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When Politicians Cede Control of Resources: Land, Chiefs, and Coalition-Building in Africa

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Why would politicians give up power over the allocation of resources to community leaders? This article examines why many African governments have ceded power over the allocation of land to unelected traditional leaders. In contrast to the existing literature, which suggests that traditional leaders' power is a historical holdover that has not been eliminated due to weak state capacity, I argue that African political leaders often choose to cede power to traditional leaders as a means of mobilizing electoral support from non-coethnics. I find support for this argument using a new subnational dataset that includes approximately 180 regions in eighteen African countries. The cross-sectional analysis is complemented by case studies of the dynamics of the devolution of power to traditional chiefs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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