Journal Article

From patronage to peacebuilding? Elite capture and governance from below in Sierra Leone

Melissa T. Labonte

in African Affairs

Published on behalf of Royal African Society

Volume 111, issue 442, pages 90-115
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0001-9909
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1468-2621 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adr073
From patronage to peacebuilding? Elite capture and governance from below in Sierra Leone

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  • African Studies
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Sierra Leoneans have long seen their governance institutions as unresponsive and inefficient. Following the civil war, the government adopted a plan of fiscal, administrative, and political decentralization to mitigate widespread corruption, enhance accountability, and reverse the over-concentration of central authority in Freetown. The key institutions of decentralization, the chieftaincy system and local councils, play important but uneven decision-making, management, and implementation roles, making the process prone to elite capture. This article analyses the peacebuilding implications resulting from variation in strategies to counter elite capture in decentralization. It argues that the UN's variation of this approach, which focuses on relations between elites, has yielded few positive results. A second variation, employed mainly by international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), focuses on rebalancing asymmetries between elites and non-elites, and has been more effective in sensitizing non-elites to demand good governance and accountability. The challenges of redressing power imbalances between chiefdom actors and non-elites remain, and in addition to continued, robust oversight of local councils, the chieftaincy system requires deeper reforms to guard against further marginalization of non-elites and to achieve liberal peacebuilding goals.

Journal Article.  9741 words. 

Subjects: African Studies ; International Relations ; African History ; Regional Political Studies

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