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Decentralisation and conflict in Uganda

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Political economists have long debated the relationship between decentralisation and conflict, with much discussion about how and what functions of government should be decentralised to the local level. There has been little discussion, however, about two key aspects of decentralisation: first, to which levels of local government power should be decentralised, and second, on what basis new decentralised districts should be created. In order to understand the relationship between these two aspects of decentralisation and conflict I investigate here the case of Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) government embarked on a radical decentralisation programme upon coming into power in 1986. I argue here that Uganda's decentralisation programme, while helping to reduce national-level conflict, has nonetheless replaced it with local-level conflict. This process has taken place in two ways. First, the concentration of local power at the district level has led to struggles over district leadership positions. Second, the huge expansion in the number of new districts has led to local-level conflict by altering relations between local ethnic groups.

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