Decentralisation in Uganda : a critical review of its role in deepening democracy, facilitating development and accommodating diversity
Singiza, Douglas Karekona
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Uganda, like many African countries in the 1990s, adopted decentralisation as a state reform measure after many years of civil strife and political conflicts, by transferring powers and functions to district councils. The decision to transfer powers and functions to district councils was, in the main, linked to the quest for democracy and development within the broader context of the nation state. This thesis' broader aim is to examine whether the legal and policy framework of decentralisation produces a system of governance that better serves the greater objectives of local democracy, local development and accommodation of ethnicity. Specifically, the thesis pursues one main aim: to examine whether indeed the existing legal framework ensures the smooth devolution process that is needed for decentralised governance to succeed. In so doing, the study seeks, overall, to offer lessons that are critically important not only for Uganda but any other developing nation that has adopted decentralisation as a state-restructuring strategy. The study uses a desk-top research method by reviewing Uganda's decentralisation legal and policy frameworks. In doing so, the thesis assesses decentralisation's ability to deepen democracy, its role in encouraging development and its ability to accommodate diversity. After reviewing the emerging soft law on decentralisation, the thesis, finds that Uganda's legal framework for decentralisation does not fully enable district councils to foster democracy, facilitate development and accommodate diversity. The thesis argues that the institutions that are created under a decentralised system should be purposefully linked to the overall objective of decentralisation. Giving a historical context of Uganda's decentralisation, the thesis notes that institutional accommodation of ethnic diversity in a decentralised system, particularly so in a multiethnic state, is a vital peace building measure. It is argued the exclusion of ethnicity in Uganda's decentralisation is premised on unjustified fear that ethnicity is potentially a volatile attribute for countries immerging from conflict. It maintains that the unilateral creation of many districts, the adoption of a winner-takes-all electoral system, the absence of special seats for ethnic minorities as well as the vaguely defined district powers and functions do not serve the overall objective of decentralisation. The thesis also finds that district councils are overregulated, with little respect for their autonomy, a phenomenon that is highly nostalgic of a highly centralised state. The thesis therefore calls for immediate reforms of Uganda's decentralisation programme.
- Doctor Legum - LLD