Title: African studies quarterly
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091747/00036
 Material Information
Title: African studies quarterly
Series Title: Gale Group
Uniform Title: African studies quarterly (Online)
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: University of Florida -- Center for African Studies
Publisher: University of Florida, Center for African Studies,
University of Florida, Center for African Studies
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla
Publication Date: Summer 2010
Copyright Date: 2010
Frequency: quarterly
Subject: Electronic journals
Study and teaching -- Periodicals -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Gainesville (Fla.)
African studies -- Periodicals
Genre: Electronic journals   ( lcsh )
Electronic journals.
periodical   ( marcgt )
Abstract: Presents "African Studies Quarterly," an electronic journal published quarterly by the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Posts contact information for the editorial office via street address, telephone number, and e-mail. Lists advisory board and staff members. Offers access to the current issue, as well as to previous issues. Contains articles and related book reviews. Provides information on submissions and links to "African Anthropology."
Restriction: Licensed for access by authorized UF users (current UF students, faculty and staff -- and others within a UF Library.) Some e-journal service providers may offer only selected articles.
System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, issue 1 (May 1997)-
General Note: Title from title screen (viewed Aug. 6, 1999).
General Note: An online journal of African studies.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 7, issue 4 (spring 2004) (viewed at publisher's Web site, Aug. 19, 2004).
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Bibliographic ID: UF00091747
Volume ID: VID00036
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 003331589
oclc - 40217685
issn - 2152-2448
lccn - 99030079
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African Studies Quarterly

Volume 11, Issue 4
Summer 2010

Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida

ISSN: 2152-2448

African Studies Quarterly

David Anastas
Robin Brooks
Leif J. Bullock
Erin Bunting
Nicole C. D'Errico
Cerian Gibbes
John Hames
Cara Jones
Claudia Hoffmann
Alison M. Ketter
Ashley Leinweber
Aaron Majuta
Meredith Marten
Genia Martinez
Vincent D. Medjibe

Executive Staff

R. Hunt Davis, Jr. Editor-in-Chief
Todd H. Leedy Associate Editor
Shylock Muyengwa Managing Editor
Corinna Greene Production Editor
Tosiron Adegbija Associate Production Editor

Editorial Committee

Asmeret G. Mehari
Jessica Morey
Patricia Chilufya Mupeta
Jessica Musengezi
Timothy Nevin
George Njoroge
Levy Odera
Levi C. Ofoe
Gregory Parent
Noah I. Sims
Olekae Thakadu
Erik Timmons
Jonathan Walz
Amanda Weibel
Andrea C. Wolf
Advisory Board

Adelekh Ad66ko
Ohio State University
Timothy Ajani
Fayetteville State University
Abubakar Alhassan
University of Idaho
John W. Arthur
University of South Florida, St.
Nanette Barkey
University of Iowa
Susan Cooksey
University of Florida
Mark Davidheiser
Nova Southeastern University
Kristin Davis
International Food Policy Research
Parakh Hoon
Virginia Tech

Andrew Lepp
Kent State University
Richard Marcus
California State :hUni,; si Long Beach
Kelli Moore
James Madison University
James T. Murphy
Clark University
Lilian Temu Osaki
University of Dar es Salaam
Dianne White Oyler
Fayetteville State University
Alex R6dlach
Creighton University
Jan Shetler
Goshen College
Roos Willems
Catholic University of Leuven
Peter VonDoepp
University of Vermont

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for
individuals to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.

Table of Contents

Decentralization and Conflict in Uganda: Governance Adrift
Terrell G. Manyak and Issac Wasswa Katono (1-24)

Is War Contagious? The Transnationalization of Conflict in Darfur
Jennifer L. De Maio (25-44)

Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Stir tl..-c for Place and Voice
Doria Daniels and Quinton Adams (45-57)

Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Disadvantaged Urban Communities in Ghana
Kweku G. Ainuson (59-82)

A Bridge Between the Global North and Africa? Putin's Russia and G8 Development Commitments
Pamela A. Jordan (83-115)

Book Reviews

Julius O. Adekunle. Culture and Customs of Rwanda. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press,
2007. xix, 164 pp.
Review by Uchendu Eugene Chigbu (117-118)

Peter Alegi. African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World's Game. Athens: Ohio
University Press, 2010. xvi, 179 pp.
Review by Tamba E. M'bayo (118-121)

David Baronov. The African Transformation of Western Medicine and the Dynamics of Global
Cultural Exchange. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008. x, 248 pp.
Review by Karen Flint (121-123)

Daniel Branch. Defeating Mau Mau, Creating Kenya: C.111, t ills t' I/ LL.11 Civil War, and
Decolonization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. xx, 250 pp.
Review by Eric M. Moody (123-124)

Judith A. Byfield, LaRay Denzer, and Anthea Morrison (eds). Gendering the African Diaspora:
Women, Culture, and Historical Change in the Caribbean and Nigerian Hinterland. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 2010. xiv, 329 pp.
Review by Tosin Funmi Abiodun (124-127)

Jose Cossa. Power, Politics and Higher Education in Southern Africa. New York: Cambria Press,
2008. xxii, 226 pp.
Review by Mousumi Mukherjee (127-129)

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Erik Doxtader and Philippe Salazar (eds). Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: The
Fundamental Documents. Cape Town: Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, 207. Xviii, 478 pp.
Review by Muhammed Haron (129-131)

Henry John Drewal (ed). Sacred Waters: Arts for Mami Wata and Other Divinities in Africa and
the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008. xxii, 681 pp.; Henry John Drewal.
Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and its Diasporas. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum,
2008. 227 pp.
Review by Dan Jakubowski (131-135)

Peter Geschiere, Peter Pels, and Birgit Meyer (eds). Readings in Modernity in Africa. London
International African Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies, 2008. ix, 226 pp.
Review by Ngade Ivo and Elong Eric Ebolo (135-136)

Joseph Hanlon and Teresa Smart. Do Bicycles Equal Development in Mozambique. Woodbridge,
Suffolk: James Currey imprint Boydell and Brewer, 2008. xiv, 242 pp.
Review by Carol Summers (136-138)

Axel Harneit-Sievers. Constructions of Belonging: Igbo Communities and the Nigerian State in the
Twentieth Century. Rochester. University of Rochester Press, 2006. x, 389 pp.
Review by Uchendu Eugene Chigbu (138-140)

John C. Hawley (ed). India in Africa, Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanisms.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008. xxx, 312 pp.
Review by Emad Mirmotahari (140-141)

Jonathan Lawley. Beyond the Malachite Hills: a Life of Colonial Service and Business in the New
Africa. London/New York: I.B.Tauris, 2010. xii, 304 pp.
Review by Tony Voss (142-144)

Alamin Mazrui. Swahili Beyond the Boundaries: Literature, Language and Identity. Athens: Ohio
University Press, 2007. x, 206 pp.
Review by Charlie Wilson (144-146)

Abdul Raufa Mustapha and Lindsay Whitfield (eds). Turning Points in African Democracy.
Suffolk, UK: James Currey, 2009. xix, 235 pp.
Review by Peter VonDoepp (146-148)

Mwenda Ntarangwi, David Mills, and Mustafa Babiker (eds). African Anthropologies: History,
Critique and Practice. Dakar: CODESRIA, 2006. xiv, 274 pp.
Review by Brandon D. Lundy (148-150)

Filip Reyntjens. The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2009. xi, 327pp.
Review by loannis Mantzikos (150-151)

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Ronald Bruce St. John. Historical Dictionary of Libya. 4th ed. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow
Press, 2006. lxiii, 403 pp.
Review by Steven Stottlemyre (151-152)

Jeremy Sarkin (ed). Human Rights in African Prisons. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008.
(first published in South Africa by HSRC Press, Cape Town). 254 pp.
Review by Madelaine Hron (152-154)

William A. Schabas. Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes. 2nd ed. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2009. xviii, 741p.
Review by Paul J. Magnarella (154-157)

Falguni A. Sheth. Toward a Political Philosophy of Race. Albany, NY: State University of New
York Press, 2009. xiii, 178 pp.
Review by Andy Lamey (157-161)

Olufemi Taiwo. How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa. Bloomington and
Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2010. xii, 352 pp.
Review by Adel Manai (162-163)

Meine Pieter van Dijk (ed.). The New Presence of China in Africa. Amsterdam: Amsterdam
University Press, 2009. 224 pp.
Review by Joseph Tse-Hei Lee (164-166)

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Decentralization and Conflict in Uganda: Governance Adrift


Abstract: This study examines the challenges that threaten one of Africa's most
ambitious experiments in political, administrative and fiscal decentralization. Based on
extensive interviews with local government leaders throughout Uganda, the research
uncovered a complex interplay of conflicts that impact decision-making effectiveness.
The sources of these conflicts center around (a) the impact of national politics on local
government as the country approaches the 2011 election, (b) the inability to meet rising
citizen demand for services as the tax base of local governments continues to erode, (c)
the corrosive impact of social conflicts stemming mostly from poverty and illiteracy
complicated by tribal and ethnic differences, and (d) the challenges of developing honest
and effective leadership in local government. Can Uganda unravel this web of conflicts
to bring meaningful governance to this young nation? Indeed, many countries within the
developing world are watching this experiment with a great deal of interest.


The Uganda experiment in local government was born out of a blend of idealism and practical
necessity. The idealism arose from a nation that dedicated itself to building democracy after
years of brutal despotism. The practical necessity came from the need to provide basic services
in an environment where local government had essentially disintegrated. The result was a
multilayered system of directly elected district and lower local councils with significant
responsibilities for delivering basic services. The international community strongly supported
this action and hailed it as an example of how other developing countries should proceed with
nation-building.1 While the local government system was initially well accepted, Ugandans now
appear increasingly disenchanted with the corruption, mismanagement, and bitter political
conflicts that are regularly reported in local newspapers. These concerns have led to a

Terrell G. Manyak is Professor of Public Administration and Management at the H. Wayne Huizenga
School of Business and Entrepreneurship of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He holds and MPA degree from the Maxwell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a Ph.D.
in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. He spent the 2008-2009 academic year
as a visiting professor at Uganda Christian University under a Rotary Foundation Teaching Grant. He
previously served as visiting lecturer at the University of Khartoum, Sudan Republic. His research focus
is on issues of governance and economic development in developing countries as well as comparative
cultural value systems. Isaac Wasswa Katono is the Coordinator of Research and Chair of
Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Management, Faculty of Business, at Uganda Christian University. He
holds an MBA degree from Makerere University in Uganda and was formerly the Secretary of Finance
and Planning for Mukono District Council. His research focus is on organizational behavior and
marketing issues as they impact management in the private and public sectors. His publications include
studies of conflict management and the impact of the microfinance industry on the Ugandan economy.
University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.

