Patronage, District Creation and Reform in Uganda

Feb. 23, 2011, 3:12 p.m.

In a paper for the London School of Economics, Elliot Green examines Uganda and finds that new district boundaries have been used to strengthen the regime's patronage system.

The effects of economic and political reforms on patronage in Africa remains unclear. In particular there is much disagreement about whether or not structural adjustment programs and democratization have helped to make patronage less pervasive in African politics. Here I examine the case study of Uganda, which has received much praise for its large-scale economic and political reforms since the late 1980s. However, at the same time Uganda has also experienced a near explosion in the number of districts (the highest level of local government), going from 39 to 80 in less than a decade. I examine a variety of potential reasons why these districts might have been created, and argue, through the use of both qualitative and quantitative analysis, that district creation has functioned as a source of patronage. Specifically, I show that President Museveni’s government has created new districts as a means to compensate for other patronage resources lost through reforms, and that new districts have helped him to continue to win elections. This paper thus constitutes the first rigorous demonstration that the creation of new sub-national political units can constitute a form of patronage, and suggests that similar processes may be currently taking place across Africa.

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