Hoehne (2008). Traditional Authorities and Local Government in Southern Sudan
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The increasing focus on traditional authorities is linked to an increasing interest in and support for decentralization. Modern institutions and the modern urban elite at the national level often co-exist with traditional structures at the local level. Traditional structures in many cases survived the colonial period and continued to be an important part, or even the main reference point for large parts of the population after independence. Recent efforts of decentralization have shifted the focus to existing social and political structures at the local level. Without taking traditional structures into account, social and political engineering are likely to fail at the local level (Lutz and Linder 2004: 27).
The tag, “traditional”, simultaneously legitimates and renders anachronistic the institutions and individuals to whose authority it is applied, distracting attention from a complex history in which the titles, geographical dimensions, functions and individual identities of kin-based authority figures have been continuously transformed in the midst of a tremendous variety of local scenarios (West and Kloeck-Jensen 1999: 457).
The allocation of different sets of powers of decision making and rule making to lowerlevel actors creates decentralization. The effectiveness of decentralization hinges on a third dimension: accountability (Agrawal and Ribot 1999: 477).