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Accepted paper:

Examining the Role of Customary Institutions and Shared Norms in the Resolution of Electoral Conflict in Ghana


Christopher Appiah-Thompson (The University of Newcastle)

Paper long abstract:

Since the democratization of various African states in the 1990s, the reality has often failed to match the promise of democracy. This has occasionally manifested in disputes, sometimes violent, over electoral outcomes. The losing parties have refused to accept the outcomes alleging manipulation of the electoral laws, processes, and results by the incumbent party. Such disputes point to possible limitations in the performance of formal institutions such as the electoral commissions, the associated electoral laws and the judiciary in ensuring their peaceful resolution even where there may be no actual large-scale electoral violence. This paper argues that in addition to these institutional mechanisms there is an important role played by the informal traditional conflict resolution strategies and the positive values in the (political) culture. It does this by examining the case in Ghana in 2012 when the losing party vehemently disputed the results. The paper draws on the empirical reports of election observers and journalists; the views of electoral officials, legal actors, politicians, and judicial records. It is argued that traditional methods for conflict resolution were effectively deployed to complement the weakness of the formal adjudication role of the electoral commission and the judiciary. It also demonstrates how these traditional peacebuilding strategies can help to infuse innovation, sustainability, and creativity in delivering free and fair electoral outcomes as well as peace, justice, and security.

panel D22
Disciplinary trends in Africa: legal and socio-legal studies