Statebuilding and Ethnic Politics in Africa

Yakah, Theophilus, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Waldner, David, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Why are ethnic cleavages politicized in some African countries but not others? This dissertation draws on evidence from three case studies (Ghana, Botswana and Tanzania) to show that the statebuilding strategies employed by nationalist leaders across Africa, during the periods of transition to independence in the 1950s and 1960s, often have long-term consequences for whether or not ethnic cleavages become politicized in their respective countries. Specifically, it argues that two factors ultimately determine whether or not ethnic cleavages become politicized in an African country: (i) whether or not the country in question had powerful institutions of local control (chieftaincy institutions) at the dawn of independence; and (ii) whether or not the nationalist leaders of said country choose to share power with their hereditary chiefs during the period of transition to independence. The dissertation uses process tracing methods to demonstrate that ethnic cleavages become politicized in countries with both powerful chiefs and nationalist leaders who opt to marginalize the hereditary chiefs. Conversely, ethnic cleavages become relatively depoliticized in countries with either weak chieftaincy institutions or nationalist leaders who choose to share power with their chiefs. The evidence from this dissertation suggests important methodological and substantive revisions to the existing literature on the subject of ethnicity and politics in Africa.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Ethnic politics , African politics, Ghana, Tanzania, Botswana, Ethnicity, Ethnic voting, Africa, Elections Africa
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