Peace from the Past: Pre-colonial Political Institutions and Civil Wars in Africa
By Tore Wig
Research on the relationship between political institutions and civil war has paid insufficient attention to the role of traditional institutions in developing countries.This study presents large-N evidence showing that traditional ethnic institutions with origins prior to Western colonization are associated with the prevalence of civil wars in Africa after independence.
Matching ethnographic data on the pre-colonial political organization of African indigenous groups to contemporary data on ethnic groups in conflict, Wig investigates the relationship between the traditional organization of ethnic groups and ethnic civil wars in Africa after decolonization. Specifically, Wig argues that excluded groups with centralized traditional institutions can rely on these institutions to more credibly bargain with the state, and that this reduces their risk of conflict. Accordingly, Wig finds that excluded groups with centralized pre-colonial institutions are less likely to be involved in civil wars.
This article was published in Journal of Peace Research, Volume 53, Number 4, July 2016.