Situating Elders Within Scholarship on Hybrid Governance

The most recent work toward solving African leadership problems in African ways has been done in the area of hybridity or hybrid governing systems. Hybridity can be defined as a governing structure that deliberately combines elements of Western governance (elected officials and bureaucracy) with elements of traditional governance (tribal kings, chiefs and councils). Scholarship in this area has defined the actors in gover- nance,14 investigated the traditional roots of non-Western forms of governance,15 evaluated existing hybrid systems,16 identified key problems with hybrid systems,17 and proposed new ways of combining Western and non-Western governing systems in Africa.18 The bulk of this scholarship has remained focused on top leaders, even at the local level. For example, after including elders in the list of traditional authorities, Ubink mentioned them only one time in a book-length study on the resurgence of traditional authority in Africa.19 Studies that acknowledge elders or local councils generally give them marginal roles20 or point out their failures.21 Littrell did not see any future for elder councils: “Anecdotal discussions at the conferences indicate that going to tribal or village elders for decisionmaking is waning, and is increasingly rejected by younger generations.”22 Quinn, on the other hand, reported evidence from Uganda that: “councils of elders hold more sway within the community than do government- appointed law enforcement officers and that such councils have the authority to override police sentences23 Hybridity has yet to be defined in terms of an organizational or social theory, which leaves each region to work out its own compromises and offers no way to measure success or prescribe solutions beyond limited case studies.

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