Traditional Chiefs and Democratic Political Culture for Africa
Date and Start Time 29 June, 2017 at 14:00
Chiefs contribute to democratic political culture in various African countries. Chieftaincy is rather an asset than an impediment for promotion of democracy. African chiefs facilitate power of the powerless
The panel will discuss data on chiefs's contribution to democratic political culture in various African countries. Is it possible to assume that a kind of new indirect rule could emerge in Africa, in which African chiefdoms balance imported neo-colonial statehood? Do chiefs make governance more democratic through the feedback ordinary Africans give via their chiefs? We believe that the quality of governance in modern African states is to a varying degree dependent on support of traditional chiefs. Chiefdoms function as stabilizers or destabilizers of states in which they continue to exist. As a number of recent studies show the role of chiefs can be more influential than that of modern bureaucrats. While chieftaincy claims legitimity from the past, this legacy is rather an asset than an impediment for promotion of democracy. African chiefs facilitate power of the powerless. The panel will bring together those who find that African chiefdoms play an important part in modern politics.
Chair: Florian Kern
Discussant: Francis Nyamnjoh
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
African chiefs as brokers of democratic political culture
The paper attempts to define criteria under which African chiefs can be facilitators of democratic governance in modern post-colonial states.If chiefs manage to observe moral imperatives they can promote their subjects into citizens of modern states without losing the continuity of their identity.
The proposed paper will discuss and determine what kind of African chiefs have been true brokers of democratic political culture and thus function as actors of modern political life without being necessarily bogged down in party political bickering and political corruption which makes many African modern post-colonial states so unstable and authoritarian. Chiefs' authority is based on moral and supernatural precepts and relies on the support and trust of the people. The grassroot and consensus character of chieftaincy is the guarantee of democratic governance both within chiefdoms and beyond. Chiefs are or can be watchdogs of democracy without being elected. This paradox of hereditary recruitment and ability to act democratically is a specific feature of modern African politics. The paper will introduce a number of cases from different African countries.
Chieftaincy, commemoration ceremonies and political culture in democratic South Africa
How did violent conflict affect the legitimacy of chieftaincy and political culture in KwaZulu-Natal? The paper analyses commemoration ceremonies and explains how chiefs make us of them in order to legitimize their rule and what this means for political culture in democratic South Africa.
How did the period of violent conflict (called "udlame" in isiZulu) from the early 1980s until the late 1990s affect the legitimacy of chieftaincy and political culture in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)? The present paper tries to answer this question by applying the concept of "basic legitimacy". My argument is that the acceptance of chiefs is based on the accumulation of basic legitimacies and specifically on the "basic legitimacy of violent resistance". It refers to resistance against a political order that is perceived as arbitrary and unjust and it provides the organizers with compliance by their subordinates even beyond the original phase of violent resistance. The significance of the basic legitimacy of violent resistance becomes clear in commemoration ceremonies, which are a common feature of political culture in KwaZulu-Natal in the post-apartheid era. The paper illustrates and analyses such commemoration ceremonies and explains how chiefs make us of them in order to legitimize their rule and what this more generally means for political culture in democratic South Africa.
Power to the powerless? Chiefs in conflicts over land in Ghana
Chiefs are key players in Ghana’s land administration framework and thus in negotiating recently increasing land transactions. By comparing two cases of conflicts over land, I highlight how the actions of traditional authorities impact the emergence and dynamics of related conflicts.
In this paper, I analyze how traditional authorities' (chiefs) actions are linked to land transactions and related conflicts by examining two cases of large-scale land commodification processes in the Ashanti and Northern Region of Ghana. The paper will be based on empirical data gathered during fieldwork in November 2015 and March to June 2016.
Chiefs are key players in Ghana's land administration framework which is based on a pluralistic legal system: The customary and the statutory system. Approximately 80% of land is administrated under the customary tenure regime with chiefs holding the land in trust for their communities and thus playing a crucial role in land transactions. Particularly large-scale land commodification processes are frequently contested and result in conflicts.
Regardless of a sharp increase of chiefs' power in recent years, especially international donors tend to see traditional authorities mainly as mediators within their communities and between the community and third parties as well as agents of development facilitating the implementation of development projects. But traditional authorities are not anachronistic. They have been shaped in a specific historical and socio-political context and are subject to cultural and political change which by itself is contested within society.
