send an email with the paper’s author, title, and the conference name to the committee chair, Rachel Ellett at: [email protected] The deadline for nominations is April 30, 2016.


The APCG Best Article Committee seeks nominations for the 2015 award. All articles published in peer-reviewed journals in 2015 are eligible.

This year’s committee members are Jessica Piombo (Naval Postgraduate School), Kevin Fridy (University of Tampa), and Frank Ohemeng (University of Ottawa).

Please send the full abstract and, if possible, a copy of the article itself to the committee chair, Jessica Piombo, at [email protected] The deadline for nominations is April 30, 2016.


The APCG Best Book Award Committee invites nominations for the 2015 award. To be eligible, books must have been published (i.e., with a copyright date) in English in 2015. Books should analyze an issue related to political science or international relations with special reference to Africa. The book should employ methodological techniques regarded as appropriate by any subgroup of contemporary political scientists. Edited volumes are not eligible. Translations of books written in a foreign language qualify if the translation was published in 2015.

This year’s committee members are Landry Signé (University of Alaska-Anchorage), Kathleen Hancock (Colorado School of Mines), and Kate Baldwin (Yale University).
Please send nominations to the committee chair, Landry Signé, at [email protected]

Publishers should send copies of nominated books to each committee member at the addresses listed below no later than April 30, 2016.

Landry Signé
Department of Political Science
University of Alaska Anchorage
Social Sciences Building Room 362
3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508

Kathleen Hancock
Winterfeldstr. 97
10777 Berlin, Germany

Kate Baldwin
Department of Political Science
Yale University
P.O. Box 208301
New Haven, CT 06520-8301


APCG Award Winners 2013-2014

APCG Award for Best Article in 2013

Dominika Koter, Colgate University
“Kingmakers: Local Leaders and Ethnic Politics in Africa”
World Politics 65 (2): 187-232.

Nadia R. Horning, Middlebury College, Chair
Melinda Adams, James Madison University
Kate Baldwin, Yale University

Koter’s article explores why ethnic electoral blocs emerge in some countries but not in others. Focusing on two West African cases, Senegal and Benin, Koter challenges the notion that ethnic mobilization is inevitable, pointing out that politics are conducted across varied social structures and that politicians adapt their electoral strategies to these varied environments. In Koter’s analysis, electoral intermediaries (local elites) emerge as critical actors in the political process due to their social clout.

The Committee members wish to congratulate Dominika for the originality of her argument, for the rich evidence that she puts forth, and for her inclusion of African scholars’ insights. Félicitations!

APCG Award for Best Book in 2013

Rachel Beatty Riedl, Authoritarian Origins of Democratic Party Systems in Africa (Cambridge University Press)

Jeff Conroy-Krutz  Michigan State University
Daniel Posner, UCLA (chair)
Landry Signé, University of Alaska-Anchorage

The committee reviewed 18 nominated books and has selected Rachel Beatty Riedl’s Authoritarian Origins of Democratic Party Systems in Africa as the winner of the 2013-2014 African Politics Conference Group Best Book Award.

Authoritarian Origins of Democratic Party Systems in Africa is a welcome and extremely important contribution to the growing literature on post-Third Wave party systems.  It steps beyond classification and attempts to explain the significant variation others have observed in Africa’s party systems, particularly with regard to the extent to which parties are institutionalized.

The central argument of Riedl’s book is wonderfully counterintuitive:  stronger authoritarians in a pre-transition period actually yield party systems that are better institutionalized, and therefore more likely to foster democratic accountability, after their regimes have crumbled.  What’s particularly appealing about Riedl’s book is that it takes seriously Bratton and van de Walle’s call to consider the “institutional heritage of previous regimes.”  In other words, leaders’ decisions from over twenty-five years ago continue to shape the party systems that Africa’s democracies have today.

Riedl’s theory is a very elegant one:  authoritarian leaders who made strong alliances with local actors—a strategy she calls “incorporation”—entered into transitional periods with much stronger hands.  They used this power to limit challengers’ entry into electoral politics, which meant that only stronger opposition groups that could overcome coordination problems would survive.  As a result, after the transition, the system was marked by fewer, but stronger parties.

Conversely, authoritarian leaders who attempted to build independent power bases—a strategy she calls “substitution”—found themselves with weaker grassroots ties at transition time, and thus had fewer opportunities to limit challenger entry.  Consequently, new parties, many of which were small and weak, flooded the electoral arena, and systems marked by low institutionalization exist to this day.

Riedl tests her theory with careful case studies of four countries—Benin, Ghana, Senegal, and Zambia—with in-depth interviews with dozens of local and national party elites.  Her exhaustive research pays off, with a well-articulated and convincing argument about an important aspect of contemporary African politics.  We are confident that this book will be basis of a new wave of research, not just into the evolution of party systems in the developing world, but also into the long-term impacts of authoritarian and transitional legacies more generally.

