Political participation and micro-politics in African states
Tareq Sydiq, Center for Conflict Studies at the University of Marburg
This panel focuses on studies contributing to African micro-politics as rooted in communities and lifeworlds. It does so through case studies examining the relationship of micro-politics with the state’s political and bureaucratic institutions.
Recent studies on African Statehood and Statebuilding have illustrated inadequacies in conceptualizing politics around a unified, institutionalized state and have developed understandings of politics as a multidirectional process rooted in social communities and lifeworlds as much as political and bureaucratic institutions associated with the state. This is especially urgent in post-colonial states, which face institutions weakly associated with societies, but not necessarily weak societies or social engagement, as well as authoritarian states, which in regulating institutionalized politics push political processes outside of official channels. These findings raise important questions for research on African politics: How do people pursue political interests, when institutions conventionally understood to accumulate such interests fail to do so both intentionally and due to inadequacies? And are they building alternative social institutions?
Political institutions are regarded beyond the nation state; international institutions and actors provide similar points of access to Africans pursuing political goals and can be used strategically, while also exerting repressive power on multiple levels. With international organizations, NGOs, foreign states and regional organizations present, political, military and economic power is multiscalar, requiring multiscalar strategies in dealing with them. This panel thus invites contributions which focus on empirically showing how Africans pursue political goals within challenging institutional frameworks. Especially encouraged are Sociological or Anthropological case studies which shift attention away from institutional logics of state building toward citizen’s strategies in dealing with existing institutions to work with, circumvent or subvert them. It encourages theoretical papers discussing whether informal politics and social institutions have the capacity to offer alternatives to conventional states, explaining enduring challenges to expansive institutions while providing a possible vision of a non-statist state.
01 Kairedin Tezera: Dymanics of Legal Pluralism and Hybridism: the case of customary, religious and State legal systems among Muslim Siltie People southern Ethiopia
The Siltie legal landscape consists of three parallel legal systems, namely the religious, the customary and the state legal systems. The religious legal system comprises: Sharia courts, courts of local Mashayik/Waliyes, and the recently developed Salafi Social committee which is favoured mostly by young educated Muslims. The state legal system, on the other hand, consists of the state imposed modes of dispute resolution and some public institutions and associated rules, while the customary legal system comprises the respective norms, and values of the local communities. This paper explores the responsibilities of the different courts, and shows how actors from the three different courts interact and compete for local power positions among the Siltie people in southern Ethiopia.
All the three legal systems portray intra-system plurality. In the religious realm, Sheiks and young Salafi Imams who are not on the Sharia courts, for instance, enjoys wider legitimacy than state installed Qadis due to the respect they earn as men with deep knowledge of Islam and integrity. They do not agree often with the Qadis because the latter usually are aligned with political power indicating the existence of intra-faith conflict between the Sufi based dispute settlers, young Salafis and the Qadis over legitimacy.
The findings of this study indicate that dispute settlers from the three courts borrow local norms and legal concepts from each other to pass verdicts in their respective courts indicating the emergence of a hybridized legal practice in the area. It indicates further that while the Ethiopian constitution limits the jurisdiction of customary and religious courts to personal law and family law, practically they often exceed their official responsibilities and handle all forms of disputes, including criminal cases and even homicide. Elders and religious figures (Sheiks and Imams) use their mediation services not only to settle conflicts, but also to generate local power.
The interactions of the three courts is characterized by cooperation and contestation. By portraying their services as instruments to reinstating disputants into the community rather than sanctioning legal norms, customary court judges present themselves as more important actors than others. State and Sharia court judges have developed a divided loyalty towards state rules, Islam and the local custom and also favor the customary courts due to their effective functioning and handling of legal cases and great acceptance in the area. The state courts, for instance, refer family dispute cases and negligence crimes (like car accident cases) to elders' courts since the customary courts end the cases in a more constructive ways and pays attention to a restorative justice to prevail in the area. Elders , on the other hand seek the assistance of state court judges when they handle domestic violence.
Kairedin Tezera is an Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.
