Traditional institutions in sub-Saharan Africa: Endangering or promoting stable domestic peace?

Type Journal Article - Afrobarometer
Title Traditional institutions in sub-Saharan Africa: Endangering or promoting stable domestic peace?
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Page numbers 1-46
In many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, institutions of traditional governance influence everyday politics. Traditional authorities engage in dispute resolution, land administration, or the provision of local security. As case evidence suggests, the parallel structure of state institutions and traditional governance is not without its tensions. However, scholars have rarely compared how conflicts play out in different countries, and for differently organized traditional institutions. In this report we provide such a comparative analysis. How does the presence and
practice of traditional governance affect conflict at various levels? We employ a broad concept of conflict that includes but is not restricted to violent conflict. It includes manifest contestation between actors at three levels, each involving Traditional Governance Institutions (TGI): (I) conflict between state authorities and traditional leaders; (II) conflict between ethnic groups led by traditional leaders; and (III) conflict between constituents of an ethnic group and their traditional leaders. We pay particular attention to six factors that
we presume shape if and how TGI affect conflict: (1) the social and organizational significance of TGI in each country and ethnic group; (2) the level of democracy of the state polity; (3) the legal integration of TGI in each country; (4) the ethnic composition of each country; (5) the similarity of TGI and state institutions; and (6) the political relevance of a group. Based on available data on the six dimensions we select four countries (Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, and Tanzania) and eight ethnicities (Kikuyu, Abawanga, Nama, Ovambo, Maasai, Sukuma, Baganda, Iteso) to maximize variance. We base our analysis on 139 semistructured in-depth interviews conducted with individuals representing traditional governance institutions, state authorities, experts and local population.

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