The book examines how politicians who represent different ethnic groups in African countries have attempted to build coalitions since the renewal of multiparty elections in the 1990s. While many incumbent leaders in African countries keep themselves in power, winning election after election, by deploying state resources to enlist the support of politicians from other ethnic groups, less is known about how opposition politicians can form the alliances needed to mount a viable electoral challenge.
The book attributes the formation of multiethnic opposition coalitions to the relative autonomy of business from state-controlled capital. The analysis shows that opposition politicians are unlikely to coalesce across ethnic cleavages when incumbents can use their influence over financial institutions, namely, banking and credit, to command the allegiance of business — the main funder of opposition in poor countries.
The book shows that liberalizing financial reforms enable opposition politicians to access the resources needed to build multiethnic coalitions. The argument is developed through chapters that combine cross-national quantitative analyses with case studies of Cameroon (a case of opposition fragmentation along ethnic divisions) and Kenya (a case of opposition coordination across ethnic divisions).