Africa's current economic liberalization and democratization carries with it broad opportunities for choice that could be either creative or destructive. This chapter examines the shifting dynamics of state-ethnic relations in three contexts: the colonial, the immediate postcolonial, and the current period of political and economic liberalization. Although intertwined and overlapping, these different regime patterns nonetheless organize interactions in different ways, leading variously to constructive and destructive outcomes. The chapter includes several alternative regime patterns that might provide incentives for creative pluralism, even when societal linkages are weak and there is little consensus about national goals or common purpose. The postcolonial elite in many African countries accepted the basic framework for a transitional period defined in the independence bargain. The competition among elite representatives in the hegemonic postcolonial state followed well-understood rules of the game. The resulting "hegemonic exchange" regime represented a new, albeit flawed bargain that linked state/party control with the limited participation of elite notables in the decisionmaking process.