Traditionalism, institutions, and rational bargaining in sub-Saharan African civil conflict

Joseph Anthony Jastrzembski, University of Texas at El Paso


When many speak of Africa, they convey a narrative that portrays a continent haunted by ethnic conflict. However many countries are both highly diverse and relatively stable, such as Botswana or Tanzania, and we find that inter-ethnic cooperation is far more common place than conflict. In this thesis I argue that cultural differences between ethnic groups are not the cause of ethnic civil war, rather, the mechanisms find their root in economics. To explain ethnic conflict on the continent, I examine the self-interested behavior of bargaining groups in society, where ethnic communities act more as an interest group and less as a people, and the delegation of political mobilization through ethnic and personalist ties by the executive in government to local notables, reduces the likelihood of peaceful conflict settlement. Furthermore, I also describe the ways government institutions can alleviate this problem. To this end, this thesis seeks to examine how the self-interested behavior, of three elements in society, the traditional elite, the executive power, and the economic elite, in a relationship defined by political survival and goods distribution, can lead to mechanisms that hinder the ability to reach negotiated settlement in conditions comparable to rationalist explanations for war we can find in the international system.

Subject Area

Political science|Sub Saharan Africa Studies

Recommended Citation

Jastrzembski, Joseph Anthony, "Traditionalism, institutions, and rational bargaining in sub-Saharan African civil conflict" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1540289.