ISSN: 2152-2448

2 I Manyak & Katono

questioning of whether decentralization can continue as a viable system of local government in
Uganda. Indeed, many observers express concern that Uganda is now at a major crossroad in
determining the future of democratic governance.2 Thus, this study examines why Uganda's
local government system appears to be falling short of its founders' expectations that
decentralization would improve the capacity of local councils to deliver services and be more
responsive to citizen needs.
This paper seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the sources of conflict through
interviewing elected and appointed officials who are on the front line of governance. Twenty-
two districts were visited over a nine-month period: Central Region-Kampala, Kayunga,
Masaka, Mukono, and Sembabule; Western Region-Bushenyi, Hoima, Kabale, Kibaale,
Masindi, and Mbarara; Northern Region-Arua, Gulu, Lira, and Maracha-Terego; Eastern
Region-Iganga, Jinja, Mayuge, Mbale, Sironko, Soroti, and Tororo. Districts in each region
were selected because of prolonged conflicts and mismanagement or because of their reputation
for effective service delivery.
Over sixty interviews were held with district chairpersons, chief administrative officers and
some technical officers, resident district commissioners, speakers, and councilors at the district
level as well as mayors, town clerks, speakers, and councilors at the municipal level. Also
interviewed were political leaders who were important in establishing the local government
system. Each participant was assured full confidentiality, which is why no names are
mentioned in the study. A formal interview script was not followed to facilitate an open
discussion, but the researchers made sure the same standard questions were asked in all the
interviews, and interviewer notes were compared for accuracy. In addition to the interviews,
the researchers met with officials of the Uganda Local Government Association, the Local
Government Finance Commission, the Uganda Management Institute, and the Uganda Ministry
of Local Government for additional insights. The researchers also attended the Joint Annual
Review of Decentralization and the Africa Local Council Oversight and Accountability
conferences for further insights.
The study begins by providing a brief history of how the present day local government
system evolved. Four conflict areas are then examined in detail. The first conflict source stems
from how power struggles pose challenges at the central government level as President
Museveni fights to maintain control of Uganda impact the local political environment. The
second conflict source, which is largely an outgrowth of national politics, stems from the
increased fiscal constraints being placed on local governments by politicians seeking to mollify
the demands of citizens. The third conflict source arises from the corrosive impact of social
conflicts stemming mostly from poverty and illiteracy complicated by tribal and ethnic
differences. The fourth conflict source stems from the frequent failure of political and
administrative personnel to provide local citizens with honest and effective leadership. The
article concludes with thoughts and recommendations as to the future of local government in

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Uganda Decentralization: Governance Adrift I 3

Background to Decentralization: We Were an Army of Children!

Uganda, like most African countries, is an artificial nation created by the British from a highly
diverse assortment of ethnic groups. To manage this landlocked nation of 31 million people, the
British devised a modified federal structure of local government that recognized five kingdoms
(Ankole, Buganda, Bunyoro, Busoga, and Toro) and administered the remaining areas through
administrative districts. Each kingdom and district recognized traditional chiefs or appointed
local chiefs who reported to a district commissioner. The largest of the kingdoms was Buganda,
which occupies the area along the northern edge of Lake Victoria and includes the capital city of
Kampala. This ethnic group of 5.5 million was favored by the British to fill administrative
positions within the colonial government. However, to keep the Baganda under control, the
British favored other groups, primarily the Acholi in northern Uganda, to provide military
manpower.3 Following independence, Milton Obote, the first leader of Uganda (1962-1971),
used his influence within the military to overthrow the federal constitution and depose the
Buganda king (kabaka). He then centralized the government system with the 1967 Republican
Constitution. Idi Amin (1971-1979) then used the military to overthrow the Obote government.4
The atrocities committed by Amin, and then Obote during his return to power (1980-1985),
led to a continuation of civil strife, with guerilla groups fighting in different regions of the
country. The most important of these groups and eventual winner was the National Resistance
Movement (NRM) led by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.5 As the NRM army gradually claimed
territory, a problem arose of how to govern the people now under its control. Local
government officials had fled, but the NRM lacked sufficient manpower to fill the
administrative void. The problem was solved by having each area establish its own local
government, called a resistance council. The initial task of these councils was to assure military
security, but police, health, education, and other basic functions were soon added. Political
liaison was maintained with the NRM through a district administrator appointed by the
The NRM takeover of the government in 1986 presented a major challenge. How could
government services be delivered given the continuing political and military opposition that
was still active in the northern areas? The most efficient way would be to create a highly
centralized government. However, this approach would be unpopular among the idealistic
NRM followers with their deep seated revulsion against the centralized, autocratic regimes of
Amin and Obote. Another concern was that outside donor countries, whose financing was
essential to the survival of the new government, were pressing for decentralization.7
A compromise was found via the Mamdani Commission, which in 1987 recommended the
creation of a central government while at the same time converting the already established
resistance councils into local councils (LCs) that would be coordinated through districts.8 This
decentralization reform policy was launched in 1992 through a presidential policy statement
that was followed by the Local Government statute of 1993. Decentralization was then made
part of a new constitution in 1995 and officially implemented in the Local Governments Act of
1997 that is still in force.
The end result was the creation of 45 districts that were divided into five administrative
levels. Districts, including the city of Kampala, are the highest local government level, while

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

4 | Manyak & Katono

sub-counties, municipalities, towns, and city divisions are lower local government levels. The
key political organ at each level is the council, which includes directly elected members and
members that represent specific groups, namely women, youth, and persons with disabilities.
Each local government was designated a legal entity with delineated power to raise taxes and
provide basic services.9
Professional leadership would be provided by the chief administrative officers of the
district and town clerks. Until recently, they were appointed by district service commissions
that in turn were appointed by each council upon the recommendation of the district executive
committee. Public contracts were let through district tender boards that were also put in place
by the council. Finally, a resident district commissioner was appointed directly by the president
to head the security committee, monitor the implementation of central government programs,
and serve as the president's personal representative in the district. A degree of external
legitimacy was given to the new structure by the United Nations, which brought in an
international team, primarily from Denmark and Zimbabwe, to provide a formal, legal structure
to the arrangement.
What is important to note is that Uganda's local government system was founded with a
great deal of idealistic fervor.10 This point is reflected in an interview with an older NRM
politician who participated in the bush war and the formation of the new local government
system: "We were an army of children. We were all very young and very idealistic in going up
against someone like Idi Amin. It was exciting to build a new form of government based on
democracy that was the total opposite of the regimes of Amin and Obote." With the passage of
time, this system is beginning to feel pressures that are taking a toll on effective governance.
Many people interviewed claim that President Museveni is abandoning decentralization as the
price for staying in power. Others point to the inability of local governments to deal with the
social tensions caused by poverty, illiteracy, and tribalism. Many, like the older NRM politician,
just see a loss of idealism among local leaders as causing decay: "We worked hard to make the
new system work. Now it has all changed because the new generation only cares about itself."

Central Government Challenges: The President is Killing His Own Child!
The National Resistance Movement committed the new government in 1986 to promoting
democracy through direct elections and full transparency. Because the NRM felt that much of
Uganda's problems were the result of corrupt political parties, a "movement only" government
emerged in which candidates for office would be judged on the merits of their character and
qualifications. Moreover, the NRM was to serve as an umbrella organization that would
include all political parties, including some like the Democratic Party (DP) and the Uganda
People's Congress (UPC) that were already well established in the country. However, pressure
from the international community and growing opposition to movement-only rule led in 1992
to political parties becoming reactivated. After a national referendum in 2005 followed by an
amendment to the constitution, political parties were permitted to compete openly in the 2006
Observers of Ugandan politics claim the shift to a multiparty system was the result of
political intrigue." They speculate that political parties were re-established in exchange for an

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Uganda Decentralization: Governance Adrift | 5

agreement to remove the term-limit provision of the constitution that restricted President
Museveni to ten years in office.2 The Uganda parliament voted to remove the term limit, but
reportedly only after a number of representatives received large sums of cash.13 The NRM
justified removing the term limit on the grounds that President Museveni was still a relatively
young man and much more needed to be accomplished in fulfilling the NRM mandate. Also,
NRM reforms had succeeded to a point where Uganda could move to the next stage of
democratization under a multiparty system.14 The end result was that parliament approved the
term limit change in 2005. President Museveni was elected to a third term the following year.
The re-establishment of political parties was viewed with a great deal of suspicion in terms
of the potential impact on local government. 15 The Anti-Corruption Coalition predicted:
"Under multiparty politics, formulation of policies will not be based on facts but on
emotions."16 Others were more willing to give the multiparty system a chance to develop. "The
people are not used to multi-party politics and need to be stimulated to start appreciating and
effectively operating under a multi-party system. It is like a cock that has been tied for a long
time. Even if it is untied, it has to be chased for it to run."17 The general impression from the
interviews is that local government might have been better off if left nonpartisan. The local
governance system is not sufficiently mature politically to handle the additional stress of party
conflict. Parties also provide opportunities for political intervention that can be very upsetting
to the decision making process. However, political parties are now viewed as a fact of life and
local governments need to cope with their new environment. Indeed, the interviews found that
many local governments were able to work successfully in a multi-party environment if the
political leaders, particularly the district chairpersons (DCP) and mayors, want it to work.
Where compromise fails to evolve, conflict arises and the decision making process is easily
deadlocked. For instance, party conflicts in Lira and Sembabule districts have led to virtual
stalemates in decision making.
Another consequence of creating a politically competitive environment that is of concern to
local government officials is the apparent shift in attitude of the NRM toward local government
as key elements of decentralization are being sacrificed to gain political advantage. These
sacrifices include the creation of new, often unviable districts to assuage local political interests,
the recentralization of key local government offices, and arbitrarily setting aside of unpopular
sources of local revenue. The stress these policies have placed on local governments led one of
Museveni's former supporters to exclaim, "The president is killing his own child!"

New Districts: Museveni Himself was Surprised!
Political decentralization has long been supported by academics and the international
community as a way to improve governance and the delivery of services.18 The assumption is
that creating more elected local governments will increase the effectiveness of administration by
bringing services nearer to where they are consumed and make government more responsive to
the wishes of the people. This belief was clearly part of the justification for creating forty-five
districts when the Local Governments Act was enacted in 1997. This number has since
increased to eighty-one districts as of 2009, with many more are under consideration by

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

6 | Manyak & Katono

Several positive reasons can be found for creating these new districts in addition to
improved governance and service delivery. First, many people feel marginalized in a rural
country like Uganda where travel to district headquarters from a remote area can be quite
arduous. Second, the government may try to lessen local conflict by separating tribal and ethnic
groups into districts with their own governments.19 This strategy was most clear in the case in
Tororo District where the Japadhola and Banyole groups have long contested the control of
agricultural lands to the point where crops were being destroyed, homes burned, and people
killed.20 On the other hand, splitting of districts can increase conflict between ethnic groups.
For instance, the proposed division of Tororo district has caused severe conflicts between the
Japhadola and the Iteso. The Minister of Local Government was even forced to issue a warning
that local leaders must desist from inciting their subjects into violence.21 Third, a new district
can breathe economic life into a poor region by bringing an immediate influx of financial
resources. According to one report, the central government provides each new district between
$280,000 to $560,000 to construct district offices and purchase vehicles, office equipment, and
other amenities.22 The creation of jobs and letting of government tenders also serves as an
economic stimulus, particularly for the town in which the new district headquarters is located.
The problem with new district creation is that political considerations often dominate
decision making, primarily because new districts can be a key tool for consolidating political
support prior to an election.23 New districts allow the party in power, in this case the NRM, to
reward its local followers with jobs and contracts as well as making them politically more
noticeable in parliament. One study found a strong statistical association between election
support for the NRM and the creation of new districts.24 It should be noted that local citizens
can mount considerable pressure in demanding district status. For instance, one proponent
literally ate a rat in front of President Museveni as a sign of disenchantment with the delay by
the central government in granting his area district status.25
The field interviews reflected growing concern, if not frustration, over the rush to create
new districts.26 This frustration was reflected in an interview with a councilor from a new
district formed in the northwest region:
The Maracha-Terego District was formed three years ago out of Arua District,
but they can't get agreement on the district headquarters. The Minister of Local
Government didn't agree with how the majority of councilors voted. Thirteen
councilors wanted Kubala as the headquarters, while six wanted Nyadri. Two
abstained. The MP for Nyadri contested the vote and stalemated the decision.
Eight sub-counties protested the minister's decision and went to court. At the
present time, all the district's affairs are run from the old district headquarters in
Arua. They even drive Maracha-Terego trucks around town. Museveni himself
was surprised to learn that the new district was still without a government.

