Decentralisation and political empowerment of citizens in Karamoja, Uganda

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Jimmy Francis Obonyo
William Muhumuza


For centuries, centralisation was the dominant model of governance in most parts of the developing world. However, since the mid-1980s many countries in Africa have adopted decentralisation owing to the failure of centralisation to deliver public goods to citizens. In 1992, Uganda adopted decentralisation policy reforms to give ordinary citizens more control over their own administration and development agenda. This article reports case study research conducted in Karamoja, Uganda to establish the extent to which decentralisation reforms have indeed empowered local people. Research findings revealed mixed results. Although decentralisation resulted in the creation of the local government system, which in principle offers representational governance for different interest groups in local communities, ordinary citizens have fallen short of being politically empowered. State–society power relations have remained unaltered in favour of local elites. The authors contend that for political empowerment of citizens to be achieved, there is a need to devolve a considerable amount of autonomy to local governments and review the law to make local elites subordinate to citizen representatives.

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How to Cite
Obonyo, J. F., & Muhumuza, W. (2023). Decentralisation and political empowerment of citizens in Karamoja, Uganda. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, (28), 42-60.
Research and Evaluation (peer-reviewed)