Between cooperation and conflict : tracing the variance in relations of traditional governance institutions and the state in Sub-Saharan Africa
2023, Kern, Florian G., Holzinger, Katharina, Kromrey, Daniela
The relationship between the state and traditional governance institutions (TGI) in contemporary politics has recently received increased scholarly attention. Traditional leaders play important roles in elections, public goods provision or conflict resolution in Sub-Saharan Africa. We analyse under what conditions cooperation or conflict emerge between the state and TGI. We contribute to the understanding of state-traditional relations by studying how governments interact simultaneously with varying TGI of different ethnic groups. We compare state-TGI relations for eight traditional polities in Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Uganda, based on extensive fieldwork and interviews with state and traditional authorities, experts and constituents. We study three factors shaping state relations with different TGI: (1) the significance of TGI – both social and organisational – in each country and ethnic group; (2) the institutional similarity of TGI and state; and (3) the integration of TGI – both legal and political. Our analysis shows TGI with social significance and functional organisations challenge the state more frequently. Constitutional ambiguity fosters conflict between TGI and state. For our cases, relations are less conflictive in countries with more democratic governments. The same governments and TGI often simultaneously engage in cooperative and conflictive relations, highlighting that governments rarely pursue uniform policies with all TGI.
Which groups fight? : Customary institutions and communal conflicts in Africa
2018-07, Wig, Tore, Kromrey, Daniela
Why are some ethnic groups embroiled in communal conflicts while others are comparably peaceful? We explore the group-specific correlates of communal conflicts in Africa by utilizing a novel dataset combining ethnographic information on group characteristics with conflict data. Specifically, we investigate whether features of the customary political institutions of ethnic groups matter for their communal-conflict involvement. We show how institutional explanations for conflict, developed to explain state-based wars, can be successfully applied to the customary institutions of ethnic groups. We argue that customary institutions can pacify through facilitating credible nonviolent bargaining. Studying 143 ethnic groups, we provide large-N evidence for such an ‘ethnic civil peace’, showing that groups with a higher number of formalized customary institutions, like houses of chiefs, courts and legislatures, are less prone to communal conflict, both internally and with other groups. We also find some evidence, although slightly weaker, that groups with more inclusive or ‘democratic’ customary institutions are less prone to communal conflicts.
The Dualism of Contemporary Traditional Governance and the State : Institutional Setups and Political Consequences
2016-09-01, Holzinger, Katharina, Kern, Florian G., Kromrey, Daniela
In many parts of the world, people live in “dual polities”: they are governed by the state and organize collective decision making within their ethnic community according to traditional rules. We examine the substantial body of works on the traditional–state dualism, focusing on the internal organization of traditional polities, their interaction with the state, and the political consequences of the dualism. We find the descriptions of the internal organization of traditional polities scattered and lacking comparative perspective. The literature on the interaction provides a good starting point for theorizing the strategic role of traditional leaders as intermediaries, but large potentials for inference remain underexploited. Studies on the consequences of “dual polities” for democracy, conflict, and development are promising in their explanatory endeavor, but they do not yet allow for robust conclusions. We therefore propose an institutionalist research agenda addressing the need for theory and for systematic data collection and explanatory approaches.
Legacies of the Past : The Influence of Former Freedom Fighters and their Rhetoric in Southern Africa
2015, Welz, Martin, Kromrey, Daniela
The liberation struggle impacts on the current political landscape of Southern Africa. In this regard, some scholars speak of enduring ‘post-liberation states’, whereas others foresee the slow but inevitable decline of the active role of freedom fighters in politics. We aim to enrich the debate over the legacies of the liberation struggle by providing empirical evidence in a three-step analysis. Firstly, we provide figures on the composition of cabinets since independence, demonstrating not only that more than half of today's cabinet members are former freedom fighters, but also that their numbers are continuously decreasing. Secondly, we compare recent election manifestos of liberation-movements-turned parties to older documents of the same movements, showing that in Namibia and South Africa, freedom fighter rhetoric is more subtle than overt, which differs from the case in Zimbabwe. In a third step, we contrast these findings with evidence from practical politics. Through this multilayered comparative analysis, we also reveal the opportunistic use of the liberation struggle as a political tool across all three country case studies.
The democraticness of traditional political systems in Africa
2022, Neupert-Wentz, Clara, Kromrey, Daniela, Bayer, Axel
Traditional political systems (TPS) are an important part of the political landscape in Africa. They govern subnational communities and differ from nation states, both in their institutional set-up as well as in their legitimacy. Yet, we have little comparative knowledge on these political systems and, in particular, whether they can be described as democratic. In this article, we analyse the democraticness of TPS based on a new expert survey. Using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), we show that the more than 140 ethnic groups we analyse vary meaningfully in their democraticness. Measures of public preference input and of political process control contribute particularly to a latent measure of democraticness. Furthermore, we find some indication for regionally interdependent institutions, with slightly more democratic systems in Southern Africa and less democratic systems in West Africa. Yet, no such interdependence exists between the state and the group level. Finally, we find that more hierarchically organized political systems, kings, and chiefs, as well as those organized in segments, are on average less democratic, while the presence of elders is associated with higher levels of democraticness.