Concern over the creation of new districts has led to some strong reactions. The African
Peer Review Mechanism expressed serious reservations about the economic viability of the new
districts. In addition to the added financial cost and supervision burden, they will compromise
the effectiveness of the new and old districts because they must now share the same limited

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Uganda Decentralization: Governance Adrift I 7

resource base.27 Even donor governments whose contributions make up a sizeable part of the
national budget complain that new districts have been created without a systematic assessment
of their viability and insist that this process should stop.28

Recentralization: The Council Was Bullying the CAO

A major element of the Local Governments Act is the decentralization of administrative
services. Acting through a district service commission, each council was to be responsible for
recruiting, compensating, and disciplining its own staff. The members of the district service
commission were appointed by the council on the recommendation of the district executive
committee with the approval of the central government's Public Service Commission. The most
significant appointments made by the district service commissions were the chief
administrative officers (CAO), the deputy CAOs, and town clerks.
The Local Governments Act designated the CAO (with equivalent language for town
clerks) the chief accounting officer and head of the administration. To balance this power, the
CAO was made responsible to the general direction of the elected district chairperson and the
council. The district council could by a two-thirds vote remove a CAO from office on the
grounds of abuse of office, incompetence, misconduct or misbehavior, physical or mental
incapacity, or failure without justifiable reasons to implement lawful council decisions. The
chief justice would then constitute a tribunal of justices to investigate the allegations and report
whether a primafacie case existed. The key point is that removal of a CAO or town clerk was
purposely intended to be a very difficult process, and few administrators were ever successfully
The problem experienced with this division of power is that district chairpersons and
legislators would frequently go beyond their legal role as set out in the Local Governments Act.
Until recently this was possible because the chairpersons were able to use their appointment
power to get whatever they wanted. The district service commission, public accounts
committee, and tender board were appointed by the district executive committee and ratified by
the council. Also, the internal auditor works under the CAO but reports to the council.
Moreover, the actions of district chairpersons were often reinforced by councilors who, coming
from poor economic backgrounds, found the money in district and local government budgets to
be very tempting. The result is that district chairpersons and elected councilors habitually
sought to override government regulations for their personal gain. While CAOs were not free
from corruption and illegality, the law made the administrative officers accountable for all their
district's actions, but it was silent on making the politicians accountable for their misdeeds.29
Many administrators who resisted political pressures were terminated by their respective
district service commission. The response was for the CAO to seek judicial intervention under
the Local Governments Act. While the outcome could result in a lucrative settlement for the
administrator, the process could be quite time consuming. For instance, a case was brought by
a CAO who was terminated for stopping the deployment of military personnel to run polling
centers in her district. The CAO responded by obtaining a judicial tribunal ruling against the
termination. However, the district service commission which was controlled by the district
chairperson countered by forcing her to retire "in the public interest." It then took another ten

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8 | Manyak & Katono

years of legal wrangling before a judicial review once again overruled the district and awarded
the CAO a financial settlement.30
The central government sought to give administrators greater protection from the political
pressures being placed upon them by undisciplined chairpersons and councilors. Parliament
provided this protection by amending the Local Governments Act in 2006 to stipulate that
senior level administrators would no longer be subject to their respective district service
commissions. Instead, they would be appointed by the Public Service Commission of the
central government and assigned to districts by the Ministry of Local Government. Also, the
tender boards were disbanded in favor of contract committees composed of administrative and
technical personnel chaired by the CAO. While the administrators are still legally under the
control of their respective elective bodies and evaluated by the district chairperson,
recentralization effectively changed the working relationship between legislators and
Most administrators, as one would expect, saw the change in a very positive light because,
as one informant stated: "the council was bullying the CAO before recentralization." They also
note the present fiscal reality that 95 percent of local government funds come from the central
government and the central ministries want to make sure the money is being properly spent.
As expected, elected officials were more mixed in their reaction with many being concerned
about the long-term impact of recentralization:
Recentralizing the CAO took away local power. The CAO now feels superior.
He acts arrogant over the councilors and they now feel powerless. He even
decides who can attend meetings in Kampala. This is the death of
decentralization. For instance, the elected people know they can build latrines
cheaper in their villages, but the civil servants choose to ignore them. The
elected people can't monitor or supervise the tender committee. Only the
executive monitors. In effect they monitor themselves.

Many elected officials noted a change in the working relationship with the CAO. A "you
are not our employee" attitude is forcing more turnover as councils only need to complain to
the Ministry of Local Government to seek a change instead of going through a judicial tribunal.
The goal of recentralizing the higher level administrators was to improve accountability
and enhance the performance of local governments. While it is too early to pass judgment on
this action, several important questions remain to be answered. Has recentralization seriously
damaged the accountability link between elected and appointed officials at the district and local
level? Will political pressure on administrators by elected officials merely shift to other forms of
pressure such as using the central government ministries or members of parliament to force
CAOs to make decisions they deem more favorable? The most important concern is whether
the recentralization of these key administrative positions is just the first step in a broader effort
by central government ministries to eliminate local control over resources?32

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Uganda Decentralization: Governance Adrift | 9

Resource Conflicts: No Representation without Taxation
Decentralization in Uganda differs significantly from most other developing countries in terms
of the range of services devolved to local governments.33 Among the services provided are the
delivery of education, providing health care through hospitals and health centers, the provision
of water supplies, the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of local roads, and field
services including agricultural extension, protecting the forests and the environment, and
poverty eradication. To pay for these many services, the constitution and the Local
Governments Act empower local governments to collect specified taxes, licenses and fees in
accordance with laws passed by parliament. It was recognized that local revenue sources
would be insufficient to meet the mandated expenses. To cover the local deficits, the central
government was mandated to provide grants paid directly to the districts from the
Consolidated Fund. The districts and local governments could then formulate their budgets
and plans provided the budgets were balanced.34
The linchpin for the district and local governments in holding this financial arrangement
together was initially the graduated tax (commonly called the G-tax). Created by the British in
the 1930s, the G-tax was a personal income tax levied on all adult males no matter their
employment status and all adult females in full-time employment. This tax, while highly
unpopular, raised approximately 85 percent of local government generated revenue. Much of
the unpopularity was because the G-tax served essentially the same purpose as an identity card
for Ugandans. If not produced on demand, an individual could face serious legal difficulties.
Another problem was the way the G-tax was collected. For instance, tax collectors would enter
villages with armed police and drag defaulters from their homes, often in the middle of night.35
The popular distaste for the G-tax came to a head in the 2006 election when opponents of
President Museveni promised to repeal the G-tax if elected.36 Not to be outflanked, the
president announced the suspension of G-tax collections. To justify this action, the president
made the point that G-tax collections were inefficient. As much money was being spent in
collecting the tax as was actually being collected. Instead of the G-tax, the government
promised to increase central government transfer funds and then pass legislation to create taxes
that would be more palatable to the public.37
Once the president and the NRM were returned to office, the election promises fell short.
The Local Government Finance Commission reports that only 5 percent of district and local
budgets now comes from local sources.38 While conditional grants were increased, the amount
transferred was well below the revenues generated by the G-tax. Also, the substitute taxes
approved by parliament in 2008 failed to meet the needs of local government. The hotel tax
helps larger population centers, but it provides little income for towns and villages with few if
any hotels. The local service tax works well with salaried people but raises little revenue from
rural peasant populations. The property tax has the problem of local government not having
sufficient funds to hire and train assessors, plus the fact that a large percentage of the land is
occupied by squatters.
The bottom line is that potential local revenue sources available to local governments are
very limited in the funds collected, too politically volatile, uncollectable, or do not respond to
the unique needs of communities, particularly those in areas disrupted by war. A sales tax is

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10 I Manyak & Katono

presently being discussed within government circles because it could raise the necessary funds.
However, President Museveni is opposed to a sales tax claiming that it would result in double
taxation between central and local governments.39
Concern with local government funding and the failure to meet resource demands was
noted as a major source of conflict by virtually every person interviewed. "The central
government collects the easy taxes and those keep rising." "The president arbitrarily exempts
local businesses from taxation and his word is law." "After the G-tax was removed, our local
government simply stopped working." "It would be OK if the central government gave us the
net of what we lost, but the finance people in Kampala want to use the money for themselves."
Many local government leaders perceive funding dependency to be a form of re-
centralization. They claim that central government ministries see local governments as enjoying
too much autonomy and conditional grants are a way to reverse this trend.40 One district
chairperson complained, "We are becoming nothing more than contractors for the central
government." Interestingly, the 10 percent spending flexibility allowed local governments in
dispensing conditional grants also creates problems because ministries do not want to see local
governments reallocating funds from their functional area to other uses. This further increases
their desire to recentralize functions and regain fiscal control.
Another interesting claim by a number of local government officials is the belief that
payment of the G-tax was important in building citizen responsibility. Men in particular were
forced to work in order to pay the tax which in turn gave them a connection to their local
government. Now, officials complain, they want a free ride with the government paying for
everything.41 "People no longer work to raise graduated tax money. Men only eat, drink and
produce children." Reversing a famous American Revolutionary War expression, a councilor
proclaimed, "People need to realize that there is no representation without taxation."

Societal Conflicts: It's Like Teaching Them How to Dance
District and local leaders consistently reported on the conflicts they experience in working with
elected councilors. They see many councilors being put into power on the basis of unrealistic
promises that citizens have no way to evaluate or don't care to evaluate. This problem is traced
mostly to illiteracy and poverty, which are then complicated by ethnic differences.

Illiteracy, Poverty and Expectations: The Magic Road to Riches
Uganda is a land with fertile soil and lush vegetation which means that people rarely go
hungry. What people do lack is money and education. Despite the government's vigorous
effort to promote universal primary and secondary education, the literacy level remains around
70 percent. In terms of individual wealth, 35 percent of the population is below the poverty
line.42 While many citizens are relatively well educated and financially secure, most people
struggle to survive in a subsistence economy. To people living in this environment, the thought
of becoming a district councilor would seem like an easy way out of poverty. Aspiring local
politicians often sell what little they have, borrow heavily from friends, and make whatever
promises seem expedient to get themselves elected and on the "magic road to riches."43

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Uganda Decentralization: Governance Adrift I 11

A very rude surprise awaits these poor, uneducated councilors when they assume their
duties. They expect salaries, or at least large expense allowances, and health benefits. What
they discover is that councilor allowances are set by the Local Governments Act to be 20 percent
of locally collected tax revenues for the previous year. Given the recent reduction in local
revenues, their allowances are even more at risk. In practical terms it means that a typical
councilor might receive approximately 100,000 shillings per sitting (US $50), and payment is
often late. Councilors are required to attend six district council meetings each year and six
meetings of standing committees. Each trip necessitates travel and hotel expenses that are often
not reimbursed in a timely manner. The problem of councilors' expectations is aggravated by
the fact that members of the executive committee and the speaker are paid salaries. The
councilors think these members are "eating with the CAO."
The councilors quickly become aware that district budgets consist of billions of shillings.
Because they often do not understand or appreciate how government operates, they become
suspicious, and friction begins to grow. For instance, a conditional grant transfer of 100 million
shillings sounds like a reward to the administrators if the councilor does not understand the
breakdown of these funds and expenditure lines.44 This problem is worsened when councilors
learn of gross misuse of funds and the lack of financial accountability. They ask themselves,
why can't we have some of this money? Is it corruption to get back money they feel is owed to
them for winning election to office? In their villages they are now viewed as "the big man," and
their voters expect them to deliver with contracts and jobs.45
A problem that closely parallels the poor economic backgrounds of many councilors is their
lack of education and limited facility in English, which is the official language of local
government. While council debates can be held in local languages, the minutes and documents
are all maintained in English. Some administrators reported in the interviews how they
sometimes hide important facts by writing them in technical language which the councilors
obviously would not be able to understand. A more serious problem is that councilors often do
not comprehend the laws under which they operate. Respondents claim this causes councilors
to feel inferior and insecure which translates into a need to assert themselves. The Ministry of
Local Government does provide training for new legislators, but these programs are conducted
in English, focus on laws and procedures that are often beyond their comprehension, and many
councilors are reportedly more interested in getting their allowances than sitting through dull
training sessions.
The problems of poverty and illiteracy combine to create potentially volatile conflict
situations. Many councilors believe that power belongs to them because they were elected.
They look at the council as a source of money and will try to undercut anyone who stands in the
way of getting what is due them. Frustration over the attitude of these councilors is reflected in
an interview with a town clerk:
There is ignorance of the laws, mostly among the councilors. They think the
council should be able to do whatever it wants. Councilors don't see this as
corruption. It is more a lack of appreciation and understanding of the law. This
problem then leads into corruption. We need to educate them. However, we
tried capacity building seminars, but it didn't help. It is more a reflection of

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12 | Manyak & Katono

where they come from; poverty, bad families, trying to use politics to find
economic security. They may come to serve, but they see all this money.