02 Christopher Appiah-Thompson, Jim Jose, Tod Moore: Examining the Role of Customary Institutions and Culture in the Resolution of Electoral Conflict in Ghana
Since the democratization of various African states in the 1990s, the reality has often failed to match the promise of democracy. This has occasionally manifested in disputes, sometimes violent, over electoral outcomes. The losing parties have refused to accept the outcomes alleging manipulation of the electoral laws, processes, and results by the incumbent party. Such disputes point to possible limitations in the performance of formal institutions such as the electoral commissions, the associated electoral laws and the judiciary in ensuring their peaceful resolution even where there may be no actual large-scale electoral violence. This paper argues that in addition to these institutional mechanisms there is an important role played by the informal traditional conflict resolution strategies and the positive values in the (political) culture. It does this by examining the case in Ghana in 2012 when the losing party vehemently disputed the results. The paper draws on the empirical reports of election observers and journalists; the views of electoral officials, legal actors, politicians, and judicial records. It is argued that traditional methods for conflict resolution were effectively deployed to complement the weakness of the formal adjudication role of the electoral commission and the judiciary. It also demonstrates how these traditional peacebuilding strategies can help to infuse innovation, sustainability, and creativity in delivering free and fair electoral outcomes as well as peace, justice, and security.
Christopher Appiah-Thompson is a Doctoral Candidate in Politics at Australia’s University of Newcastle.
03 Liliana Narvaez-Rodriguez: Namibia’s trajectory of peace: A case for institutional hybridity
Namibia’s ethnic microcosm characterised also by the presence of both horizontal and vertical inequality puts it as a perfect case for potential ethnic violence, however, despite the propensity for ethnic violent disputes arising, no armed conflict has flourished. Why is it that Namibia has been successful in avoiding solving its ethnic disputes by violent action? What has Namibia done differently from other countries in the region that has laid down a path of peaceful solution to ethnic disputes? The research programme on ethnic armed conflict and civil war onset presents significant agreement on the importance of political inclusion and power-sharing agreements, though it has surprisingly neglected the study of informal institutions in reaching this conclusion. Despite them being a fundamental part of how politics is conducted in African regimes, they have been disregarded in the contemporary study of conflict and peace, ignoring the event of finding cases in which ethnic groups are formally included in power but yet resolve to violence. From a historical neoinstitutionalist perspective, the present case study analysis seeks to provide an analysis of Namibia’s trajectory of peace by incorporating the full spectrum of institutions (formal and informal). I therefore analyse the impact of informal institutions in the form of traditional leadership in Namibia (1919-2012) and explore whether they had any impact in avoiding the violent solution to ethnic disputes. By drawing on Afrobarometer data (rounds 2-6) and primary and secondary sources, I find that the recognition and further integration of traditional leadership into formal state structures through both the Traditional Authorities Act (1995) and the Regional Council Act (1997) created a hybrid system which enhanced the legitimacy of the nation-state formal institutions. This alternative to a conventional statehood form, firstly, allowed the people to bring forward ethnic disputes indirectly to the Namibian state; and secondly, expanded the state’s arm to unreachable rural and isolated communities. Namibia’s trajectory of peace therefore presents a case for institutional hybridity presenting the workability of traditional leadership within modern state structures and serves as an example of the inoperability of conventional democratic mechanisms in these societies. In this way, the peaceful resolution of ethnic disputes in Namibia is explained by the efficient redistribution of political participation, economic assets and social services through both formal and informal mechanisms of distribution.
Liliana Narvaez-Rodriguez is an HPL Lecturer at the Universidad de La Sabana in Bogotá, Colombia.
04 Martina Santschi: Negotiating statehood and authority: Trajectories of (post-) civil war governance structures and practices in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, South Sudan
South Sudan has a long history of civil wars (1955-1972, 1983-2005, 2013-2018). These civil wars have strongly shaped local governance structures and practices in South Sudan. As such, after the second civil war officially ended in 2005, state building did not start from scratch nor did it so in 2011 after the independence of South Sudan. Instead, the current local government entities are deeply rooted in socio-political structures and in the local government established by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) during the second civil war (1983-2005).
