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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:States and chiefs: are chiefs mere puppets?
Author:Rouveroy van Nieuwaal, E. Adriaan B. vanISNI
Periodical:Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law
Geographic term:Subsaharan Africa
Subjects:political systems
Abstract:The phenomenon 'chieftaincy' has undergone profound transformations during the last hundred years. The modern chief in sub-Saharan Africa has been absorbed into the State bureaucracy through an extensive system of constitutional and governmental rules. At the same time, he is part of a more or less traditional world. He therefore has two bases of power and legitimacy. In both fields he has at his disposal an extensive network. Within the State, a chief's administrative status and functions are often those of a more or less minor civil servant, although the gap between the two worlds he represents allows him considerable space for manoeuvre. As the upholder of the traditional order and rules, the chief is the preeminent dispute settler and allocator of rights to land, and through witchcraft he is in some cases able to exercise real supervision of power in his society. The position of the chief could be described as a hinge point: he is an intermediary on several levels. At the same time the chief's double basis of power entails a double-sided dependence between chiefs and the State. Chiefs are encapsulated to varying degrees by the State through its legislation and resources, yet the State also borrows some legitimacy from the chiefs. The way in which chiefs implement their intermediary role is marked by great diversity and testifies to the cultural dynamism of the chieftaincy institution. Bibliogr., notes. ref.