Decentralization in Uganda: Reforms, Reversals, and an Uncertain Future

Smoke, P., W. Muhumuza and E. Ssewankambo
In Tyler Dickovich and James Wunsch, eds., Decentralization in Africa: A Comparative Perspective. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2014).

Uganda was long considered one of the most successful cases of public sector devolution in the developing world. The post-conflict national government began robust empowerment of local governments in the early 1990s. The drive for reform emerged largely from domestic political forces with little involvement of the external donor agencies that have often promoted decentralization in countries with similar development profiles. Two decades after this highly touted reform began, the system has severely deteriorated on almost every aspect by which decentralization is usually judged. This chapter documents the economic, political and social dynamics that led to the rise of decentralization and also laid the foundation for its decline. The chapter concludes by suggesting possible future scenarios for the intergovernmental system in Uganda and drawing potential lessons for other countries considering such bold reforms.

Wagner Faculty