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Essays on traditional institutions and their impact on economic and political outcomes

Kpaka, Henry Musa (2021) Essays on traditional institutions and their impact on economic and political outcomes. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis consists of three separate, but related papers on how traditional political institutions exist alongside the modern African state to affect political, social and economic outcomes. It uses Sierra Leone as a case study, a country whose chieftaincy institution is typical of traditional institutions promoted by the British colonial masters. The first paper argues the inclusion of traditional institutions in the formal state in Sierra Leone was the result of a political bargain between educated elites and traditional leaders over which elite groups would form the first independent government. The outcome of the bargain explains why the traditional institution in Sierra Leone has remained relevant. The paper also shows that uneven access by traditional political leaders to formal state governance is associated with inequalities in education and health outcomes at independence, and that some of the effect has persisted over time. This paper provides possible reasons for the unequal economic development within the country today. The second paper investigates the effect of competition for the highest political office within the chieftaincy institutions in Sierra Leone. I use a plausibly exogenous variation in the competitiveness for selecting a paramount chief, and exogenous conflict shocks to chiefdom politics to highlight a political logic that shaped the patterns of civilian fatalities during the country’s decade long civil war (1991 to 2002). I show that the intensity of competition is positively associated with the number of civilian fatalities. This paper further shows that chiefdoms with possible power sharing arrangements among chiefly elites experienced fewer deaths. The findings here highlight a potential drawback to competition and suggest a careful investigation of how political competition shapes other social dimensions, such as collective action and social cohesion. The final paper examines the extent to which a hybrid of state and traditional institutions can work to provide public goods, in this case, dispute resolution in rural areas. To do this, I evaluate a national policy that introduced Chiefdom Land Committees (CLCs) to resolve land disputes in rural areas. CLCs are best viewed as a hybrid of formal and informal institutions. CLCs combine customary norms with formal state processes such as open deliberation, impartiality, and representation of interest groups in land administration and dispute resolution. Using a difference in-difference design, I find that on average, chiefdoms with CLCs have higher land caseloads in the formal courts three years on. By adopting the CLCs, chiefdoms plausibly made land issues more salient, but instead of providing final resolutions, CLCs are conduits for the formalization of land disputes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Henry Musa Kpaka
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Wehner, Joachim and Wolton, Stephane

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