AFRICAN TRADITIONS OF DEMOCRACY : Assessing the Democraticness of Traditional Political Systems and their Effects on Democracy in Africa

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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.

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ISO 690KROMREY, Daniela, 2016. AFRICAN TRADITIONS OF DEMOCRACY : Assessing the Democraticness of Traditional Political Systems and their Effects on Democracy in Africa [Dissertation]. Konstanz: University of Konstanz
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@phdthesis{Kromrey2016AFRIC-35918,
  year={2016},
  title={AFRICAN TRADITIONS OF DEMOCRACY : Assessing the Democraticness of Traditional Political Systems and their Effects on Democracy in Africa},
  author={Kromrey, Daniela},
  note={Die Dissertation ist auf Mikrofiche erschienen.},
  address={Konstanz},
  school={Universität Konstanz}
}
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April 14, 2016
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Konstanz, Univ., Diss., 2016
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Die Dissertation ist auf Mikrofiche erschienen.
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