This article proposes that elite theory is at the heart of understanding political conflict in Africa. A case study of Ghana analyses the historical origins of elite conflict in Ghana before and after independence. The article links high levels of political elite circulation resulting from the transformation of traditional social structures with high levels of political elite differentiation and instability in the post-colonial era. Since 1992 Ghana's new liberal democratic regime has flourished. There are indications that there is a gradual increase in unity amongst competing political elites. Diversity amongst political elites has resulted in greater representation at the leadership level. These factors may explain the sustained period of political stability and the gradual deepening of liberal democracy in Ghana.