International Relations and African Politics




Over the past years, I have focused on three areas of research:

Firstly, I am interested in processes of institutional change in African countries. My main interest is the comparative analysis of different formal institutions, especially electoral systems and regime types, presidentialism and term limits, political parties and their regulation, and decentralisation and vertical power-sharing.

Past research projects dealt with party regulation in Africa (Ethnic Party Bans in Africa) and with local politics and decentralisation (book with Gordon Crawford). I have a longstanding interest in various aspects of elections on the African continent, both with regard to electoral systems (Hartmann 2007), but also the dynamics of voting rights, and how they are related to citizenship (Hartmann 2015). More recently, I have been working on the change of polities and state structures in the context of violent conflicts. I was involved in a project coordinated by GIGA in Hamburg (Institutions for sustainable peace) dealing with the relevance and interaction of different institutions for the management and resolution of violent conflict (Hartmann, Civil Wars, 2013), and continue to be interested in the relevance of political institutions for managing inter-ethnic relations (Hartmann, forthcoming). Currently, I am also conducting research on term limits and the relationship between presidents and veto-players in the more democratic regimes on the African continent.

Secondly, I am interested in regional co-operation in Africa with a focus on West Africa. The political and security dimensions of regional co-operation and its impact on member states are at the centre of my research. This includes a concern with the capacity of regional actors to deal with security challenges and an interest in humanitarian intervention by regional actors as well as an interest into the relationship between regional cooperation and the dynamics of domestic political reforms. Empirically my research concentrates on ECOWAS and has dealt with the development of ECOWAS’ extraordinary norms of intervention (Hartmann 2013, Hartmann & Striebinger 2015), the application of Levitsky and Way’s linkage-leverage-model to the relations between African regional organisations and their member states (Hartmann 2016), and to specific ‘democratic interventions’ (Hartmann 2017). I am currently particularly interested in a better understanding of the different dimensions and effects of overlapping regionalism in Africa (Hartmann 2018).

A third research area are Africa’s relations with external actors. China’s growing relevance in the African continent has extended to the political sphere, and on the basis of an authors’ workshop held in Duisburg in June 2017 I am co-editing a book on how China affects political stability and instability on the continent, to be published by Routledge in 2019.    


Completed projects

Party-Bans in Africa (Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation)

Joint project with Mathijs Boogards (International University Bremen); Matthias Basedau (Institut für Afrikakunde Hamburg) and Peter Niesen (TU Darmstadt)

During the 1990s the number of African states to hold multi-party elections increased dramatically. Paradoxically, the spread of democracy and the extension of political rights in Africa has been accompanied in the majority of countries by legal bans on, among others, religious, ethnic, regional, and linguistic parties. The main official reason for such party bans has been the aim of preventing the politicization of ethnicity as this is feared to lead to ethnic conflict and political instability.

In light of the history of ethnic conflict in Africa and the possibility of drawing lessons for other plural societies, the project analysed several questions: are party bans an effective instrument in preventing and managing ethnic conflict and at what cost to democracy? This main question translated into four sub-questions: 1) Which empirical phenomena might be defined as party-bans and which main types of party-bans do exist? 2) What are the effects of formal bans? Why have ostensibly so few of the countries that adopted party bans actively enforced them? And to what extent are formal bans on ethnic parties an effective instrument in ethnic conflict management?; 3) Why have so many new democratic regimes in Africa adopted party bans? And which variables explain that other countries did not? 4) Given that party bans pose limits to political liberty, how can their existence be squared with the democratic aspirations of new or consolidated constitutional regimes? What are the strategies used and legitimations adduced in order to integrate party bans with the democratic self-understanding of the respective polities? Compared with how democracies in the OECD-world justify bans on political parties, how do these justifications stand up? In the project, the first-ever inventory of party bans and their implementation in Africa was collected.


Bogaards, M./ Basedau, M./ Hartmann, C. (eds.) 2013: 'Ethnic Party Bans in Africa', Oxon: Routledge.

Bogaards, M./ Basedau, M./ Hartmann, C. 2010: 'Ethnic Party Bans in Africa: An Introduction', in Democratization 17/4, 599-617.

Hartmann, C. 2010: 'Senegal's party system: The limits of formal regulation', in Democratization 17 (2010), 4, 769-786.

Hartmann, C./ Kemmerzell, J. 2010: 'Understanding variations in party bans in Africa', in Democratization 17/4, 642-665.

Basedau, M./ Bogaards, M./ Hartmann, C./ Niesen, P. (2007) 'Ethnic Party Bans in Africa: A Research Agenda' in German Law Journal 8/6, 617-634.


Local elections, local politics and Democratisation in Southern Africa (German Research Association)

Given the mixed track record of democratisation in African countries demands for a better adaptation of democratic structures to local contexts have gained centre stage in recent debates on political reforms. Introduced in the wake of democratisation and free elections on the national level, local elected councils were established throughout the continent. After the first decade of more open political competition, sufficient material existed to empirically analyse and compare processes of political representation and (party-)political competition on the local level without exclusively depending on broad generalisations about African political culture or pre-colonial traditions.