Other negative comments included: "The elected councilors have unrealistic expectations.
They compare themselves to the technicians with salaries. They see themselves as political
bosses and they should get a vehicle." "They see the government as having all the money, but
no money is set out for them. Why can't they get a million shillings?" Another wryly
concluded, "All they know is that today is Tuesday."
The respondents were in general agreement that the quality of the councilors is
deteriorating. The challenge is how to reverse the trend. The most widely proposed solution is
to require a minimum level of education, perhaps an "0" level. President Museveni opposes
this action on the grounds that education is not a measure of character. Many educated
councilors and district chairpersons have also been arrested for corruption and unethical
behavior.46 From a political perspective, the uneducated, poor population is a solid voting base
for the NRM. Imposing an educational requirement would most likely alienate this voting
block.47 Moreover, it is argued that the universal primary and secondary education programs
will eventually solve the problem. A second possible solution is to increase the allowances of
the district councilors to attract better quality individuals to government service. Given the
financial shortfall presently facing districts and local governments, the problem of remuneration
will get worse before it gets better. In fact, many respondents commented that councilors in
many parts of the country are refusing to attend legislative functions unless they are given their
full allowances in advance.
Many district and local leaders take the problem of councilors in stride and try to work
with it. Several leaders noted that four out of five councilors do not return for a second term,
which means that a couple of years must be devoted to educating an entirely new class of
councilors. A central government official exclaimed, "It's like teaching them how to dance."
What helps is that councilors come to know that administrators and technicians are the only
ones with knowledge about laws and projects. When councilors seek information, this is the
opportunity needed to start training them to become legislators. One district has taken a more
aggressive stance in working with councilors. They worked with local banks to loan councilors'
money to buy boda-bodas [motorcycles]. They could use their boda-bodas to make money
transporting people during the week and, most important, they had no excuse for not being
able to attend legislative meetings. They also advised new councilors that if they wanted to be
successful as legislators, they needed to go back to school. Many councilors were now
completing their O-level certificates.

Group Tensions: The CAO Has No Friends in This District
Potentially dangerous ethnic issues are always near to the surface in local government decision
making.48 In Masindi district, ethnic tensions arising from land disputes have led to several
deaths.49 To outsiders these ethnic concerns can take on an almost amusing quality. For
example a public health administrator found his program undermined by the tribal belief that
men who use latrines instead of the forest will not be able to produce children. In still other

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situations, politicians have used tribal and ethnic conflicts for personal advantage.50 An example
here would be a member of parliament who was trying to undermine a district chairperson by
dividing the district council along ethnic lines. The result of this intervention has been to make
the district council virtually non operational.
Group concerns can play a very immediate role in district and local governments. As a
mayor commented, "In my council, people will shoot down an idea simply because the person
raising it isn't from the right ethnic group."51 This problem may be aggravated by the
recentralization because many administrators now do not belong to the same tribe or ethnic
group as the population they serve. Some subtle hints of resentment were expressed with
comments like, "He isn't one of us," and "the CAO has no friends in this district." However, the
CAO in a volatile western district claimed that coming from the outside has not posed a
problem for him because a good administrator can handle ethnic differences. By not being from
that group, the CAO can remain neutral and possibly serve as a mediator.52
Group issues have also been impacted by the protracted war with Joseph Kony and the
Lord's Resistance Army in the northern region of Uganda by displacing thousands of people.
The Masindi CAO reported that members of eighty-seven ethnic groups have moved into that
region from the Congo, Kenya, and Sudan, as well as other parts of Uganda, but sub-county
chiefs are having difficulty delivering services to these people because all the staff houses were
destroyed in the war. A mayor expressed how displaced populations have impacted his town:
The Kony war messed up our town because of the influx of displaced people.
These people flock to our town every day looking for jobs. They are excess
baggage and seriously stretch our resources. It is hard to do planning because of
displaced people from the war. They build where they shouldn't and knock over
trash bins. Health care is a big problem. Local health centers are poorly
equipped. Also, the budget doesn't match the real population. The day
population is 100,000, but the budget is based on the permanent population of

With the Lord's Resistance Army presently relocated in the Congo, many of these conflicts
created by tribal and ethnic pressures on local government are beginning to ease. Displaced
persons camps are being closed as these displaced groups are able to return to their home
villages and countries.

Leadership Capacity Building: Conflicts that Undermine the System
The Local Governments Act establishes overlapping centers of power.53 The elected executives
(district chairpersons and mayors) head the executive committee of the councils, the CAO and
town clerks direct the technical staff, the resident district commissioner represents President
Museveni, and the council speakers set the legislative agenda. These power centers often fail to
appreciate the importance of their respective roles in building the delivery capacity of the
district and local governments. It takes only one power center to bring the service delivery
process to a standstill. At the same time, the primary source of leadership is when the four
power centers agree to work together in meeting the challenges confronting their districts. The

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Local Governments Act provides the structure, but it is the actors occupying the power centers
who must make the system work.

District Chairpersons and Mayors: Bringing All the People Together
The district chairpersons (DCP) and mayors are critical in setting the political tone for their
district or local area. Through their power to appoint councilors to committees, political
executives can very quickly create peace or conflict among competing groups. "They must be
visionary to see the importance of bringing all the people together." This point has become even
more critical with the advent of the multi-party system. The most successful districts and
municipalities appear to be those where the executive makes sure that all political parties are
represented in the executive committee. The same principle holds true where there are
opposing ethnic groups. The DCP has to be perceived as being fair in making appointments or
those not appointed will become a constant source of conflict in the council.
DCPs are often a source of conflict because they are the political focal point of their
districts. They are generally considered more important politically than members of parliament
(MP) who represent only a subsection of a district's population. Moreover, the DCP is
continuously active politically within the district while the MP spends a substantial amount of
time in Kampala. The result is that a politically savvy DCP is in a much better position to
outmaneuver an MP should they find themselves in opposition. On the other hand, a DCP can
attract political controversy if viewed as being in opposition to the ruling NRM. For instance,
the district can be divided to make it less politically significant. Another example is the attempt
to make the mayor of Kampala, who serves the dual role of chairperson in the urban district, an
appointed position under central government control.54
The power accorded political executives by the Local Governments Act has not always
been used effectively in working with administrative staff. This point is reflected in a
newspaper assessment of conflicts between elected and appointed leaders within districts.
Most of the conflicts resulted from a failure to understand regulations, respective roles, political
differences and love affairs. The endless conflicts resulted in 70 percent of the CAOs being
transferred in 2008.55 The negative reputation of some DCPs in consensus building is further
reflected in national assessments which rated the position of district chairperson as one of the
most corrupt in the country.56 According to Transparency International, some DCPs reportedly
"rigged" their way into office and then used their power to appoint unqualified people to
public boards and committees. These appointees then take bribes and share the bounty with the
DCP.57 Mayors are considered less corrupt only because less money trickles down to them.
The Office of the Inspector General (IGG) regularly files extensive reports of misuse of office by
political executives.58

Resident District Commissioners: I'm the Shock Absorber
The role of resident district commissioner (RDC) was initially conceived by the NRM during the
bush war as the person who would be responsible for making sure that resistance movement
policies were being implemented, organizing the resistance councils, and assuring security. The
most important function of this position was the political education of officials and citizens on

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the principles of the NRM movement.59 The Local Governments Act divided this position
between the district chairperson, who would be the elected executive, and the CAO, who would
be in charge of policy implementation. This division of duties left the RDC with the primary
responsibilities of representing the president in the district and serving as chair of the district
security committee. The RDC was charged with monitoring and inspecting the activities of the
local governments in the district and advising the district chairperson on matters of a national
nature that may affect the district. While technically a senior civil servant, the RDC is purely a
political appointee. It is not uncommon for RDC offices to be covered with election posters of
NRM candidates.
The perception today of the RDC's role in local government is one of sharp contrasts.
Mayors were asked, "Who would you go to if your town faced a really serious problem?" Their
answer was most often the RDC because he has the ear of the president. When DCPs and CAOs
were asked about their perceptions, the response was mostly one of indifference if not disdain.
"When a politician fails to get re-elected, make him an RDC." "They are political failures." "The
RDC is just a spy and informer."
The researchers found the RDC to be among the most interesting to interview. As
expected, almost all were former MPs, and some had even served with President Museveni in
the bush war. Others were NRM stalwarts who had failed to gain an elected office. Most felt
they were doing their best to work with the DCP and CAO of their district in representing the
president even though they sometimes were not invited to meetings. A few were refreshingly
honest: "I can't wait to leave this district. The people here do nothing but fight over issues that
aren't really issues."
What seems clear from the interviews is that the role of the RDC has changed from what
the Local Governments Act prescribed. The present focus appears less on monitoring local
government activities and more on doing what the president thinks is important in that district
to secure his re-election. An RDC described his job this way: "I'm the shock absorber for the
president." Thus in a northern district the RDC focused on security issues, in a central district
the focus was on securing the rights of women, and most often it was on settling land disputes,
much to the chagrin of lawyers.60 "Clear land titles do no exist in Uganda and it can take years
to settle land disputes through the courts. Poor people trust me because I'm neutral and I
represent the president. Since most land disputes are family wrangles, I usually can work out a
compromise just be getting people to talk."
This image of the wise, senior politician was not universal. In some districts RDCs are at
logger heads with the DCP over which of the two is supreme. Many districts complained that
RDC was nothing more than a political instigator for the NRM. For instance, the president
named the NRM candidate who lost his race for district chairperson to serve as the RDC in that
same district. Another example arose when an RDC tried to arrest municipal officials who were
legally trying to demolish a building owned by a politician.61 Examples of such flagrant abuses
of power appeared uncommon to the researchers. What is more important is that RDCs have
for the most part allowed their role to evolve with events so they can be more useful to the
president as individual problem solvers.