By comparing two cases of conflicts over large scale land commodification processes I highlight how traditional authorities are perceived in conflicts over land by local residents, how they perceive their own role, what narratives are used to legitimize or delegitimize their actions, and in what ways different forms of traditional rule impact the emergence and dynamics of conflicts over land.
« Traditional » chiefs and the elections in the late-colonial period in Senegal
This paper seeks to present the neglected role of the local chiefs in the history of voting socialization in Senegal.
This paper is based on a broader work about elections inside chieftaincies in colonial Senegal and we expect to discuss some results. It aims to focus on chiefdoms as places where many Senegalese people were socialized to voting and on the role played by chiefs in that socialization. Firstly, we will briefly put the chief elections by secret ballot of the late 50's into historical perspective, showing how on a small scale local electoral traditions or rules were sometimes negotiated between the colonial administration and "traditional" families. Then, we will study the transition to almost completely "modern" electoral procedures from the 1930's to the end of the 1950's showing how the colonial administration intended to build a separate procedure, with an ambiguous democratic and political status, even in its material aspects. We will especially center on the local resistances or adaptations from "traditional" families, emphasizing on how voting had been sometimes rejected, but also profoundly supported. For this, we will intend to present some relevant case-studies, through the record of colonial archives and oral investigations, especially life histories of the two last survivors chef de canton that have been elected (Abdul Kader Agne from Fuuta Toro and Babacar Mbaye Fall from Diet Salao). In this way, the paper offers an opportunity to nuance the opposition between chieftaincy and democracy and to understand the role played by some chiefs or chief families in the promotion of voting in the Senegalese countryside and cities.
The role of Sufi marabouts in the development of democratic political culture in Senegal
Marabouts, Islamic leaders present in W. Africa since the XIth century, have played a central role in the construction of the Senegalese state since its colonial inception. The aim of the paper is to assess the political role marabouts still play in contemporary democratic culture of Senegal.
Marabouts, Sufi Islamic leaders have been present in West Africa since the XIth century. Marabouts have played a particularly central role in the construction of the Senegalese state since its colonial inception substituting the traditional Wolof chiefs in the colonial political system imposed by the French. The aim of the paper is to assess the political role marabouts still play in contemporary democratic culture of Senegal.
Though the relationship and the political-economic entanglements between Sufi leaders and the actors that gave birth to the Senegalese state has always been central feature of the political process of this country, this relationship has evolved over time.
From early mutual distrust between mouride marabouts and French colonizers at the end of the XIXth century, the relationship has evolved throughout the XXth to a relation mainly of cooperation and exchange of different kind of services. Symbolic reciprocal legitimation is one of these services marabouts and Senegalese politicians (either colonial or independent) have always exchanged and one that has persisted over time.
In this paper I would like to underline this symbolic dimension of the relation between the religious Islamic society (marabouts and followers) and the construction and enhancement of a democratic political culture in contemporary Senegal.
Particularly, I would like to draw attention to the evolution of the expression of this relationship in terms of dialectics present between the construction of the religious identity of marabouts and disciples in the one hand, and the political identity of citizenship and nation in the other.
Power-sharing in a colonial situation? Parallel rule of colonial authorities and Tuareg chiefs in Northern Mali
The paper reconstructs the power-relations between colonial authorities and a group of local chiefs in Northern Mali. It highlights the fact that in this ‘colonial situation’ (Balandier) the chiefs disposed of a degree of power comparable to the one the colonial authorities exerted.
The paper reconstructs the power-relations between colonial authorities and a group of local chiefs in Northern Mali. It highlights the fact that in this 'colonial situation' (Balandier) the chiefs disposed of a degree of power comparable to the one the colonial authorities exerted. By using the concept of 'basic legitimacy', the paper shows that in anthropological and sociological studies on power one form of basic legitimacy is of particular relevance: the basic legitimacy of the protection against violence. It is further argued that this holds true for the study of any form of power, state and non-state ones, in or outside a 'colonial situation'.