The project’s results point to the exceptional relationship between local politics and citizens in the African context. At least that is the case for the project’s three case studies: South Africa, Namibia, and Mauritius. However, these specific local political processes do not necessarily lead to differing institutions (in which, for example, traditional norms are more important than on the national level). Furthermore, it does not necessarily lead to some sort of para-statehood (as was expected for the Sahel or Central Africa). To the contrary, owing to the decoupling from central neo-patrimonial mechanisms of distribution the result often is a relatively contingent and authentic democratic process on the local level. This is indicated by a higher level of competition and participation (democracy’s core components) than at the national level. Nevertheless, local democratisation is affected negatively by unfavourable structural preconditions (dominant party systems, high economic inequality, and officials’ de facto low education levels).

At first glance, the frequently neglected analysis of formal institutions has more potential than one would think: especially national rules on the redistricting, the size, and fusion of municipalities as well as the local electoral systems can tell us a lot about the varying constellations of actors on the local level and their interaction patterns when compared throughout countries. Policy- and development research could use the results to take the institutional characteristics of local political decision making processes more serious.

Aside from formal inter-governmental relations, which differ starkly between our case studies an informal level of inter-governmental politics exists. Research on federalism and autonomy has already created substantial insights on this topic that should command more attention with regard to the national politics of democratisation. The impact of national politics on local politics (through parties, decentralisation programmes, direct political influence) remains more influential than is the case the other way around for now (vertical separation of powers, municipalities as schools of democracy and starting point for political careers).

The research’s practical value is obvious: Usually, formal institutions are susceptible to change through laws or constitutional change. The project offers broad empirical insights not only for the three field studies, but also for all member states of the Southern African Development Community SADC.


C. Hartmann 2008: Local Government and the Management of Conflict in Fragmented Societies: South Africa, Namibia, and Mauritius Compared', in: Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (ed.), Managing and Resolving African Conflicts: Vol.2 Conflict Resolution and Post-conflict Reconstruction, Oxford: James Currey

C. Hartmann/ G. Crawford 2008: Introduction: Decentralisation as a Pathway out of Poverty and Conflict?, in: Gordon Crawford/ Christof Hartmann (Hg.), Decentralisation in Africa: A Pathway out of Poverty and Conflict?, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 7-32.

C. Hartmann 2008: Decentralisation and the Legacy of Protracted Conflict – Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa, in: Gordon Crawford/ Christof Hartmann (Hg.), Decentralisation in Africa: A Pathway out of Poverty and Conflict?, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 169-190.

C.Hartmann/ G. Crawford 2008: Conclusion: Decentralisation – No Shortcut to Development and Peace, in: Gordon Crawford/ Christof Hartmann (Hg.), Decentralisation in Africa: A Pathway out of Poverty and Conflict?, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 233-252.

C. Hartmann 2004: 'Local Elections in the SADC Countries: A Comparative Analysis of Local Electoral Institutions', Journal of African Elections 3/1, 160-184.

C. Hartmann 2004: 'Kommunalwahlen und die Demokratisierung des Ländlichen Raums' Entwicklung + Ländlicher Raum 38/4, 12-14.

C. Hartmann 2004: ‚Local Elections and Local Government in Southern Africa' Afrika Spectrum 39/2, 223-248.

C. Hartmann 2003: Local Elections in Southern Africa. Bochum: Institut für Entwicklungsforschung und Entwicklungspolitik (IEE Working Papers No.175).

C. Hartmann 2002: ‚Südafrika. Von der Apartheid zur Demokratie', Politische Bildung 35/2, 63-75.


Professional Expertise and Consultancy

Expertise mainly exists in the following three fields:

  • Reform of electoral systems and election assistance
  • Crisis prevention and conflict management
  • Promotion of democracy and political development cooperation

Reform of electoral systems and election assistance

C. Hartmann advised, on behalf of various donors, constitution-drafting bodies, as well as electoral commissions and parliaments. This applies in particular to the Egyptian parliament (2002) and the Kenyan constitutional commission (Constitutional Review Comission 2002/2003). In 2000 he participated in a roundtable of politicians, experts and constitutional lawyers from Southern Africa, in Cape Town. In 2001/02 he was a member of the working group of the Venice commission (Council of Europe) for the revision of the local election law of Croatia.

Crises prevention and treatment of conflicts

C. Hartmann was an initial member of the University Network on Crisis Prevention and Conflict Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (UnetCPCM), financed by the German Technical Cooperation. In this context he was involved in the organization and implementation of workshops in Cape Town, Nairobi (Kenya) and Lilongwe (Malawi). In 2001 he prepared, on behalf of the European Union and its Conflict prevention network (CPN), a desk study on European Options of Crisis Prevention in the Ivory coast. In the context of an impact assessment of project activities of the Friedrich Ebert foundation he evaluated crisis prevention projects in the north of Mali (2003).

Democracy promotion and political development cooperation

C. Hartmann has been involved in impact assessment of development projects in the field of the promotion of democracy, trade unions, gender projects, decentralisation and human rights for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Mali (2003) and in Senegal (2002). In 2002 he assessed projects of the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Benin, Burkina Faso, the Ivory coast and in Togo. Since 2003, he has also worked as an country expert of the Bertelsmann Foundation for the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) for the countries Benin (until 2009) and Ivory Coast.