Role of state weakness in customary conflict resolution : Case of Kenya and Tanzania

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning

Author: Andrei Lahunou; [2016]

Keywords: Ebharaza; Baraza; CCR; ADR; Africa;


The only way to resolve existing conflicts, mitigate consequences and reduce risks of their reoccurrence is to have efficient instrument for justice delivering. In many weak states and areas across the globe factual absence of a state’s infrastructure, corrupt court system and unbearable litigation costs leave conflict parties no other option, but to resort to violence. It forces affected population to seek for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (ADRs). In African societies, especially in rural areas, the answer is frequently found in Customary Conflict Resolution (CCR). Customary conflict resolution, in many cases, is the only present means preventing bloodshed and consequent spiral of violence. This thesis tries to find out how does state weakness affect usage of customary conflict resolution mechanisms, attempting to underline importance of coexisting of the both. I propose two contradictory hypotheses: H1 – state weakness will have positive correlation with CCRs usage, and H2 – state weakness will have negative correlation with CCRs usage. I argue then that only the H1, widely accepted by scholars, will hold true. I test my main argument on two segments of the Kuria tribe living across the border in Kenya and Tanzania. Surprisingly, the main argument is not supported by the research results, indicating that state weakness doesn’t increase usage of CCRs in the selected cases. Moreover, by finding support for the H2 in case of Tanzania, I assume that a stronger state will have higher usage of customary conflict resolution mechanisms. Therefore, the research contributes to both theoretical and practical domains – academia (by testing existing theories and challenging widely accepted causal story) and policy (by suggesting CCR-related tactics for grassroots NGOs and respective national governments).

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