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Council Speakers: Just Cuddle-up to Them
Another important role in the district and local governments that is largely overlooked is that of
the council speaker. The primary function of the speaker, who is full-time and draws a salary,
is to chair the bi-monthly council meetings and to chair the business committee that determines
meeting agendas. This position can be a source of conflict with the district chairperson because
speakers can determine the course of a meeting by not placing an item on the agenda or
refusing to recognize certain councilors. Moreover, the speaker can only be removed by a two-
thirds vote of the council and with the consent of the Minister of Local Government. A DCP
who cannot get along with the speaker is in trouble because the business of the council comes to
a stop.
Perceptions of the speakers' position were mixed. Many respondents thought the speaker
was a waste of money. As a full-time person, the speaker, in the eyes of most administrators,
has little to do between the council meetings but meddle in their business. They claim the work
of setting an agenda could be done in a couple of weeks before the council meetings. Other
respondents, particularly councilors, see the speakers' role as important in terms of serving as a
political harmonizer and a buffer between the administrators and the elected councilors. They
also claim that a speaker cannot set an agenda intelligently without having full knowledge of
what is happening within the government between council meetings. They also see the speaker
as their public relations person and someone with whom they can talk. The end result is that
most DCPs and CAOs view the speakers as unimportant, but not worth the political capital it
would take to curb their power. "The speaker can destroy you easier than you can destroy him.
It is easier to just cuddle-up to them."

The political situation in Uganda is presently very fluid, and not all important areas of local
government conflict could be covered in this article. One conflict area not examined in
interviews is a simmering dispute between the Buganda kingdom and President Museveni
regarding the establishment of a federal-like arrangement (termedfedero) in which a regional
government would be headed by the kabaka. President Museveni is opposed to federalism in
Uganda on the grounds that it would create chaos and power conflicts between the regions and
the central government.62 This tension led to riots in September 2009 in which several people
were killed.63 A second unexamined conflict situation arose with the introduction of bill in
parliament that would enable the central government to take over the administration and
development of Kampala City plus parts of the major suburban areas of Mukono and Wakiso
districts. The effect of the bill would be to give the NRM government a direct role in the
running of Kampala through a metropolitan authority. The mayor would become ceremonial
and the central government would appoint an executive director to run Kampala City Council.
The Buganda leadership vigorously opposes this move as a government ploy to take over their
land and reduce the kingdom's strength.64

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Conclusion and Recommendations
This article investigated the sources of conflict that impact local governance in Uganda. Based
on extensive interviews with local government leaders, it was found that power struggles at the
national level and an apparent attitudinal shift on the part of NRM toward local government
have resulted in policies that are leaving local governments administratively disoriented,
fiscally impaired, and increasingly uncertain as to their future role in governance. Moreover,
conflicts arising from the interplay of corruption, illiteracy, and ethnic tensions are inhibiting
effective collaboration between elected and administrative personnel. This problem is further
exacerbated when conflicts arise because local government leaders stray from their legislated
roles. The result is that local government's capacity to deliver services effectively is being
seriously compromised. This inability to deliver services is leading to growing public
disenchantment that could ultimately lead to the undoing of Uganda's attempt to achieve
democracy through decentralization. Some conflicts could subside following the 2011 election,
since political leaders may feel less pressure to make politically expedient changes to the
constitution and the Local Governments Act. It is also hoped that national and local
government leaders, remembering the suffering that occurred under recent dictatorships, will
be challenged to stop this slide into chaos.
The interviews suggested several policy changes that might help district and local
governments alleviate some conflict areas and function more effectively:
1) Resolve the fiscal crisis of local government by instituting a viable change in the tax
structure by possibly adopting a district sales tax.
2) Establish a special independent commission to evaluate the economic and political
viability of proposed new districts.
3) Mandate that all district and local government elective offices be nonpartisan to reduce
the stress caused by political parties.
4) Prohibit the further recentralization of administrative positions for five years to evaluate
the impact of recent actions regarding the CAOs, assistant CAOs, and town clerks.
5) Expand the powers of the Inspector General of Government's Office to investigate and
prosecute cases of fraud and corruption.
6) Redesign the position of resident district commissioner to reflect how the role has
evolved as the political representative of the president.
7) Require an O-level certificate as a minimum qualification for serving as a district or local
government councilor to assure effective conduct of legislative business.

It should be noted in conclusion that Uganda has important qualities working in its favor
with respect to building a viable local government system. First, Ugandans have a deeply felt
appreciation for democracy following the mistreatment they experienced under years of
dictatorship. They know what it means not to be free. Second, most district and local
government leaders are very professional. While corruption does exist, the researchers were
impressed by the level of expertise and commitment often exhibited in the interviews. Third,
while frustration was expressed with the quality of local councilors, it should not be overlooked
that many councilors interviewed are working hard to improve the quality of life of their

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18 I Manyak & Katono

citizens and appear just as dedicated to building a democratic Uganda as those who
participated in the NRM bush war.


1 Kisakye, 1996.
2 APRM, 2007; Barken, 2005; JICA, 2008; Muhumuza, 2008; Robinson, 2006; Steiner, 2006.
3 Mudoola, 1993.
4 Amaza, 1998; Byrnes, 1990; Tukahebwa, 1998.
5 Kauzya, 2007; Mbazira, 2008.
6 Livingston and Charlton, 2001.
7 Krutz, 2006; Makara, 1998; Wadala, 2007.
8 Mamdani, 1987.
9 Ahikire, 2007; Byrnes, 1990; Golola, 2001.
10 Kauzya, 2007.
11 Muhumuza, 2008.
12 Barken, 2005.
13 Krutz, 2006.
14 JICA, 2008.
15 IRI, 2003.
16 ACCU, 2006, p. 13.
17 JICA, 2008, p. 49.
18 Stoker, 1988.
19 Makara, 1998.
20 Letters, 2004; Mafabi and Kolyanga, 2009.
21 Nampala, 2009.
22 Ocwich, 2005.
23 JICA, 2008; Muhumuza, 2008.
24 Krutz, 2006.
25 Kato, 2009a.
26 APRM, 2007.
27 Maseruka, 2008a; Robinson, 2006.
28 Mukundane, 2010; Tumushabe and Aruho, 2009.
29 MOLG, 2008b.
30 Talemwa, 2009.
31 APRM, 2007.
32 APRM, 2007; Ribot, Agrawal, & Johnson, 2006.
33 Livingstone and Charlton, 2001.
34 LGFC, 2009; TIU, 2005.
35 Francis and James, 2003.
36 Livingtson and Charlton, 2001.
37 Maseruka, 2008.
38 APRM, 2007; LGFC, 2009.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Uganda Decentralization: Governance Adrift I 19

39 LGFC, 2007; MOLG, 2008a.
40 JICA, 2008.
41 JICA, 2008.
42 CIA, 2002.
43 Golooba-Mutebi, 2008; TIU, 2005.
44 Ssonko, 2008.
45 IGG, 2003.
46 IGG, 2008.
47 Kanyeihamba, 2002.
48 Kayizzi, 2006.
49 Mugerwa, 2009.
50 Muhumuza, 2008.
51 Mufumba, 2009, p 20.
52 APRM, 2007, Kato, 2009b.
53 Kabumba, 2007.
54 Kagalo, 2009.
55 Kato, 2009a.
56 IGG, 2003.
57 TIU, 2005.
58 Buregyeya, 2007; IGG, 2008; Ssengendo, 2008.
59 Byrnes, 1990.
60 Baguma and Nabukenya, 2009; Khadiagala, 2001.
61 Mugabi, 2009.
62 Mulondo, 2009; Musoke, 2009; Naluwairo and Bakayana, 2009; Ssempogo and Mulondo,
63 Businge et al., 2009.
64 Kagalo, 2009; Mugerwa, 2009; Naturinda and Mwranje, 2009.


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Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU). Report on the Issues Forum on the Fight against
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Action for Ethics and Integrity, June 15, 2006.

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Baguma, Raymond and Ruth Nabukenya,. "Lawyers Want RDCs to Keep Off Land Issues,"
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The Contradictions of Uganda's Decentralization Programme," World Development 31, no. 2
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Government, Republic of Uganda, January-June 2008.

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International Republic Institute (IRI). Uganda Governance and Democracy Survey Report.
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International Cooperation, Japan International Cooperation Agency, March 2008.

Kabumba, Ijuka. "Conflicts between Elected and Appointed Officials in Districts." In
Decentralisation and Transformation of Governance in Uganda, eds., Delius Asiimwe and
Nalamuole B. Musisi (Kampala,UG: Fountain, 2007), pp. 28-41.

Kagalo, Francies. "Kampala Takeover Bill Ready," New Vision. Friday, 13 March 2009. Retrieved
15 April 2009 from http://www.newvision.co.ug/detail.php?mainNews

Kanyeihamba, George W. Constitutional and Political History of Uganda: From 1894 to the Present.
Kampala, UG: Centenary, 2002.

Kato, Joshua, "Can Demands for New Districts Stand?" New Vision. Wednesday, 13 May 2009a.
Retrieved on 12 June 2009 from http://www.newvision.co.ug /D/9/579/681224.

Kato, Joshua. "Another Turbulent Year for Local Governments," New Vision, 1 January, 2009b,
p. 17.

Kauzya, John-Mary. Political Decentralization in Africa: Experiences of Uganda, Rwanda and South
Africa. New York, NY: United Nations, 2007.

Kayizzi, Fred. "Tribalism at Work," New Vision, 30 May 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2009 from:

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Property Rights," Development and Change 32, no. 1, (2001): 55-76.

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eds. S. Villadsen and F. Lubanga (Kampala, UG: Fountain, 1996), pp. 36-46.

Krutz, Jeffrey. "Decentralization as Patronage? Local Government and Regime Support in
Uganda." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association,
Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL 20 April 2006. Retrieved 2 March 2009 from

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Letters. "Government Should Stop Splitting Districts," Sunday Vision, 4 November, 2004, p. 9.

Livingston, Ian, and Roger Charlton. "Financing Decentralized Development in a Low-income
Country: Raising Revenue for Local Governments in Uganda." Development and Change. 32, no.
1, (2001): 77-100.

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Local Government Finance Commission, Republic of Uganda, November 2007.

Local Government Finance Commission (LGFC). Issues in the Financing of Local Governments in
Uganda. Kampala, UG: Local Government Finance Commission, Republic of Uganda, April

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2 April 2009, p. 7.

Makara, Sabiti. "Political and Administrative Relations in Decentralisation." In Decentralisation
and Civil Society in Uganda: The Question for Good Governance, ed. Apolo Nsibambi (Kampala, UG:
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Mamdani, Mahmood, et al. Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Local Government
System. Kampala, UG: Ministry of Local Government, June 1987.

Maseruka, Josephine. "Donors Oppose New Districts." New Vision, 4 December 2008, pp. 1-2.

Mbazira, Christopher, "Dream Deferred? Democracy and Good Governance: An Assessment of
the Findings of Uganda's Country Self-Assessment Report under the African Peer Review
Mechanism," HURIPEC Working Paper No. 19. Kampala, UG: Makerere University Human
Rights and Peace Center, October 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2009 from

Ministry of Local Government (MOLG). "Assessing the Implementation of the Local
Government Sector Investment Plan (LGSIP) 2007-2008: Report." Paper presented at the Joint
Annual Review for Decentralization. Mukono, UG: Republic of Uganda, December 2008a.

Ministry of Local Government (MOLG). "Enhancing Local Government Revenues: Trends and
Prospects." Paper presented at the Joint Annual Review for Decentralization. Mukono, UG:
Republic of Uganda, December 2008b.

Mudoola, Dan M. Religion, Ethnicity and Politics in Uganda. Kampala, UG: Fountain, 1993.

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Mufumba, Isaac. "Ethnic Tension Mars Tororo Development." Sunday Vision, 12 April 2009, pp.

Mugabi, Frank. "Chaos as Arua RDC Arrests Officials." The New Vision, 24 February 2009, p. 8.

Mugerwa, Frank. "Kick Balaalo Out of Bunyoro LCV Chief," Daily Monitor, 23 February 2009.
Retrieved 5 May 2009 from http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/ regional-

Muhumuza, William. "Between Rhetoric and Political Conviction: The Dynamics of
Decentralization in Uganda and Africa." Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies 33, no. 4
(2008): 426-457.