APCG-African Affairs Award for Best Graduate Student Paper in 2013

Milli Lake, Ph.D. (2014), University of Washington
“Organized Hypocrisy: External Actors and Building the Rule of Law in Fragile States.”
Presented at 2013 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association
Susanna Wing, Haverford College (Chair)
Fodei Batty, Quinnipiac University
James Hentz, Virginia Military Institute

The committee agreed unanimously on Lake’s paper as the most deserving of this award. She grapples with the conundrum that while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is often described as an archetypal collapsed state, in recent years some of the world’s most progressive judicial decisions against perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) have been passed in the DRC. How is it that even in a state characterized by extreme fragility certain public goods prevail? Through analysis of military and civilian judicial cases, interviews with stakeholders and victims of SGBV, she argues that the very instability of local governance structures in DRC has opened the doors for domestic and transnational actors to exert direct influence on the judicial decisions. Her work is innovative, relies on extensive fieldwork under difficult conditions and has important policy implications for an understudied topic.

APCG-Lynne Rienner Award for Best Dissertation in 2013

Matthew I. Mitchell, Queen’s University, Ph.D. Dissertation 2013
“Rethinking the Migration-Conflict Nexus: Insights from the Cocoa Regions in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana”

Lahra Smith, Georgetown University (chair)
Kristie Inman, National Intelligence University
Alice Kang, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Matthew Mitchell’s dissertation, Rethinking the Migration-Conflict Nexus: Insights from the Cocoa Regions in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, examines under what conditions voluntary migration can and does cause violent conflict.  Multiple causal mechanisms are explored, including state-society relations, land tenure regimes, variations in state capacity and exogenous shocks and varied autochthony discourses in particular contexts. Mitchell argues that whether voluntary migration spurs conflict depends on the local political economy.  More precisely, he contends that closed and controlled land tenure regimes mitigate the use of divisive autochthony discourse, whereas open and laissez-faire land tenure regimes encourage the use of divisive autochthony discourse. In Ghana, integration of migrants, clear and somewhat rigid land tenure systems favoring indigenous individuals, a perception of the benefits of migrant labor economically and the relative authority of chiefs have worked to reduce the likelihood of conflict over land or belonging.  In Côte d’Ivoire the reverse conditions created the context for the civil war and episodic conflict.  Mitchell goes beyond this national-level analysis and also analyzes these variables in Ghana, focusing on the Ashanti and Western regions.  He finds that there too the local control over land resources and the power of the chiefs in Ashanti has resulted in markedly less conflict over land and identity than in Western region. The dissertation is based on four months of fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana involving a total of 171 interviews.

Mitchell’s dissertation makes a novel contribution to the fast-growing scholarship on conflict in Africa by focusing on how the interplay of migration and land tenure regimes influence conflict onset.  International relations in particular has been too focused on ‘security’ understood in narrow geopolitical terms and on the role of natural resources (oil, gold, diamonds), and therefore unable to account for variations in local-level conflict. He also focuses on the element of voluntary migration, a type of migration often overlooked in the standard IR and comparative literature on Africa.  

Not only does Mitchell’s dissertation make a novel contribution to the study of conflict, he executes an ambitious research agenda. The committee commends him for conducting a case study comparison, not only two countries but also focusing on intra-country variation.   His demonstrated mastery over the technical aspects of the comparative case study method was noted by the committee to be exemplary.

In light of the crucial nature of the study of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, and the careful selection of inter- and intra-country comparison, the contribution in terms of primary research and fieldwork, and the relevance for Africanists and political scientists more generally, the committee is pleased to award the APCG-Lynne Rienner Best Dissertation Award in 2013 to Matthew I. Mitchell.

APCG Award Winners 2012-2013
APCG-Lynne Rienner Award for Best Dissertation
Janet Lewis, “How Rebellion Begins: Insurgent Group Formation and Viability in Uganda,” Harvard University, PhD Dissertation, 2012
APCG-African Affairs Award for Best Graduate Student Paper
Amanda Robinson, PhD Candidate, Stanford University, “Nationalism and Inter-Ethnic Trust: Evidence from an African Border Region”
Honorable Mention for APCG-African Affairs Award for Best Graduate Student Paper
Manuela Travaglianti, PhD Candidate, New York University, “Violent Out-Bidding: Violence against Co-Ethnics in Burundi’s 2010 Elections”
APCG Award for Best Article in 2012
Séverine Autesserre, Barnard College, Columbia University
“Dangerous Tales: Dominant Narratives on the Congo and their Unintended Consequences,” African Affairs 111, 413 (April 2012)
APCG Award for Best Book in 2012 (co-winner)
Leonardo Arriola, University of California, Berkeley
Multiethnic Coalitions in Africa: Business Financing of Opposition Election Campaigns. New York: Cambridge University Press.
APCG Award for Best Book in 2012 (co-winner)
Crawford Young, University of Wisconsin, Madison
The Postcolonial State in Africa: Fifty Years of Independence, 1960-2010. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Honorable Mention for APCG Award for Best Book in 2012
Anne Pitcher, University of Michigan
Party Politics and Economic Reform in Africa’s Democracies. New York: Cambridge University Press.