Shaping Conflict and Perceptions: The Influence of Political Institutions on Ethnicity in Africa

PhD thesis

December 13, 2013

Shaping Conflict and Perceptions: The Influence of Political Institutions on Ethnicity in Africa

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The scholarly debate on which political institutions foster peace in ethnically divided societies is characterized by opposing positions: One the one hand, advocates of the power-sharing theory recommend political institutions that allow for an inclusion of all relevant ethnic factions within the political decision-making arena. One the other hand, within the power-dividing theory, majoritarian political institutions are recommended in order to promote peace between ethnic groups. Whereas both constitutional engineering theories pro- vide profound theoretical arguments that support their claims, the research in this thesis is mainly motivated by the lack of empirical consensus that characterizes the debate. In particular, in this thesis, the ethnic circumstances that allow political institutions to foster peace are identified.

In order to identify these circumstances, I analyze the impact of power-sharing and power-dividing political institutions at three levels of aggregation. First, at the nation-state level, I apply an event-history analysis to determine those ethnic conditions that allow political institutions to promote peace. Since analyses on the nation-state level have been criticized for not consolidating the underlying causal mechanisms of how political institutions in ethnically divided societies foster cooperation between individuals and groups, in a second step, the ethnic group level perspective is analyzed. The applied shared frailty event-history model allows to determine the behavior of ethnic groups under power-sharing and power-dividing political institutions. Finally, the effect of power-sharing and power-dividing political institutions is tested at the individual-level. In particular, a multi-level model is applied in order to analyze the effects of perceived horizontal inequalities between groups. Horizontal inequalities are important as they provide strong arguments for ethnic group members to resort to violent means. The analysis in this thesis allows to fully determine the circumstances under which power-sharing and power-dividing work and how individual and ethnic group incentives for violent actions are linked to the collective societal outcome of civil war.

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As part of my PhD, I have generate two datasets:

  • The first dataset merges all corresponding questions from the Afrobarometer survey (Link)
  • The second merges the ethnic self-classification of the respondents to the EPR data (Link)