Changing of the guard? : An anatomy of power within SWAPO of Namibia
2017, Melber, Henning, Kromrey, Daniela, Welz, Martin
This article presents an anatomy of power relations and policymaking within the ranks of the former liberation movement South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) in Namibia. It summarizes the features of Namibia's dominant party state and argues that Namibia is a case of competitive authoritarian rule. Our analysis documents how the first generation of SWAPO activists, in exile after the early 1960s, has since independence in 1990 remained the most influential segment of the former anti-colonial movement. This continuity is personified in the country's third president, Hage Geingob, and parts of his team in cabinet. Despite some gradual and increasingly visible shifts in the composition of SWAPO MPs, the party's first generation has so far remained largely in control of the country's political affairs. Analysing the background of the ministers serving since independence also shows that a second generation of SWAPO activists, in exile after the mid-1970s, gradually expanded their influence and took over leading positions. Given the dominance of SWAPO and the lack of any meaningful political opposition, a new leadership depends on upward inner-party mobility. Given the limited scope for a younger generation to move into higher offices, the strengthening of democracy through new leadership and innovative thinking is very limited. Rather, politics tends to be reproduced through established networks and bonds with a low degree of permissiveness, which reinforces the nature of the competitive authoritarian regime under the control of ‘old men’.
AFRICAN TRADITIONS OF DEMOCRACY : Assessing the Democraticness of Traditional Political Systems and their Effects on Democracy in Africa
2016, Kromrey, Daniela
Traditional political systems, like chieftaincies and councils of elders, regained political importance in Africa in the 1990s. Coinciding with the Third Wave of Democratisation, this so-called 'resurgence' of traditional systems left scholars to wonder about their democratic compatibility with the state system and their impact on state-level democracy. Two main theoretical arguments persist in the academic literature: The neo-traditional argument contends that traditional leadership is compatible with modern democratic governance due to its inherent democratic elements such as consensual decision-making and public participation. The neo-liberal approach on the other hand argues that traditional authorities contradict the idea of liberal democracy by their very nature, as they disregard gender equality and do not elect their leaders. In this study, I seek to substantiate the theoretical discussion by first, providing original comparative data on the democraticness of contemporary traditional political systems and second, by empirically examining their consequence for democracy in Africa. The original data was gathered in an extensive expert web survey in the first part of this study. The survey data proves that traditional political systems still matter in Africa. The 308 participating experts stated that more than 90% of the politically relevant groups covered by the survey are still organised traditionally. More than half can be considered democratic. However, the diversity among the traditional systems is huge, and very democratic as well as very undemocratic groups are distributed throughout Africa. Consequently, neither the neo-traditionalist nor the neo-liberalist argumentations have a strong empirical reality. The variance in the democraticness of traditional systems can be explained by their structural political attributes. I find that the most democratic traditional systems are characterised by consensual decision-making. The centralisation of their political power, i.e. the difference between hereditary chieftaincies and nomadic tribes with age-set systems, however, is irrelevant for the democraticness of traditional political systems. Even though their democraticness varies hugely, I find in the subsequent empirical analyses that traditional political systems have an impact on state-level democracy in Africa. The analyses demonstrate that centralised traditional systems, like chieftaincies and kingdoms, are best suited to strengthen African democracy, while the democraticness of traditional systems per se is irrelevant. The 'resurgence' of traditional systems thus seems to have led to a hybridisation of the traditional and the state political systems. This hybridisation is empirically found to be conducive to democracy in Africa. The hybridity might consequently symbolise a unique form of democracy, which can evolve towards a 'new' traditional African democracy. Future research on democracy and politics in Africa should thus take traditional political systems seriously as they not only matter to the local population but also impact state-level democracy.
Explaining the Constitutional Integration and Resurgence of Traditional Political Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa
2020-04-27, Holzinger, Katharina, Kern, Florian G., Kromrey, Daniela
Social scientists have recently observed a ‘resurgence’ of traditional political institutions on the constitutional level in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the scope and causes of the resurgence remain unclear. We base our analysis on original data on the degree of constitutional integration of traditional institutions and on their constitutional resurgence since 1990 in 45 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. We test six theoretical explanations for constitutionalization: former colonial rule, democratization, state capacity, economic development, foreign aid and settlement patterns. First, we verify the broad resurgence of traditional political institutions on a constitutional level. Second, our analysis suggests that, particularly in former British colonies, traditional leaders were able to translate the arrangements of British colonial rule as well as the advantages of a country’s deconcentrated settlement pattern into greater constitutional status. Third, settlement patterns proved important for traditional leaders to gain or increase constitutional status – leading to a constitutional resurgence of traditional institutions.
What is a Chief without Land? : Impact of Land Reforms on Power Structures in Namibia
2015-11-30, Behr, Daniela M., Haer, Roos, Kromrey, Daniela
Land is a key element to socio-economic development, peace- and state-building in Africa. It is inherent to local identity and inextricably linked to power. In Namibia, land rights were historically administered and allocated by traditional authorities. However, with the adoption of the 2002 Communal Land Reform Act, these customary land rights were codified. Drawing on qualitative interviews conducted in Namibia with state officials, traditional authorities of the Nama and Ovambo ethnicity, workers and farmers, we show that although it was presented as a decentralization reform, the Act reintroduced the Namibian state as a central actor in land tenure. This has resulted in power struggles between the state and traditional authorities, albeit to varying intensities as some traditional authorities have historically restricted access to communal land and limited political leverage.