How can political trust be built after civil wars? Lessons from post-conflict Sierra Leone
Liberal peacebuilding has received a considerable amount of criticism in
the recent peacebuilding and state building literature. Critics of the
liberal approach argue that electoral democracy is a foreign-imposed
institution, which often does not enjoy public acceptance and legitimacy
as local institutions do. Post-conflict Sierra Leone has undergone a
similar struggle when the Local Government Act was introduced in 2004.
Under the new law, much power enjoyed by chiefs was transferred to the
elected local councillors. While traditional chiefdom governance was
blamed to be one of the institutional drivers of the civil war, this
customary authority is highly respected and the reform was resisted by
many local people. Nevertheless, the new system produces some positive
development outcomes and the country has remained largely peaceful.
Against this backdrop, this paper investigates the channels through
which trust in a poorly trusted government body can be developed. Based
on survey data from Sierra Leone, my statistical analysis examines three
mechanisms through which political trust can be built: improved public
services, clean administration, and responsive governance. It is found
that local governments which are willing to listen and respond to their
people are more likely to be trusted by the public.
Keywords: Political Trust, Decentralisation, Corruption, Public Goods, Sierra Leone
JEL Classifications: D73, H11, H41