Pioneers, Political Entrepreneurs and Political Practices in the Borderland of Egypt and Libya
Due to their persistence, flexibility and the adequacy of their conduct the local Bedouin politicians in the borderland of Egypt and Libya y have been able to remain important “producers of order” beside, beyond and with but not necessarily against the state.
Local politicians carry many names and labels in social anthropology. The common denominator is usually the intermediary position of local politicians between (local) populations and different kinds of centralized authority. I will argue that the local is the principle place where political order of the borderland is generated. It is the space where local and regional politicians, opinion leaders and groups act as gatekeepers between the (weak) state, the vitality of the local arena, and the transnational sphere. The principal architects of this order are local politicians of the Awlad 'Ali tribal federation. My understanding of local politicians (and locality) refers to political ideas and practices that are directly related to and embedded in a concrete place like a village, town, or region, or a specific social group. At the same time, these local politicians might be interconnected with practices and discourses that go beyond the local arena into centers and cities across state borders and sovereignties and even into global political currents. The politicians are located at the interfaces of the local, the national and transnational political fields. The political practices in the borderland are based on a substantial historical depth of experience (in politics) that often comprises several generations and thus goes beyond the lifespan of postcolonial states and their regimes. Due to their persistence, flexibility and the adequacy of their conduct they have been able to remain important "producers of order" beside, beyond and with but not necessarily against the state.
Chieftaincy and the politics of distribution: the case of an agricultural input subsidy programme in a village in rural Malawi.
Looking at the case of a village in rural Malawi, I argue that chieftaincy can play an important role in ensuring that people in Southern Africa are not socially or economically cast off, even as the region's economy threatens to leave them in a state of abjection.
Currently there appears little prospect that the Southern African economy will be able provide enough jobs to adequately support the region's population in the future. As a result there has been growing interest in alternative ways in which the distribution of resources may be justified in the region, beyond claims based on labour and production. James Ferguson has called for scholars to keep their 'ears to the ground' to listen to the way people in Southern Africa make alternative claims. This article attempts to meet this call using an ethnographic case study of an agricultural extension programme in a rural Malawian village. Officially the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) targets Malawian farmers who are unable to produce crops. In the village though the distribution was based on a very different logic; it marked the relations of dependence that existed between villagers and their chief. I show that while the chief ended up with more inputs than most of his villagers, the programme made it possible for villagers to press claims with him, limiting the extent to which they could be excluded. I subsequently argue that, while they are no longer valued within the market economy, chieftaincy can play an important role in ensuring that people in Malawi and Southern Africa more broadly are not cast off completely.
Boundaries to formality: Traditional Authorities negotiating their roles between state bureaucracy and local autocracy
Namibia’s land reform has resulted in a curious intertwinement of formal and informal spheres of governance, with the Traditional Authorities standing as the gatekeepers between the two. Their governing strategies thus reflect how manoeuvres may transgress and combine the boundaries to formality.
The communal land reform in Namibia has resulted in a curious intertwinement of formal and informal spheres of governance. The formalisation of customary land titles reflects two efforts; to decentralise, and to prevent despotic behaviour of local authorities. Its core feature is the inclusion of Traditional Authorities, and integration of their laws, jurisdictions, and scope of local sovereignty into the national legal and institutional framework. While the legal frameworks state a clear legal subordination of the customary to the statutory laws, in reality, this demand is often ambiguous or simply impractical.
Despite extensive efforts to conform traditional institutions with the basic norms of national policy, there remain fundamental differences between national and local authorities. As each position refers to certain interpretations of jurisdiction, space and time, their understandings of justice and just governance differ. Consequently, the formal integration of Traditional Authorities amounts to the state's acceptance of informal practices and governance systems.
However, far from being indulged by their formal inclusion, Traditional Authorities are confronted with competing institutions, and their alternative paradigm of justice and control. Aiming for continued legitimisation, they are forced to manoeuvre in response to the state's institutional and spatial intrusions into communal land matters. Such manoeuvres may both or either refer to formal and informal norms, laws and understandings of just land management. This contribution thus looks at how Traditional Authorities negotiate their legitimacy at the threshold of informality and formality, and how they employ either scope to gain legitimacy in their local authority position.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.