…despite the leading role of ethnic appeals in national politics, ethnic divisions have been much less damaging in Sierra Leone than in many of its African neighbors, and in particular were not a leading factor in the recent 1991-2002 civil war.
That’s Rachel Glennerster, Ted Miguel, and Alexander Rothenberg suggesting ethnic divions aren’t everywhere and always bad for peace and prosperity.
…a leading explanation for Sierra Leone’s relatively good inter-ethnic cooperation is the presence of strong traditional local authorities that help overcome the classic free-rider problem in local public goods provision.
Chiefs collect local taxes, diamond mining and logging royalties and market fees, and serve as the final arbiter in local courts. These Chiefs, who effectively have lifetime tenure, together with an entire hierarchy of village chiefs and village elders that they head, continue to dominate local politics, and have the authority to punish free-riders through fines, public embarrassment, and corporal punishment.