Mukundane, Moses. "New Districts Jeopardise Service Delivery," New Vision,421 January 2010.
Retrieved 4 February 2010 from http://www. newvision.co.ug/D/8/459/ 707701/new%20districts.

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February 2010 from: http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/695066.

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determination (Kampala, UG: Makerere University Human Rights and Peace Center, August
2007). Retrieved 23 February 2010 from http://www.huripec.mak.ac.ug/ working_paper_17.pdf.

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January 2009, p. 9.

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How National Governments Re-appropriate Forest Resources." World Development 34, no. 11,
(2006): 1864-86.

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Robinson, Mark. "Political Economy of Governance Reforms in Uganda." IDS Discussion Paper
386. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, 2006. Retrieved 3
May 2009 from http://www.ntd.co.uk/idsbookshop/ details.asp?id=892.

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the Regional Consultation Workshops for Local Governments in Uganda, Mukono: Ministry of
Local Government, Human Resource Management Division, Republic of Uganda, 3 December

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Transformation of Governance in Uganda, ed. Delius Asiimwe and Nalamuole B. Musisi (Kampala,
UG: Fountain, 2007), pp. 41-60.

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African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Is War Contagious? The Transnationalization of Conflict in



Abstract: Scholars often regard the transnationalization of civil wars as unique
expansions of the war and in doing so overlook the importance of the international
system in contributing to the spillover of violence. The relationship between domestic
situations and international contexts directly contribute to the transnationalization of
civil war. I focus on the widening of the Darfur conflict from a domestic conflict to a war
with strong international connections and ties. I argue that the transnationalization of
war in Darfur is not the result of diffusion or contagion. Instead, the spillover of violence
is the result of calculations on the part of the Sudanese government, which is using the
violence in Darfur to wage proxy wars in Chad and the Central African Republic. A
dangerous system of war has developed, with the governments of Chad, the CAR, and
Sudan supporting and arming rebel groups in pursuit of wider political objectives and
military goals.

On May 10, 2008, rebels from the Darfur region of western Sudan launched an assault on the
capital city of Khartoum. The following day, Sudan severed all ties with Chad, its neighbor to
the west. While the attack by the rebels was an act of civil war, tensions in Darfur have
escalated to include neighboring countries. Indeed, a system of wars has emerged around
Sudan. The violence is the result of distinct domestic politics and involves different actors and
issues that have become entangled and have spilled across the geographical and political
borders that divided them. The genocide in Darfur is frequently cited as the cause of tensions in
neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). The United Nations recently
warned that the violence in Chad could turn into genocide similar to that in Rwanda in 1994.1
Eastern Chad and Darfur have a similar ethnic composition, with nomadic Arab groups and
black African farmers both seeking access to land and scarce water points. The violence in Chad
follows the same pattern as in Darfur mostly Arabs on camel and horseback and in pickup
trucks attacking non-Arab villages. But, the war in Chad is not an extension of violence in
Scholars often regard the transnationalization of civil war as unique expansions of the war
and in doing so overlook the importance of the international system in contributing to the
spillover of violence. Few political analyses focus on the role of international structures and
politics to explain domestic conflicts.2 Others instead ignore the domestic political environments

Jennifer De Maio received her PhD from UCLA and is Assistant Professor of Political Science at California State
University, Northridge. Her research focuses on civil wars and conflict management in Africa and she is the author of
Confronting Ethnic Conflict: The Role of Third Parties in Managing Africa's Internal Wars, forthcoming from Lexington
University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

Is War Contagious? The Transnationalization of the Conflict in Darfur | 26

that influence interstate relations. Yet, the relationship between domestic situations and
international contexts directly contribute to the transnationalization of civil war.3 As Karen
Rasler observes, internal conflict "is a product of a complex synergistic relationship between
domestic institutional arrangements and the context of competitive international political
relations.4 In an era when civil wars have emerged as the primary challenge to global peace and
stability, understanding the external dynamics of intrastate wars becomes critical for explaining
why conflicts spill across borders. External factors and relations between government leaders
can provide more or less favorable opportunities for access to resources, legitimacy, and
coalition partners.5
This article advances a model of state behavior that suggests that a threatened regime
wishing to maintain its hold on power may allow and enable civil tensions to spill across
borders and destabilize neighboring countries. This approach can be used as a means to
consolidate power domestically and spread influence internationally. A civil war thereby
becomes a proxy war between states with the advantage that governments can distance
themselves from atrocities committed by their proxies by attributing blame to rebel factions.
The transnationalization of the conflict in Darfur is indicative of the behavior of a state that fears
impending failure.6 The Sudanese government is concerned with regime survival and perceives
regional stability and dominance as critical to that survival. An examination of the expanding
conflict in Central Africa will develop this model and illustrate the causes and dynamics of the
transnationalization of violence in Darfur.
The present essay focuses on the widening of the Darfur conflict from a domestic conflict to
a war with strong international implications. The Darfur case study illustrates the argument
that a government's domestic concerns and foreign policy goals can interact to produce the
transnationalization of civil war. Specifically, the spillover of violence stems from calculations
on the part of the Sudanese government, which is using the violence in Darfur to wage proxy
wars in Chad and the Central African Republic. A dangerous system of war has developed,
with the governments of Chad, the CAR, and Sudan supporting and arming rebel groups in
pursuit of wider political objectives and military goals in the respective neighboring states.

The Internationalization of Domestic Violence
In an effort to understand the internationalization of conflict in Darfur specifically and
elsewhere in Africa more generally, we must ask how, why, and when do civil wars spill across
borders? The post-Cold War period is increasingly characterized by the prominence of internal
conflicts Figure 1). Between 1989 and 2004, 111 out of 118 worldwide militarized conflicts were
intrastate wars.7 Even though the number of internal conflicts is greater than the incidence of
international wars, civil wars are rarely isolated domestic affairs. Through refugee flows and/or
violent interstate disputes, civil conflicts can affect entire regions.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

27 I Jennifer L. DeMaio

Figure 1. Conflicts Worldwide 1989-2005




100 *


* Irtaal aned ocnflic
SIrtmatacnaizedirten anTedoorflic

Europe Africa
M id dl e Ea st a nd N orth Afrc a A meric as
e gion

Many civil wars begin as intrastate disputes, but they become regional interstate crises
when outside powers become involved. The idea of conflicts spreading is often compared to the
contagion of disease, fire, and floods. President Bill Clinton, in discussing why the United States
needed to send troops to Bosnia, explained that if the US failed to act, "the conflict that already
has claimed so many people could spread like poison throughout the entire region."8 This sort
of contagion or "domino effect" is a common way of explaining the spillover of civil wars. It is a
process known as diffusion and entails igniting conflict in other states or the spillover processes
by which conflicts in one country directly affect neighboring countries.9 Contagion,
demonstration effects, information flows, and material and ideological support for ethnic
diaspora are types of diffusion. An emerging literature addresses the issue of diffusion and
argues in favor of "neighborhood effects," that is a state's regional context is an important
influence on its conflict potential.10 According to this argument, there are identifiable zones of
peace and zones of conflict, which may have evolved simultaneously. The diffusion hypothesis
considers transnational dependence and studies how cross-border interactions clearly influence
the risk of civil conflict. The focus on the regional dynamics of the transnationalization of
conflict has validity: a civil war in Sierra Leone, for example, is most likely not going to affect
the likelihood of conflict in Sri Lanka but could affect the likelihood of conflict in Liberia. There
are three types of transnational linkages that may affect the risk that a state will experience a
civil war: the character of political institutions in neighboring countries; the willingness of states
to seek support from members of similar ethnic groups in adjacent states; and the level of
economic interdependence: if it is low, conflict is less costly to neighboring actors." The recent

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Is War Contagious? The Transnationalization of the Conflict in Darfur | 28

work on diffusion suggests that the decisions and acts of individuals, groups, and governments
must be considered in order to understand the dynamics of the transnationalization of civil war,
but this way of thinking about the regional dimensions of internal conflicts assumes that things
move in one direction: from the place where the conflict started to neighboring states, which are
characterized as the "passive, innocent victims of epidemics, firestorms, floods, and rivers of
refugees... It sees things happening in an uncontrolled and uncontrollable fashion."12
This essay proposes that governments will civil wars to spread across borders in order to
engage in proxy battles with neighboring states. Governments can use transnationalized
conflicts to strengthen their hold on the state and to gain regional superiority. The spreading of
violence across borders is thus calculated and controlled. Escalation of the conflict will then
occur when groups forge alliances with affinity groups across their borders and/or when
outsiders perceive opportunities in joining ongoing internal conflicts.13 Outside groups (or
states) will take advantage of windows of opportunity in order to capture the spoils, often
resulting in intentional spillovers, irredentism, or border conflicts.14 An example of this type of
transnationalization of conflict can be seen with the Tutsis in Rwanda who allied with elements
of Uganda's Hima ethnic group in the early 1990s to invade Rwanda and displace a Hutu-led
regime.15 Spillover of civil war also occurred in the late 1970s, when Somalis living in Ethiopia's
Ogaden region forged alliances with kin groups in an irredentist attempt to separate themselves
and the territory they occupy from Ethiopia.16
To be sure, conflicts can become transnationalized as the result of extreme insecurity and
ethnic distrust. When kin groups live in neighboring states, civil conflict can spill across
borders.17 But whether or not conflicts become internationalized depends in large part on the
international relations between African states. As states begin to look outward to expand their
power and rally domestic support, they deliberately foment internal rebellions in neighboring
states. External powers back internal rebellions in order to have local groups fight their
international wars for them. By arming surrogates, they can advance their goals with minimum
accountability and avoid international censure. It is therefore a mistake to think of internal
conflicts spilling over from one place to another through a process that is beyond human
control. Many--perhaps most--intrastate conflicts spill across borders because governments or
political brokers perceive opportunities to wage proxy wars for whatever reasons against
neighboring states. These transnationalizations of civil war are then the products of discrete
decisions made by individuals, groups, and governments. During the Iran-Iraq war, for
example, Kurds were often used as pawns between the two governments who at various times
supported insurrection by their enemy's Kurdish population in order to indirectly attack each
other.18 In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Rwanda used claims of
helping kinspeople defend themselves in order to access natural resources in northeast Congo.
Ethiopia has also engaged in proxy wars with Somalia with the aim of crushing radical Islam at
its roots in Somalia.
There is little evidence in the Sudan case to suggest that civil war is contagious. Common
timing of exogenous changes, political motivations, and interstate relations appear to be more
compelling causes than any apparent diffusion or geographic effect. There is, then, some reason
to doubt that domestic conflict is as contagious as sometimes supposed. What is more likely is
that Sudan observed the domestic unrest in Chad and the CAR and used that unrest, combined

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

29 I Jennifer L. DeMaio

with elements of violence in Darfur, to its advantage. International pressures and interests have
further fueled the transnationalization of conflict and have contributed to the militarization of
the political crises in Chad and the CAR, increasing the complexity between them and the
Darfur conflict.

