Post-Conflict Governance and Reconstruction: Electricity, Policing, & Foreign Aid in Uganda
My dissertation shows how post-conflict countries manage the reconstruction process to simultaneously consolidate political support and minimize new insurgencies. Focusing on subnational variation in the case of Uganda since 1986, I show how and when the central government has manipulated the provision of public goods (i.e., electricity), security (i.e., police infrastructure), and development (i.e., foreign aid projects) to achieve its twin political objectives. In making these distributive choices, I argue that incumbent rulers face what I call a “victor’s dilemma” in which they often must choose between allocating state resources to improve their short-term electoral interests or to invest in longer-term state-building projects that improve the state’s capacity. When armed and electoral opposition are concentrated in different geographic constituencies, resource-constrained governments will prioritize resource allocation disproportionately towards those areas considered a larger threat to its grip on power.

On the whole, I demonstrate that Uganda’s allocation of essential state-related services and activities has been motivated largely by short-term interests to maintain political control rather than long-term state building efforts of reconstruction. In one empirical chapter drawn from my fieldwork, I find that the Ugandan government has targeted large increases in electricity at “swing” counties rather than to core supporter or co-ethnic areas. But I show that these increases occur only during critical pre-electoral years; the flow of electricity falls sharply in post-election periods. In a second empirical chapter, I show that the construction of new police stations has followed a similar political logic. While constituencies with histories of rebel-state conflict have seen modest increases in small police post infrastructure, both small police posts and larger police stations have been targeted in political opposition areas. Meanwhile, rather than devote increased policing resources to constituencies with little existing infrastructure, the state has actually increased construction to a greater degree in areas with higher levels of baseline policing infrastructure. This variation has important implications for the equity and character of policing in the country. Though police reform was one of the major reforms of the post-conflict Ugandan government, my findings indicate that the police have been maintained as a political, repressive tool for the ruling party instead of a professionalized force for the maintenance of public order.

More broadly, my dissertation has important implications for the study of post-conflict reconstruction and the maintenance of peace, order, and stability. Existing research has shed light on the dynamics of post-conflict reconstruction at the national level (Collier et al 2004, Zürcher et al 2013, Girod 2015) as well as at the individual program level (Fearon et al 2009, Humphreys et al 2015). Yet, little research has systematically examined how a central government chooses to distribute security and public goods at the subnational level of post-conflict countries. As shown in my analyses of electricity and policing, incentives for short-term political survival have driven the geographic provision of public goods and security infrastructure. If critical state resources are not reaching the areas where they are most needed, namely, potential conflict sites, then the politicized allocation of post-conflict resources may ultimately weaken the long-term capacity of the state to prevent new violent conflicts. Toward that end, the final empirical chapter of my dissertation explores how choices about security, public goods provision, and foreign aid allocation influence patterns of local conflict over time. I find that local increases in electricity, policing, and aid have failed to reduce levels of subnational violence in Uganda. These issues have important implications not only for local violence, but also in the long-run for national stability and development. Better understanding the local and subnational dynamics of these allocation processes can help to inform the scholarly and policy debates on international interventions in post-conflict countries.