Our impact-making research in History is bringing a change in the political landscape in sub-Saharan Africa.
Prominent academics, Professor Justin Willis and Professor Cherry Leonardi are making a significant contribution to understanding of electoral processes and aspects of governance in African countries through their pioneering research.
Facilitating elections in sub-Saharan Africa
Professor Willis’s research expertise and insights have influenced policy discussions for elections in Ghana and Uganda and were used in the electoral support work and contingency planning of the UK government for Kenya’s 2017 elections.
Donors have supported elections in Africa since the early 1990s in the hope of improving accountability and governance, but the consequences of multiparty elections have been varied and uncertain.
Professor Willis’s pioneering work has shifted donor attention to the significance of local-level elections. Through his research, donors were made aware that electoral support based on technical process could not ensure widely accepted electoral outcomes.
Governance and peacebuilding in South Sudan
Professor Leonardi’s research expertise lies in the historical and contemporary role of chiefs in governance and justice in South Sudan.
She argued for the intermediary role of chiefship in state-society relations and its resilience as a local government and judicial institution.
Her research has impacted on international programmes concerning customary authority and local justice in South Sudan.
Her pioneering work has also led to the establishment of a research network on South Sudanese museum artefacts, which has contributed to increasing awareness of South Sudanese cultural heritage among European museum curators and a range of heritage, arts and culture professionals and community representatives in the UK and South Sudan.
Her research on land governance and boundary disputes has been used to inform UK government and other international policy-making on governance, justice, land and boundary issues in South Sudan.
Find out more
- Learn more about the work of Justin Willis and Cherry Leonardi, Professors in our Department of History.
- Read journal articles on voting, nationhood and citizenship in late colonial Africa, digital dilemmas: The unintended consequences of election technology, the moral economy of elections in Africa, points of order? local government meetings as negotiation tables in South Sudan and localisation of state territoriality on the South Sudan-Uganda border.
- Interested in studying at Durham? Explore our undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Department of History.