Koffi Henry Sawyer

Enhancing Electoral Democracy in Africa: The Impact of Intergovernmental Organisations in Promoting Credible Elections

Supervisors: Professor Nic Cheeseman and Dr Tim Haughton 

Koffi SawyerMy research examines increasing questions around the relevance of the international community in promoting peaceful and credible elections in Africa, especially given increasing reports of fraud and electoral violence, despite continued international engagement and presence. Despite international support for initiatives to enhance electoral processes on the continent, the African democratic project has continued to suffer from significant challenges in almost every electoral process since the reintroduction of political pluralism in the 1990s. The region’s score for credible elections, using the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity index, has been the lowest on average, reflecting a lack of genuine political pluralism in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Although not exceptional to Africa, analysts stress that threats to electoral integrity and violence are more serious in Africa than in the rest of the world. Therefore, instead of helping to enhance stability and prosperity by offering an opportunity for the reconstitution of legitimate governance, (poor quality) elections have, in many cases, become nail-biting processes that are characterised by serious challenges, particularly intense pre-election and post-election violence. This research investigates the specific contribution of intergovernmental organisations in promoting electoral democracy on the African continent.


Koffi Henry Sawyer is a politics and international relations professional with several years of international experience in international public service, including with the United Nations and the Commonwealth. Until recently, he was a Political Officer and Lead for Southern Africa at the Governance and Peace Directorate, Commonwealth Secretariat, where he supported programmes to enhance governance, peacebuilding, political accountability and socio-political cohesion in member states. Mr Sawyer has been working closely with election management bodies, including in post-conflict situations, to enhance their capacity to proactively prevent election-related conflicts and forge political consensus through inclusive dialogue on key electoral issues. Mr Sawyer is originally from Cameroon and has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, a Post Graduate Diploma in Political Science, a Diplômes d'études supérieures spécialisées (D.E.S.S.) in Strategy, Defence, Security and Conflict Management and a Masters in International Law and Human Rights. Mr Sawyer is passionate about the integration of peacebuilding in political processes.


  • BSc. Political Science
  • Post-Graduate Diploma Political Science
  • DESS Strategic Studies
  • MA International Law and Human Rights 

Research interests

  • Electoral democracy
  • Preventive and post-conflict peacebuilding
  • Participatory democracy
  • Institution building and socio-political cohesion in divided societies

Teaching responsibilities

  • Adjunct Professor, United Nations University for Peace Africa Programme
  • Course Facilitator, International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (2019)
  • Course Facilitator, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (2016)

Conference papers

  • The Covid-19 Pandemic and Elections in Africa, Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa, University of Cape Town (Oct 2021).
  • Building Strategic Partnerships to Support Peaceful and Inclusive Elections in Member States (2021)
  • Elections and Conflict Prevention, International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, UK (2019).
  • Electoral integrity in Africa: focusing on electoral peacebuilding in Zambia, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), South Africa (2018).
  • Election Observation, Electoral Crisis Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Accra, Ghana (2017).
  • Criminalizing Humanitarian Engagement? Counter-terror Legislation and Humanitarian Action, organised by the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard University (2014)
  • Somalia: Politics and Food Aid, organised by the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard University (2013).
  • “Africa as a Nuclear-free Zone: Stakes and Challenges”, University of Yaoundé II (2006).
  • Birch, S., Buril F., Cheeseman, N., Dodsworth S., Garber, L., Gutierrez-Romero R., Hollstein T., James, T., Mohan, V., and Sawyer, K. (2020) How to Hold Elections Safely and Democratically During the Covid-19 Pandemic, British Academy (2020) available at https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/publications/covid-19-how-to-hold-elections-safely-democratically-during-pandemic/
  • Sawyer, K. (2019) Elections and Conflict Prevention in Africa: An International Electoral Peacebuilding Approach, Africa Peace and Conflict Journal, Addis Ababa, 2019, p 165-175. Available at: https://www.africa-upeace.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=76&Itemid=109
  • Sawyer, K. (2021) Building Strategic Partnerships to Support Peaceful and Credible Elections in Member States, Commonwealth Secretariat, London 


Contact details:

Email: khs920@student.bham.ac.uk

LinkedIn: koffi-sawyer-7a652925