The Meta Indigenous Politico-Administrative System, Good Governance, and the Modern Republican State in Cameroon

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Cameroon, chiefdom, chiefs, Meta, Metta, traditional administration

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Traditional or indigenous politico-administrative institutions, as opposed to those of western origin, appear to be regaining their once lost allure in Africa. Yet, it is not enough to simply extol or advocate a return to tradition. There is a need to examine the implicit hypothesis of such advocacy. Are traditional institutions truly capable of making a positive contribution to ongoing efforts to promote good governance and, ultimately, development in Africa? The present study attempts to address this question by analysing the traditional system of Meta, an acephalous polity with a tradition of autonomous chiefdoms and village-centric orientation, in the Northwest Region, Cameroon. A sample of village-level initiatives undertaken within the polity’s decentralized indigenous politico-administrative framework, and region-wide development projects under the auspices of centralized modern institutional bodies, are compared. Results show the indigenous systems markedly outperforming their modern counterparts, particularly based on outcome measures of good governance. This provides some empirical justification for recommending the incorporation of traditional institutions in the modern governance process in Cameroon in particular and Africa in general.

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Journal of Asian and African Studies, v. 50, issue 3, p. 305-324