The International Relations of African State
The transnationalization of the conflict in Darfur illustrates the changing dynamics of Africa's
relations between states. With the end of the Cold War and in the absence of the superpowers
competition for global hegemony, the international community has decreased its interest and
interaction with the African continent. As a result, African international relations have changed
to become regional rather than global in orientation.19 During colonialism and the post-
independence period, most sub-Saharan African countries were so focused on consolidating
domestic power that they generally respected the Organization of African Unity's (OAU)
Charter calling for noninterference in each other's domestic affairs.20 This policy of non-
interference was violated with the Ethiopia-Eritrea war that from 1998 to 2000 brought the
largest-scale and costliest conventional interstate war to the African continent since the First
and Second World Wars. The Eritreans and Ethiopians engaged in a test of wills over an
impoverished and barren landscape where the border was never demarcated. Though border
issues and tensions over currency and fiscal policies are often cited as causes of the war, the
governments of both countries are widely accused of using the conflict as a basis for
suppressing internal dissent.21 As the Ethiopia-Eritrea case illustrates, African countries seem to
be looking outward and have a renewed interest in regional international relations.
Part of the explanation for this shift and the emergence of interstate war derives from the
changing distribution of power among African states.22 As a result of almost forty years of
uneven development and growth, the distribution of African states along a spectrum from weak
to strong has widened. For some political leaders, the norms of sovereignty championed in the
OAU charter must be loosened to permit them to extend their spheres of influence, tighten their
hold on the reins of power, and engage in incursions beyond their borders as a diversion tactic
from domestic dissent. How do states choose their diversionary targets? One possible answer is
that because of "the emotions generated by ethnic loyalties and the historical grievances
associated with them, ethnic rivals make particularly useful targets for shifting focus away from
domestic instability."23 In situations of asymmetrical power distributions, some states or groups
make more useful targets than others for the purposes of rallying domestic support. The core
realist hypothesis of international relations is that international outcomes are determined by, or
at least are significantly constrained by, the distribution of power between two or more states.24
As states weaken, they tend to look outwards as a means of consolidating support. And as
surrounding states fall into political or economic crisis, stronger regional powers have
additional incentives to intervene in their own self-interest to preserve order and, often, to
take advantage of the economic resources and opportunities that exist in neighboring states.
What then happens is that states can allow civil tensions to spill across borders and utilize the
escalation of violence in neighboring countries as a proxy war between governments. Weak
state capacity of many African states further allows the internationalization of conflict as
governments have less control over their borders. Regimes benefit from proxy warfare versus

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Is War Contagious? The Transnationalization of the Conflict in Darfur | 30

state-to-state violence because of the high level of deniability for atrocities committed across
borders and the political legitimacy that comes from spreading power and influence. Nowhere
is this truer than in Sudan.
One of the most serious threats to domestic stability in Sudan comes from the Zaghawa
ethnic group, which has the support of the Chadian state. The Zaghawa reside on either side of
the frontier and are reputed to be excellent fighters. For Sudan, the Deby regime in Chad is
nothing more than a Zaghawa state. Sudan is therefore determined to get rid of President Deby
who Khartoum views as a weak leader unable to control his followers. In a calculation
reminiscent of the 1990 victory against the SPLM/A that came with the toppling of Mengistu
Haile Mariam in Ethiopia, the Sudanese government believes that the solution to the war in
Darfur lies in N'djamena, Chad's capital, and in the ousting of the country's president.25 Chad
has accused the Khartoum-backed Arab Janjaweed militia of attacking villagers in Chad. It says
the militia has also attacked some of the 200,000 refugees that came to eastern Chad after fleeing
violence in Darfur. Chad also alleges that Khartoum is backing the Union of Forces for
Democracy and Development (UFDD), which is a coalition of armed rebel groups and army
deserters who have launched cross border attacks from Darfur. Sudan claims that Chad is
supporting Darfur's National Redemption Front rebels as they carry out cross-border raids.
There have also been allegations that many of these rebels have become assimilated into Chad's
national army. Chad has called for United Nations peacekeepers to patrol the border with
Sudan while Khartoum continues to resist any UN deployment. Chad has accused Sudan of
supporting the rebels in recent attacks in order to prevent peacekeepers from getting too close
to Darfur.26
With regards to the Central African Republic, Sudan has used its poorer neighbor to the
south as a staging ground for attacks throughout its civil war. As is common practice in sub-
Saharan Africa, Sudan and Chad also used the CAR as a refuge for the losing side in political or
military battles. The CAR says Sudan backs Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR)
rebels who have captured towns in the country. The government says the UFDR are operating
from Darfur with the support of the Sudanese government. Chad has accused Khartoum of
trying to destabilize both Chad and the CAR and has suggested an anti-Sudan alliance.27 More
than 46,000 refugees from the ethnic and political conflict in the CAR are currently in southern
Chad. The CAR has thus been dragged into the violence of the countries that surround it, and
its relations with its neighbors have exacerbated its own domestic instability.

The Darfur Powder Keg

The current conflict in Darfur in western Sudan began in February 2003 when insurgents
attacked government targets, claiming that their communities were being discriminated against
in favor of Arab groups. Darfur has faced many years of tension over land and grazing rights
between the mostly nomadic Arabs, and farmers from the Fur, Massaleit, and Zaghawa
communities. Darfur is a former independent state that the British annexed to their Sudanese
colony in 1916. The region comprises a geographic area of about 500,000 square kilometers and
is home to six million of Sudan's approximately thirty-eight million inhabitants. Darfur,
however, has consistently received a far-less-than proportional share of economic and
development aid from the central government, leaving it one of Sudan's most underdeveloped

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31 I Jennifer L. DeMaio

regions. During the British colonial period, the colonial government invested primarily in the
Nile Valley and in Khartoum: as a result, groups in other regions soon found themselves
marginalized.28 During the period of Darfurian autonomy and later of imperial neglect, diverse
ethnic groups shared the region in relative peace. When the time came in the 1970s to decide
how the province would be apportioned between pro- and anti-Khartoum populations, Darfur
reappeared on the political scene and divisions between the African groups (who were mostly
sedentary) and Arab groups (who were uniformly nomadic) became salient.29 The first threat of
civil war in the region loomed large in the 1980s, when the Sudanese government began arming
Arab militias to contain the spread of violence from the South. In response to armament along
ethnic lines, non-Arabs started to mobilize and acquire weapons to protect themselves against
raids by nomadic Arab militias. What emerged in Darfur during this period was a classic
security dilemma by which each side perceived preemptive actions from the other, armed itself
in defense, and in doing so, sent off offensive signals. The 1984 famine exacerbated the situation
by increasing competition for resources. By the time the Islamist government came into power
in Khartoum in the late 1980s, the tensions in Darfur had escalated to the "stage of an
undeclared sporadic war."30
The crisis that erupted in 2003 in Darfur was not simply the result of ancient "tribal"
hatreds. Nor was it merely a response to drought and desertification. Instead, the origins of the
war in Darfur are political. To be sure there has been historic conflict over land ownership in the
region and longstanding grievances between ethnic groups, but the primary responsibility for
the war lies with the peace process between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement (SPLM) that excluded certain groups from negotiations.31 Insurgents in
Darfur were fearful that exclusion from the peace process would further marginalize their
region and concluded that though they were significantly weaker than the government, attacks
against military garrisons could be a viable strategy for addressing long-term grievances.32
Afraid of being excluded from the redistribution of power between the North and South, armed
revolt seemed to be the only alternative to ensure a seat at the negotiating table. The rebels are
divided into two loosely-allied factions, the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and
the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and have justified the violence as a response to
decades of government marginalization. When insurgents began their targeted attacks, the
Khartoum government responded with an indiscriminate counter-insurgency campaign carried
out by nomadic Arab militias known as the Janjaweed. By the end of 2003, violence in Darfur
had escalated into a full-scale civil war resulting in more than 200,000 deaths and more than
two million displaced peoples, mostly from the nomadic and sedentary Zaghawa and the
settled Fur and Massaleit ethnic groups, who collectively identify themselves as Africans.33 By
the time the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Sudan and
the SPLM/A was signed in January 2005, the crisis in Darfur had become, according to the
United States, a full-scale genocide.34 As the result of pressure from the international
community (which began in April 2004 with an unworkable ceasefire agreement), negotiations
began between the government of Sudan and the rebel movements in the region. The
government and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), the largest of the three rebel movements
led by Minni Minawi, signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) on May 5 2006.35 February 13,
2010 marked the seventh anniversary of the war in Darfur, and until all groups can be

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convinced to perceive greater benefits from peace than from continued war, the crisis can be
expected to escalate.

The Dynamics of an Internationalized Regional War

For many who follow the crisis in Darfur, Chad and the CAR are simply the neighboring
countries that host the hundreds of thousands Sudanese refugees escaping armed militia
attacks. While the conflict in Darfur has fueled and inflamed tension in Chad and the CAR, both
are currently engulfed in their own civil wars.36 The crises in Chad, the CAR, and Darfur have
different origins and though they have become closely linked, both Chad and the CAR suffer
from problems of their own which the Darfur conflict has exacerbated but not created.37 Chad
and the CAR each have long histories of unstable governance. During the colonial era, they
were part of French Equatorial Africa, the federation of French colonial possessions in central
Africa that extended northwards from the Congo River to the Sahara Desert. They became
independent in 1960, but their economies were in shambles, they were under-populated, and
they had small elites.38 Since 1966, Chad has been plagued by civil and international war. The
CAR experienced multiple coups until 1965, when the former colonial soldier, Jean-Bedel
Bokassa, became the CAR's military ruler and crowned himself "emperor" in 1976. After
Bokassa was overthrown in 1979 by French military intervention, the CAR returned to its
pattern of coups and later rigged elections.39
Although divided by international borders, eastern Chad, northern CAR, and western
Sudan are closely linked historically, economically, and socially, with numerous ethnic groups
common to both countries. Chad, a Sahelian country, is divided between a Christian "African"
South and a superficially Arabised Muslim North. In turn, the Muslim ethnic groups -some of
which (particularly the Zaghawa) can also be found in western Darfur -are deeply divided
among themselves by clan affiliations. Among the southern groups (many of whose members
are Christians), some (notably the Sara) are the same as those of the northern part of the CAR.
This ethnic situation "leads to a kind of continuous 'rainbow' where, from the west of Sudan to
the north of the CAR, ethnic groups blend into each other without the colonially-created
borders having much relevance."40 The political dynamics in each region have resonating effects
on the domestic affairs of the various states. Chad's President Deby and the president he
deposed in 1990, Hissene Habr6, came to power by launching military campaigns from bases
across the border in Darfur, with the support of the Khartoum government.41 Sudan backed
Deby because it perceived his government to be friendly and indebted to Sudan. This
relationship was short-lived, however, and while the Chadian Arab-Khartoum alliance
endured, tensions mounted between Deby and Sudan.42 Darfur became a base for Chadian
dissidents in successive Chadian wars in the 1980s and, after 1986, Sudanese militias sponsored
by Libya in its war with Chad were also active in the region.43 Libya had aspirations to create a
vast Sahelian empire and an "Arab Belt" into central Africa: a key component of this plan was
the annexation of Chad. In exchange for weapons, Khartoum allowed Gaddafi to use Darfur as
a rear base for its wars in Chad.44
Chad is currently ranked in the bottom five out of nearly 180 nations rated by the United
Nations in its annual human development index assessment. The country does, however, have
one source of wealth: oil.45 Oil has only started to be tapped in the last few years, and while the

