Research

Hassan, Mai and Thomas O’Mealia. “Uneven Accountability in the Wake of Political Violence: Evidence from Kenya’s Ashes and Archives.” Journal of Peace Research. 55(2), 161–174 (2018). PDF
Abstract

We examine three competing hypotheses about how governments manage local state security officers in the wake of political violence. First, the “fog of war” hypothesis suggests that the government neglects to sanction officers due to a lack of information. But to the extent that political violence is visible, we examine two additional accountability hypotheses. The second “even accountability” hypothesis suggests that the government sanctions any officer who failed to maintain law and order. Third, the “uneven accountability” hypothesis suggests that the government sanctions officers differentially based on whether an officer’s actions were in service of or against the government’s political interests. We find support for the third hypothesis in examining Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence, a period in which a reported 1,100 people were killed and 350,000 displaced. We combine micro-level archival data on 2,500 local officer appointments with fine-grained satellite data on the violence. We find that the 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 use large-scale and highly-visible political violence as a way to identify and sanction officers with misaligned loyalties, leading to the politicization of the state.

Hassan, Mai and Thomas O’Mealia. “Here But Not There: Gender Norms and Quota Compliance in Kenya” Working paper. PDF.
Abstract

Many countries have formally legislated or adopted gender quotas for government agencies in order to create more representative bureaucracies. The bureaucratic elites within an agency tasked with implementing the quota, however, may be hesitant to fully comply with the quota for front-line bureaucrats if (elites perceive) there is role incongruence among society for female bureaucrats. We argue that hiring elites will focus on hiring women in localities in which role incongruence is (perceived to be) smallest. We find support for this theory when we empirically evaluate appointments to the most important administrative and security agency in Kenya after the adoption of a gender quota. Our results suggest that legislation mandating bureaucratic change will produce uneven implementation as bureaucratic elites balance legislative oversight with gender congruence, thereby preserving bureaucratic autonomy while, in their opinion, maintaining the agency’s local clout.

O’Mealia, Thomas and Jessica Sun. “Make a Desert to Force the Peace”