"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
Friday, January 11, 2013
Notes on African Ethnic Politics (Articles by Roessler, Eifert, and LeVan)
BONUS LINK: My entire (so far) grad school notes collection can be found here.
Notes on African Ethnic Politics (Articles by Roessler, Eifert, and LeVan)
Philip Roessler, “The Enemy Within: Personal Rule, Coups and Civil War in Africa,”
World Politics 63, 2 (April 2011)
- Narrowing regime (by surrounding oneself with same ethnic group people) may seem irrational in the long term—it’s entirely rational in the short term to maintain power.
In this paper, written in 2011, Roessler expands research done in 2009 by Wimmer, Cederman and Min which introduced ethnicity into the power plays of postcolonial African States. Roessler offers Machiavellian like descriptions of personal rule, coups and civil wars backed by extensive (and somewhat confusing) data demonstrating why internal conflict prevails in post-colonial sub-Saharan African countries. He sites specific cases which are interesting and more trust-worthy to his theory (at least to me) than his data, which takes on a being of it’s own.
I recommend reading pages 301-317 and the conclusion to capture Roessler’s principal points. I didn’t really understand the data, but suffice it to say, Roessler thinks the data proves his main points.
Roessler explains post WWII theory opined civil wars in AF tended to be concentrated in the rural periphery of the poor, post-colonial states. Quantitative research attributed this to underlying structural factors such as, low income, large populations, mountainous terrain, and cross border sanctuaries.
In 2009 Wimmer, Cederamn, and Min use qualitative research to claim certain ethno political configurations of power are linked to civil war onset stating, “The outbreak of civil war is correlated with the proportion of the population excluded on the basis of ethnic background.” They go beyond ethnic diversity and discuss the effect of distribution of power across ethnic groups. They make an important theoretical advancement placing competition for state power at the center of their analysis and identifying conditions in which struggles for state power may lead to ethnic conflict.
Roessler wants to explain the logic behind the policies leading to these struggles and confirm the relationship between internal power struggles and political violence.
Roessler hopes to further challenge the structuralist interpretation of civil wars in AF. Roessler seeks to explain why rulers in AF adopt costly strategies of ethnic exclusion. Roessler’s data shows co-conspirators who are not members of the rulers’ ethnic group are significantly more likely than other power holders to stage coups and that they have a poor rate of success. Roessler suggests that regimes’ coup-proofing techniques, while destabilizing and damaging, often prove effective in maintaining the ruler’s legitimate right to power. The cost of quelling a coup sets their opposition up for a civil war and makes in five times more likely a civil war will occur.
Personalist regimes and elites have access to state coercive apparatus and manipulate a patronage system based on ethnic background to control resources. Elites seek to out maneuver each other, which causes internal power struggles making the elimination of rivals imperative.
Rulers employ a strategy to neutralize internal threats and secure their power the cost of which – when done along ethnic lines – is the state’s social control and vulnerability to civil wars.
Rulers make this choice gambling that a coup d’état is a more immediate and dangerous threat than a civil war.
Regimes use ethnic accommodation in which elites from rival ethnic groups are co-opted and or incorporated into the system. This sort of ethnic brokerage involves distributing state resources among elites along ethnic lines.
The elite becomes “militarized” in that they have access to state security/ coercive apparatus making these military/ police forces a counterpoint to political parties. Pg 309-310 The internal violence characterized in some post-colonial regimes employing elite accommodation and ethnic brokerage involve trading the conditions of an internal threat/ coup d’etat for those of civil war.
One indication of ethnic accommodation is frequent shifting of ministers, commanders, and top bureaucrats to prevent threatening centers of power from coalescing, which is costly, to efficiency and productivity. Pg 309-310
Ethnic Exclusion – suspecting that a rival’s co-ethnics are sympathetic to a plotters bid for power or political objectives, the ruler moves to purge the ethnic group from the regime.
All the above methods displace the ethnic conflict from the regimes internal power system in to the society where it is distant and less threatening to the regime. This does, however, create advantages for the excluded group to stage civil war or insurgencies.
Roessler proposes the two following testable implications:
Ethnic exclusion substitutes civil war for coup risk.
Rulers are more likely to exclude a group with a foothold in the state’s coercive apparatus than another less threatening group despite the risk of civil war.
Roesler collects data from 35 sub-Saharan countries, 220 groups and 7,197 group years using data from Wimmer, Cederman, Min’s Ethnic Power Relations (EPR). Pg 317
Roessler explains his data from pages 317-337.
Roessler suggests his data succeed in challenging the structuralist interpretation of civil war in AF. He offers a more dynamic theoretical explanation that views a significant subset of civil wars as emanating from struggles for power within (italics used by Roessler) central governments.
Benn Eifert, Eduard Miguel and Daniel N. Posner, “Political Competition and Ethnic
Identification in Africa,” American Journal of Political Science 54, 2 (April
- Electoral dynamics are having some effect on ethnic identity. Ethnicity is NOT the largest identity—more people cited occupation (ethnicity is second most, followed (distantly) by gender and age). However, everyone vastly placed national identity at the forefront.
- The closer you are to the election, the more likely you are to think about your ethnicity. Journalists are more of primordialists—however academics roundly reject this and say it’s all instrumental.
The authors employ extensive data collection and analysis to the question concerning the role ethnicity plays in African elections. They rely on a multi-country survey project known as the Afrobarometer (pg 497) to gather their data. The Afrobarometer and this study encompass 35,505 people surveyed through 22 rounds in 10 countries between 1999 and 2004. People were asked one question concerning their member of an ethnic group.
This is a very data-centric analysis. The theoretical aspects of the project and ethnicity are dealt within pp 494-500. Pgs. 500-507 describes their methods of collection and findings.
The central result is that exposure to political competition powerfully affects whether or not survey respondents identify themselves in ethnic terms.
This finding based on data previously lacking provides strong confirmation for situational understanding of ethnicity that link the importance of social identity (ethnicity) to instrumental political mobilization.
Strong evidence that ethnic identification is heightened by exposure to political mobilization, the findings do not support the proposition that political competition does not account for baseline of ethnic identification that make mobilizing the ethnic group so useful in African countries.
An increase in competitiveness of African elections does not instigate ethnic violence.
Countries with periodic competitive elections experience fluctuations in ethnic salience correlated with the electoral cycle.
The research is provided poses firm empirical foundations that prior research did not use. Prior two schools of thought purport ethnic identities are important because the 1) reflect traditional loyalties or 2) ethnicity is important because it is functional.
The research presented in the paper support the second functional argument.
The research suggests ethnicity comes about as a function of politics and competition for the state center rather than a cultural predisposition hard-wired “in the blood.”
In a concluding theory posed on Pg 508, the authors suggest African nations adopt policies and institutional mechanisms capable of dealing with ethnic divisions or seemingly eliminating them.
The authors make several assumptions that may be interpreted differently such as those described on Pg 506 on the right-hand column paragraphs two and three.
They describe some negative aspects of their data and collection briefly on Pp 498 and 499.
A. Carl LeVan, “Power Sharing and Inclusive Politics in Africa’s Uncertain
Democracies,” Governance 24, 1 (January 2011)