Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 17 > Issue 2

Accountability and Inclusion in Customary Institutions: Evidence from a Village-Level Experiment in Zimbabwe

Kate Baldwin, Department of Political Science, Yale University, USA, katharine.baldwin@yale.edu , Shylock Muyengwa, Centre for Impact Evaluation and Research Design, Zimbabwe, shylock.muyengwa@gmail.com , Eric Mvukiyehe, Department of Political Science, Duke University, USA, eric.mvukiyehe@duke.edu
Suggested Citation
Kate Baldwin, Shylock Muyengwa and Eric Mvukiyehe (2022), "Accountability and Inclusion in Customary Institutions: Evidence from a Village-Level Experiment in Zimbabwe", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 17: No. 2, pp 283-315. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00020110

Publication Date: 28 Apr 2022
© 2022 K. Baldwin, S. Muyengwa and E. Mvukiyehe
Comparative politics,  Business, Economics and Politics
Traditional political institutionsaccountabilitydeliberative democracyfield experimentAfrica


Download article
In this article:
Accountability and Inclusion in Customary Institutions 
Village-Level Traditional Institutions in Zimbabwe 
Research Design 
Main Experimental Results 
Additional Evidence on Mechanism 


The problem of traditional leadership is often conceived as one of low accountability due to a single unelected leader having unchecked power within communities. Instead, we argue there are strong norms of collective deliberation in most traditional political institutions. As a result, a key constraint on inclusive decision-making and broad accountability is the composition of traditional leaders' advisers and councils. We test whether encouragement to broaden advisers to village chiefs in Zimbabwe can result in better decision-making outcomes using a field experiment in 270 villages. The field experiment included two treatment arms, one which provided village chiefs with information on laws and norms encouraging inclusive decision-making through workshops and one that additionally included a local civil society leader in the workshops. We find that including a civil society leader results in more inclusive decision-making processes and improved outcomes for the village chief's political opponents, including fairer court decisions and less partisan food aid distribution. These results have important implications for how scholars conceptualize traditional leadership and indicate the possibility for improved representation through incremental changes to traditional political institutions.