In the case study of Aweil East County, formerly part of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state, “traditional” socio-political institutions intersect with administrative chieftaincies and local government administrative entities. These local government structures including a judiciary were introduced by the SPLM/A as part of the Civil Authority of the New Sudan. Interestingly, these new entities and their practices partly refer to chieftaincies and chiefs the colonial administration had established in the early 20<sup>th</sup> century. However, the administrative chieftaincies at the same time correspond with “traditional” socio-political structures including cattle camps and clans and refer to spiritual leaders. During the last decades, insurgents, traditional leaders and citizens have shaped, negotiated but also competed over authority, governance practices and structures in local political arenas.
This paper explores the trajectories of governance structures and practices in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal during and after the second civil war. As such, the article sheds light on the introduction of the new structures and practices by the SPLM/A and describes the interlinks and overlaps of socio-political structures, chieftaincies and local government entities. Lastly, the paper illustrates how a variety of actors including insurgents, traditional authorities and citizens contested, claimed and negotiated statehood, authority and governance practices in local political areas during and after the second civil war. This paper is based on empirical data collected during extended field research between 2007 to 2010 for a doctoral thesis in social anthropology and more recent field research between 2014 and March 2018.
Martina Santschi is senior researcher at swisspeace in Bern and associated researcher at the University of Basel, Switzerland.
05 Tim Glawion: How outsourced security and public goods support or undermine rebel governance: the case of Ndélé, Central African Republic
Non-governmental organizations, international institutions, and even armed groups are challenging the traditional norm of the “Weberian state” as the monopoly-wielding actor over key public domains such as security and education. What are the effects on people’s access to public services, when indeed alternative providers step in? The rebel-held town of Ndélé in the Central African Republic provides an insightful case study of multi-actor governance under the predominance of a rebel group. One could assume that the competition between international, state, and armed group actors leads to a race to the top in service provision to gain popular legitimacy. However, the opposite can be observed. By analysing a ‘hard power’ governance sector – security – and a ‘soft power’ domain – education – we show how the interactions between the three types of actors lead to a lack of accountability towards the population and undermine the creation of long-term institutions needed to provide decent public services. By delegating all public sectors to the state or internationals, while dominating the security sectors, Ndélé’s rebels shield themselves from criticism without allowing sectors to function on their own, creating a genius inefficiency that prolongs their rule. The outcome is that rebels continue to profit from the situation, while Ndélé remains one of the least-developed areas of the world and witnesses continued armed conflict. The findings are indicative to other conflict zones in Somalia, Afghanistan, or Libya, where state, international and armed groups compete over and unwillingly substitute for one another in the provision of services.
The town of Ndélé has been selected as a typical case of rebel governance. The goal of in-depth research of such a singular case is to draw general results that can be applied to other regions with similarities to this typical case. We used site-intensive methods inspired by anthropology and applied to political studies. In June and July of 2018 we visited the Central African Republic, dividing our time between the capital and Ndélé, carrying out 28 interviews as well as several focus group discussions and studying a wide range of primary documents. In March and April 2019, local researchers conducted a follow-up trip to Ndélé, conducting interviews and a qualitative survey. Our local collaborators conducted ten key stakeholder interviews and 60 qualitative surveys. Based on this data we used process tracing and hermeneutic analysis to study how Ndélé’s education and security sector are governed.
Tim Glawion is a research fellow at the GIGA Institute in Hamburg.
06 Nestor Zante : When the State fails to provide security: vigilantism and co-production of security in rural Burkina Faso
Since a regime change took place in 2014, Burkina Faso experiences a collapse of security in the context of the threatening Islamist movement in the country’s North. With the increase of insecurity, self-defense groups known as Koglwéogo, “bush guardians”, began to form up in 2015. Composed of almost all the components of the community - farmers, herders, local traders, young people, the elderly, men and women -, its objective is to defend their communities and to protect their property. Considered illegal by the Burkinabe state and legitimized by local traditional leaders, in the last five years, the Koglwéogo groups had contributed to reinstall security in many villages. Today these groups are to be found in large parts of the country. They proclaim the return to traditional law, thereby rejecting the legal executive institutions as being meaningless and corrupted. The extending security vacuum in Burkina Faso led to the creation of a “state within the state” where most state functions are now executed by the Koglwéogo groups.
