District creation and decentralisation in Uganda

District creation and decentralisation in Uganda

District creation for patronage in Uganda

Within the vast literature on decentralisation, there is little attention on one important aspect of decentralisation – namely the creation of new sub-national administrative units. This despite the fact that governments of developing countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Vietnam, among many others, have created a slew of new units since the 1990s. In an attempt to fill this gap, this paper tries to understand what underlying motives lie behind the creation of new districts in the African country of Uganda and how widely applicable these motives may be in other contexts.

Uganda, alongside large scale economic and political reforms, has witnessed a steep increase in the number of districts, going from 39 to 79 in less than a decade. The paper examines various potential reasons for the creation of these new districts and argues that district creation has been primarily a source of patronage in the ongoing need for President Museveni to win elections. It says the trend is likely to continue as Museveni attempts to cling on for a fourth term.

The paper says that district creation has been more successful than other types of patronage like new cabinet posts and new parliamentary constituencies in maintaining Museveni’s support. Whereas cabinet ministers and MPs can siphon off their salaries for personal reasons, the creation of a district necessarily brings money to the countryside and thereby benefits local at least to some degree

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