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Indigenous Political Institutions

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Chapter Summary

The organizational structure and objective of indigenous political systems were generally based upon kinship, ancestry, and survival in much the same way as social organizations were. In general, two main types of political organizations could be distinguished in traditional African societies. Of course, variations occurred in different tribal societies but the structures and foundations were essentially the same. In the first general type, Group A, ethnic groups existed as separate political entities and governed themselves independently. In the second, Group B, some came under the hegemony or rule by others either through conquest or voluntary submission. Within each grouping, there was further differentiation in political organization. African societies that dispensed with chiefs are called acephalous or stateless societies. This chapter examines the political organization of some selected stateless societies. Unlike the stateless societies, chiefdoms or states are those polities with centralized authority.

Keywords: chiefdoms; indigenous political systems; political organization; social organization; stateless societies; traditional African societies



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