Based on five months of research among the Koglwéogo group of the Province of Zoundwéogo, the Eastern region of Burkina Faso, this paper examines the conflicting relation between the Koglwéogo, the communal leaders and the state, represented by institutions of police, gendarmerie and justice. I answer to three questions: How do Koglwéogo groups relate to the Burkinabè state? How do they negotiate their role as non-state actor’s security providers? How do traditional institutions impact the group and its legitimacy?
Nestor Zante is a doctoral student in African Studies, affiliated to the Institute of Political Science and Sociology, at the university of Würzburg.
07 Alzbeta Svablova: Early warning in Liberia: Fostering the disconnections between the state and its citizens
In Liberia, there is a number of different initiatives active in the field of early warning. All of them are characterized by their disconnectedness from the state. The proposed paper analyses one of Liberia’s early warning projects, the Early Warning Early Response (EWER) and argues that the dynamics of its functioning effectively reinforce the gap between the state and its citizens, with substantial consequences for the image of the state as the primary response actor.
EWER was established in 2011, before the second postwar elections, to facilitate monitoring of electoral violence. Afterwards, it was maintained in the form of an interactive on-line platform fed with information about incidents of violence from the grassroots level. The initiative was coordinated by a voluntary group, comprising mainly NGOs and civil society organizations, based in Monrovia. The system builds upon an alternative understanding of warning and, more importantly, of early response. Instead of relying on the capacity of state-related response actors (e.g. police), largely absent beyond the capital, communities use their own mechanisms of conflict prevention and resolution, based on local capacities. Local actors represent the central component of the system and also its primary beneficiaries. The original ambition of the EWER project was to provide timely information and conflict-related expertise to decision-makers, which could be used for advocacy or policy planning. However, the objective did not materialize.
EWER, as a bottom-up system of early warning, represents an alternative mode of conflict management. It has a high level of local legitimacy, is flexible and provides a timely, targeted response. At the same time, it offers a form of participation for the periphery of the country and acknowledges the agency of grassroots actors outside the political center. By so doing, it challenges the long-established pattern of a one-directional flow of information from the capital to the “rest” of the country.
Building upon the empirical case of Liberia’s early warning system(s), the proposed paper analyses the dynamics of the relationship between the state- and non-state actors in a context of an externally-led state-building intervention.
Alžběta Šváblová is an associated lecturer at the University of Bayreuth.
08 Kayode Onipede: Pelupelu: A Complementary Perspective to Governance in Nigeria (1900-1958)
Pelupelu is the combination of two systems of government, that is, monarchism and modernism, represented by the traditional and political elites in the management of the affairs of the Ekiti people from 1900-1958. The unadventurous elites headed by the monarchs, as custodians of culture, complimented the efforts of the colonial government and were primary/essential in the administration of the Native Authorities (NA) within the period. The monarchs coordinated age-grades, traditional guilds and the youths to complement and provide support for the government. They attended to customary-related cases in the palace courts, like land matters, marital issues and security, among others. Using the indigenous social and political structure, they mobilized citizens as subjects to contribute to social development by building schools and constructing roads as civic duties and responsibilities.
Studies, however, suggested that the challenge of good governance in Africa resulted from the relegation of the indigenous institutions in post-colonial administration, particularly in Nigeria. The relegation, some scholars have argued hindered Nigeria social developments with significant security challenges threatening her fabric.
This paper, therefore, examines pelupelu: a complementary perspective to governance in Nigeria (1900-1958) to understudy and expose the relevance of indigenous socio-political institutions to addressing the challenges of security and proper management of Nigeria. The study will adopt a historical method of data exploration, using oral interviews, archival materials, journal articles and textbooks. The data will be analyzed and interpreted descriptively.
The paper proposes a functional synergy between monarchism and modernity to bridge the gap of political indifference and further social cohesion necessary for good governance in Nigeria.
Kayode Onipede currently works at the
Department of General Studies, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology.