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Elite Capture And Checkers : Strategies Within The Decentralization Process In Rural Sierra Leone

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Abstract

The decentralization process in Sierra Leone is hindered by some clear obstacles. The severity of the current economic crisis combined with the local power struggles, due to the decentralization process, is unlikely to favor the institutionalization of the Sierra Leonean state. Political elites, bereft of the means of their patrimonial legitimacy, are engaged in an ever more frantic search for the resources which the informalized politics generates. These resources however are typically delivered by external donors and NGOs. Such re-instigated competition fed by donor programs is apt to bring about a false sense of improved institutionalization. Both traditional and political elites use the reforms currently ushered in Sierra Leone in order to secure both renewed legitimacy and access to the new assets which the masturbatory World Bank and UN (among others) make available but refuse to monitor in order to respect Sierra Leonean sovereignty. This may be called, new sources and new clientele: a local reality only partly affected by the institutional reforms. Neo-patrimonial networks have been able to adapt to the current reforms, not only by redirecting available resources, but also by including new elites such as some councilors and newly installed decentralization mechanisms. Even now, after the first four transition years of the decentralization process in Sierra Leone, there continues to be an inbuilt bias against the institutionalization of the state, both with the local chiefs and political actors in the center and even, paradoxically, with a number of local councilors.

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