Working Papers

Mai Hassan and Thomas O’Mealia. “Uneven Accountability in the Wake of Political Violence: Evidence from Kenya’s Ashes and Archives.”


The government faces a principal-agent problem with lower-level state officers. Officers are often expected to use the state coercive capacity endowed to them to politically benefit the government. But officers can shirk from the government’s demands. An officer’s actions during bouts of large-scale and highly-visible electoral violence re- veal the officer’s type, thereby providing the government with the information necessary to solve its principal-agent problem for the future. The government holds officers who used their authority to perpetuate incumbent-instigate violence accountable through positive re- wards, while holding officers who used their authority to perpetuate opposition-instigate violence accountable through negative sanctions. We find evidence in support of the theory using micro-level archival data on 2,500 local officer appointments and fine-grained satellite data on the locations of violence in the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 election. The Kenyan government was more likely to fire officials whose jurisdictions saw opposition-instigated violence that targeted government supporters. But we find the opposite result where violence was instigated by incumbent supporters: there, officers were less likely to be fired if violence occurred in their jurisdiction. Our results indicate that leaders can manipulate accountability processes after political violence to further politicize the state.


Brett Carter and Mai Hassan. “The Political Geography of the Local Security Apparatus.”


Many autocrats govern sub-national areas through appointed regional executives who have significant control over their individual jurisdictions. Autocrats employ one of two strategies to govern these sub-national jurisdictions, each achieved through management of regional executives: 1) co-optation, where autocrats improve local governance by appointing locally embedded regional executives – executives who are from the local population and enjoy long tenures – or 2) coercion, where autocrats ensure that regional executives put down local regime threats by minimizing local embeddedness – appointing non-native executives and shuffling them frequently. We argue that the prevailing regional strategy depends on the jurisdiction’s ex ante level of regime support. We test the theory with original data from Kenya and the Republic of Congo, encompassing 250 regional executives across three autocrats. Our findings highlight the similar ways in which autocrats manage their security apparatuses to limit varied popular threats.


Book Chapters in Preparation

Mai Hassan. “The Local Politics of Resource Distribution” in The Oxford Handbook of Kenyan Politics.

This chapter discusses the various institutions by which Kenyan presidents have distributed development resources to the population over the country’s first five decades after independence. Resource distribution during this period largely followed either a center-led or local-led track. Each president designed his own center-led resource distribution strategies to best distribute state resources to his co-ethnic base in light of the group’s geographic location and representation in the bureaucracy. Presidents have designed local-led tracks to check the power of, and since the return of multi-party elections to bargain with, legislative elites. The resulting distribution patterns of both tracks have been driven by ethnic politics within the distributing patron’s electoral constituency. The ethnic (sub-)groups that most strongly support the patron have been those that have benefited the most.

Mai Hassan. “Decentralization and Democratization.” in Handbook of Democratization in Africa.


Mai Hassan and Kathleen Klaus. “Sons of a Different Soil: Internal Migration and Election Violence in Kenya” in People and Places: New Perspectives on Sons of the Soil Conflict.


People migrate within their own national boundaries for many reasons.  Some people migrate involuntarily—through evictions or forced labor. Others seek better livelihood opportunities in more urban, resource-rich, or secure regions.  This chapter asks how these processes of internal migration may affect violent conflict.  To do so, we analyze the relationship between migration, sons-of-the soil-narratives, and electoral violence during the first decade of multiparty elections in Kenya (1992-2002). During this period, election violence resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people and the displacement of over 300,000 people. Broadly, we suggest that violence is most likely when residents of host communities view migrants as a threat to their territorial and political claims. Specifically, we argue that two main factors help explain local-level variation in election violence: 1) skewed levels of land allocation in favor of ‘migrants’ over ‘natives,’ and 2) high levels of in-migration of ethnic outsiders into politically contested zones. We find support for our argument using new and original data on land titling, census information, and in-depth interviews.