The Role of Political Leaders in Mitigating the Risk of Mass Atrocities: An analysis of Khama, Kaunda and Nyerere

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    This article examines the impact that three political leaders – Seretse Khama, Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere – had on navigating the long term risk associated with mass atrocities. While the scholarship on comparative genocide studies has acknowledged the crucial dimension of leadership in the perpetration of such violence, very little is known about the preventive influence of leaders in cases where risk is present. This influence works both ways – the ideas, decisions and policies of political leaders are often the most instrumental factor in effective processes of risk mitigation. Yet to date, there has been no systematic study of the role of leadership in managing and ameliorating risk associated with mass atrocities. Indeed, the more general question of why mass atrocities do not occur is also largely neglected. I argue that these leaders were cognisant of the disruptive potential of tribal, ethnic and religious division; they advocated for inclusive national identities, and developed policies that fostered social cohesion; and were effective in creating social and political environments that had an inhibitory effect on structural risk factors associated with atrocity crimes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1547-1564
    Number of pages18
    JournalInternational Affairs
    Issue number6
    Early online date12 Oct 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020

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    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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