P050 – Engaging with Elites. Repercussions for Mobilization in Sub-Saharan Africa
8 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Söderström Johanna / Department of Government, Uppsala University
Brosché Johan / Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University


In order to understand political mobilization, scrutinizing the relationship between the political elites and citizens is crucial. Civil society and political parties often constitute an important connecting lens between the elite and citizens. Political mobilization can give voice to both democratic forces and violence. This panel seeks to depict the role of elites in Sub-Saharan Africa in shaping mobilization in terms of channels and content, as well as local communities’ ability to influence the agency of elites in their own right. What kinds of cues from the elite are central to encouraging mobilization as well as detrimental to mobilization? When is local and individual mobilization dependent on the political elite, and when is it independent thereof? This panel seeks to move beyond simply understanding the role of patronage for mobilization, and deepen the understanding of the political interaction between elites and citizens. Decisions taken by elites are often influenced by the institutional setting in which these decisions are taken. Although both elite-interaction and institutions are focused upon in previous research, this is rarely done in combination. This panel seeks to remedy this situation by encouraging papers that combines an actor and institutional focus. Methodologically, this panel is open to various types of data collection (surveys, in-depth interviews, participant observation etc.) to address these issues.


Paper 1

Osei Anja / University of Konstanz

Elite integration and political representation in Ghana and Togo

There can be no doubt that elites are important actors in political processes. There is, however, surprisingly little systematic engagement with African elites. Taking the unsatisfying state of research as a starting point, the paper that is proposed here systematically compares elite structures in Ghana and Togo. Two dimensions are in the focus: the social composition of elites and their patterns of interaction (horizontal integration) and the relationship between elites and the wider population (vertical integration or representation). The empirical evidence is based on a unique data set on the social background, attitudes, and intra-elite interaction patterns of Members of Parliament (MPs) in each of the countries. Data collection took place in 2013 and 2014 in cooperation with local partners. Based on this data, the paper will explore if and how elites in Ghana and Togo differ in their social characteristics and attitudes. Using social network analysis the paper will also analyze the structure of intra-elite interactions. It will be shown that Members of Parliament in Ghana form a dense and strongly interconnected network that bridges ethnic and party cleavages. In Togo there is much more suspicion between government and opposition, and much less cooperation. Togolese elites tend to form a concerted power structure in which many people hold simultaneous positions in the political, military, and civil sectors.

Paper 2

Jones Will / University of Oxford

The Animators: Explaining the Political Mobilisation of Diasporas in Africa

This paper seeks to understand the circumstances under which diasporic political mobilisation takes place through a comparison of two African diasporas: Zimbabweans since 2000, and Rwandans since 1994. It argues that a key (usually omitted) part of the explanation is the role of elite outsiders who pump resources and energy into mobilising diasporic communities in particular ways: animators. Based on extensive multi-sited fieldwork carried out over two years in South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, the UK, Belgium, and France with funding from the Leverhulme Trust, we trace the recent historical evolution of these transnational communities. It shows how, far from being static or permanent, diasporas are inherently political entities that have dynamic “lifecycles”; they are born, they live, they die, and they even have afterlives. Their existence and the forms they take are historically and politically contingent. Crucially, these lifecycles, and the durability of the diaapora, are determined not by the inherent qualities of the diaspora but by the role of elite “animators”, who make resources available to the diaspora.

Paper 3

Oppong Nelson / Oxford Department of International Development

Oil and the Politics of Institutional Choice: missing voices in Ghana’s public interest and accountability committee

On September 16, 2011, Ghana launched a thirteen-member Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) to ensure transparency and accountability in the management and use of petroleum revenue and investments in the country. This Committee has been presented as a home-grown, robust and non-partisan instrument for “good governance” that compliments various global and domestic efforts at ensuring oversight and accountability over the new oil industry. In contrast to various initiatives, especially the Ghana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (GHEITI), PIAC is anchored on enforceable legislation, i.e., Section 51 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act of 2011. In addition, the Committee is composed of representatives and nominees of various non-state organisations that have been statutorily designated by the PRMA. In spite of the enthusiasm with the PIAC, the evidence of its role as a citizen-led accountability platform and as instrument of institutional transformation has been less convincing. Early signals also point to the fact that PIAC has so far operated without the requisite buy-in from the domestic political elite and exists essentially as a “toothless” and “façade” oversight body. This presentation offers a deeper analysis of PIAC, first, as a platform for citizens’ accountability and, second, an >instrument of institutional transformation in Ghana’s nascent petroleum industry.

Paper 4

Gobbers Erik / Department of Political Science, Free University of Brussels

Elites, Ethnic Mobilization and Multi-Party Democracy in the Katanga province, the Democratic Republic of Congo: the Role of Urban Ethnic Associations

This paper focuses on interactions between regional elites and their ethnic community in a context of multi-party democracy in the D. R. Congo.
The colonial industry in Katanga caused migration from rural areas toward the cities, where ethnic associations were founded to organize mutual aid among migrants from the same region and to safeguard the common cultural patrimony. Since the restart of the democratization process ethnic associations seem to prioritize politics over socio-cultural engagement, and elites use them to achieve political goals. In the context of a weak state, leaders of ethnic associations deem it indispensable to be represented as an ethnic group in governments and public bodies: elites holding responsible positions are supposed to comply with the moral obligation to support their ethnic community. Elections offer new opportunities as it is assumed that elected elites will use their political influence to create jobs for their ethnic group or to bring infrastructure to their region of origin.
Our field research in Katanga shows that in a premature multiparty system politicians try to use ethnic associations as mobilization instruments to gain ethnic votes, and reveals different strategies applied by these organizations to influence the outcome of elections. The paper also argues that citizens can use their votes independently to punish politicians of their ethnic group for not delivering on promises about defending the community’s interests.

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