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33 I Jennifer L. DeMaio

fighting in Chad is not directly about natural resources, oil has made control of the government
an even greater political prize.
Like D6by, CAR President Ange Felix Patass6 also needed outside "protectors" when he
came to power in 1993. While D6by relied on the Sudanese and French, Patass6 turned to Libya
and the DRC rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba to keep him in power. There was open hostility between
Chad and the CAR as the result of mutual animosity for their support teams. This tension was
exacerbated by the increasing importance of the oil factor in sub-regional politics.46 The
situation was ripe for armed conflict, so that when the current conflict in Darfur erupted in
February 2003, it proved to be the spark that ignited the fire.
D6by served in the Chadian army, and during the 1980s, he carried out brutal attacks
against Chadian Arabs, causing a Chadian Arab migration into Darfur.47 In 1989, Deby himself
sought refuge in Darfur after a failed coup attempt against President Habre. D6by allied himself
with Chadian Arab rebel groups in Darfur and enjoyed their support until 2006, when a rebel
attack forced him to disarm and arrest Arab officers of the Chadian National Army.
D6by initially supported the government of Sudan against the rebels in Darfur. But, his
ethnic identity came into play since members of his Zaghawa ethnic group were among the
rebels. The rebel movements are comprised of members of the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa
ethnic groups, and many Masalit and Zaghawa have ethnic kin across the border in Chad who
have provided support and refuge throughout the conflict. In addition, some of the Sudanese
Zaghawa who helped D6by seize power in Chad are still part of the Chadian military.48
Members of the Janjaweed militia also come from ethnic groups that live on either side of the
Chad-Darfur border. Moreover, D6by backed General Bozize's CAR coup in 2003 and quickly
found both Sudan and Libya against him. In 2003, he supported a coup in the CAR by General
Francois Boziz6, switched alliances, and became an enemy of both Sudan and Libya. For its
part, Libya has positioned soldiers along the Chad-Sudan border to ensure that it has a say in
what happens in the region and to express its opposition to western peacekeepers in Darfur.49
Not only was D6by facing international opposition, but he also began losing support at
home. He was accused of favoring the minority Zaghawa ethnic group by giving them
influential positions and of corruption in the wake of his country's newfound oil wealth. When
D6by declared his intent to run for a third term in office, some elements of the Chadian elite
resorted to armed conflict with the aim of gaining political power and a share of the oil wealth.50
Plans have been underway in Chad to build an oil pipeline from Chad through Cameroon to
the coast. Chad received support from the World Bank for the project in exchange for a
commitment to direct income from the pipeline towards alleviating poverty. The commitment
was written into law, but the D6by government recently changed the law, giving itself greater
discretion to determine the allocation of the oil revenue. Some of the money has been spent on
In October 2005, almost two dozen members of the Chadian Army defected to Darfur
where they received support, including arms and ammunition, from the Sudanese government.
In exchange, the Chadian rebels fought alongside the Janjaweed militia against the Darfurian
rebels. Rebel incursions into Chad from Darfur began in December 2005: Chadian authorities
immediately blamed the aggression on the government of Sudan.52

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The Zaghawa ethnic group comprise one percent of the Chadian population: in order to
maintain power, President Deby relied on political alliances. When he started to lose support at
home, he forged new alliances with the Sudanese rebels who were eager to use the Chad-Sudan
border as a buffer zone. By January 2006, the government of Chad was supplying the rebels
with resources, including arms and munitions. Despite agreeing to a ceasefire in February 2006,
Chad and Sudan continued to maneuver against each other and build alliances.53 Two months
later, Deby officially severed ties with Sudan after an attempted coup. The governments
restored relations by August, but Chad's support for Sudanese rebel movements has been
increasingly overt, and Khartoum has been encouraging Chadian opposition movements to
unite under a single command.54 Rebel groups from Darfur play a critical role backing security
forces in Chad in their fight against Chadian insurgents.55
Two weeks after Sudan-supported rebels attacked the Chadian army in N'Djamena in
October 2006, a Central African rebel group the Union des forces democratiques pour le
rassemblement (UFDR) seized the capital of the Vakaga Prefecture in northeastern CAR. CAR
President Bozize immediately accused Sudan of aiding and training the UFDR rebels. The
Sudanese government officially denies its involvement in these attacks, but evidence suggests
that the activities of armed groups in Chad, Sudan, and the CAR are increasingly related.56
While Sudan is allegedly supporting insurgents in northeastern CAR, rebels in the northwest
have exploited developments in the Darfur-Chad crisis in order to expand their own areas of
Violence in the CAR is occurring in a context of extreme underdevelopment and poverty
where power and resources are distributed along ethnic lines. The internal conflict and rampant
criminality are compounded by the international unrest that surrounds the country. War in
Sudan has had repercussions for the CAR since well before the conflict in Darfur began in 2003.
During the North-South Sudanese civil war, the CAR served as refuge for thousands of Sudan
People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers in the 1980s and as a base from which the Sudan
Armed Forces launched attacks against the SPLA in the 1990s.58 Refugees flowed from Sudan
into the CAR: by the early 1990s, approximately 36,000 Sudanese refugees were living in Mboki
in southeastern CAR. About half of these refugees were combatants who brought more than
5,000 weapons with them.59 As the result of the availability of small arms and the subsequent
threat to its staff, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) closed its
Mboki offices in December 2002. The situation improved with progress in the North-South
peace agreement and the camp was eventually reopened in February 2004. When the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the North and South in January
2005, the SPLA withdrew from the CAR. Refugees from the North-South conflict have returned
home, but new refugees from Darfur have arrived in the CAR, including an estimated 3,000 in
May 2007 alone.60 The CAR is also being used as a transit route for military activity originating
in Sudan. During the April 2006 coup attempt against President Deby, the Darfur-based
Chadian Front Uni pour le Changement Democratique (FUC) rebels crossed through northeastern
CAR en route to attack N'Djamena.61 In a political gesture of support, President Bozize closed
the CAR border with Sudan, and while he maintains civil relations with the Khartoum
government, he does not want to harm his alliance with Deby. An example of the importance of
the CAR-Chad relationship came in December 2006 after Bozize cancelled a scheduled visit to

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35 I Jennifer L. DeMaio

Khartoum when Deby threatened to withdraw Chadian troops patrolling the CAR border
region around Gore, as well as Bozize's Chadian personal security unit, should Bozize set foot
in Sudan. The movement of arms and combatant continues from Sudan into the CAR and on to
Chad as the Khartoum government seems intent on maintaining the CAR, for a staging ground
for attacks against Darfur and Chad. CAR rebels are capitalizing on Sudan's use of CAR
territory and with the support of Sudanese forces, are exploiting the security vacuums in Chad
caused by the Darfur crisis. The Sudan/Chad/Central African Republic situation is far from
being a simple spillover of the Darfur genocide. The three countries, however, have become
entrenched in each other's domestic crises and are now fully engaged in regional wars.

Sudan's Foreign Policy Agenda
While the genocide in Darfur is not contagious, the common denominator in the three crises is
Khartoum's political will that drives the spread of the conflict in the region for reasons of
regime security, economic expediency, and ethnic pride. Khartoum is motivated by several
factors. First of all, the Sudanese government wants to control Darfur and is using the present
ethnic cleansing to create an "Arab" environment, designed to secure the province in case of
(probable) secession of the "African" South Sudan, following a scheduled referendum in 2011.62
Secondly, Khartoum is threatened by Deby's Zaghawa ethnic group, which it perceives as
"African" and therefore a potential ally for rebels in Darfur. Sudan's main objective, therefore, is
to either eliminate Deby or force him into a pro-Khartoum attitude. Khartoum is unlikely to
thwart the spillover of violence from Darfur into Chad until Deby is either overthrown or made
to change sides.63 Control of oil in Chad is also a consideration for the Sudanese government. As
long as Deby and the Zaghawa control the mineral wealth in the country, the Darfur rebels will
have financial and material support. If that oil wealth were to be in the hands of a pro-
Khartoum government, Khartoum could have a better chance of defeating the rebels and of
enjoying some of the spoils itself. The CAR ranks lower on the agenda since it has no direct ties
to Darfur and since its own oil wealth remains a distant prospect.64 To be sure, the situation has
become as John Prendergast describes "a power grab that goes beyond the Darfur-specific
The old guard in northern Sudan has been substantially weakened by the North-South civil
war and by the response to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Khartoum is now
experiencing a lack of elite legitimacy that in turn leads to elite vulnerability. Weakening state
structures, political transitions, pressures for political reform, and economic problems can
traditionally bring about vulnerability. Each of the above is present in Sudan. The Khartoum
government is determined to fend off emerging political challengers and anxious to shift blame
for whatever economic and political setbacks the country may be experiencing. Moreover,
ideological justifications for staying in power have been overtaken by events, and Khartoum
now needs to develop new means for legitimizing rule.66 As a result, the government is trying to
bolster solidarity and its own political positions by engaging in power struggles with
neighboring countries. In the case of Darfur, the governments of Sudan and Chad are each
using ethnic alliances across their borders to consolidate and protect their positions at home.

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Another important element that may be driving Sudan's current foreign policy agenda is
the North-South dynamic in the country. With the threat of a renewal of large-scale violence
between the North and the South looming large, the Khartoum government may be building its
power in the region in order to make secession a less appealing option for the South. The
Comprehensive Peace Agreement has been significantly weakened by the failure of Sudan's
ruling elite to share power with the former southern rebels as stipulated under the CPA. "In
terms of political power and the economic sector, the [National Congress Party has] kept full
control over the key ministries, and this is creating a credibility problem," said Alfred Taban,
editor of the Khartoum Monitor, an independent newspaper. "The SPLM/A and many
southerners [are] very disappointed and [have] lost faith in the intentions of the NCP."67 It thus
remains likely that the South will vote for independence in 2011. The Khartoum government
may be using the transnationalization of conflict in Darfur as means of signaling to the South
that the North is a key regional player and will politically and economically crush the South if it
votes for secession.

Implications of a Regional War
The recent war in the Sudan region, coupled with the conflicts in the DRC, the Mano River
region in West Africa, and in the Horn of Africa, suggests that transnationalized conflicts are on
the rise in sub-Saharan Africa. This development has serious implications in terms of human
casualties, flows of refugees and diseases, the destruction of infrastructure, trafficking in small
arms, educational and health systems, and regional and domestic stability. Interstate wars are
becoming more common as the result of the changing distribution of power among African
states and the fact that African leaders are looking to international incursions to legitimize and
consolidate domestic control.
It is not clear how the international community should respond to these developments.
Perhaps the best use of external resources and experience would be in supporting strong
regional and subregional organizations within sub-Saharan Africa. The international
community could invest in training and providing logistical support for these organizations,
thereby lending them capacity and credibility. Conflict management efforts should also focus
on the decisions and actions of domestic elites who are responsible for sparking the
transnationalization of conflict. For its part, the United States proposed the creation of U.S.
Africa Command (AFRICOM). AFRICOM was established in February 2007 after a ten-year
deliberation process within the Department of Defense (DoD) that recognized the emerging
strategic importance of Africa and the fact that peace and stability on the continent impacts not
only Africans, but also the interests of the U.S. and international community. With AFRICOM,
the goal is for DoD to 'better focus its resources to support and enhance existing U.S. initiatives
that help African nations, the African Union, and the regional economic communities
succeed."68 Rather than military intervention, AFRICOM's missions will focus on providing
diplomatic, economic and humanitarian aid with the aim of preventing of conflict, rather than
at military intervention.69 There are concerns among American leaders that AFRICOM implies a
permanent U.S. presence on the continent, most likely in Ethiopia. There is the concern that
"stationing U.S. combat troops on African soil is counter-productive, unnecessary and impinges
on the sovereignty of states."70 Civil society groups, NGOs, and activists have formed a coalition

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37 I Jennifer L. DeMaio

called ResistAFRICOM to speak out against AFRICOM, and specifically to protest the
reallocation of many duties that previously belonged to nonmilitary US agencies- such as
building schools and digging wells-to the DoD.71 In response, a "networked, distributed
command" idea is now being developed.72 In a speech in Accra, Ghana on February 20, 2008,
President Bush denied that the United States was contemplating the construction of new bases
on the African continent.73
With the situation worsening in Darfur and the threat of renewed violence between the
North and South in Sudan a real possibility, the current chances for peace in the region seem
slim. The Khartoum government should be held accountable for the spillover of violence from
Darfur. Without a change in leadership in Khartoum and a revision of policy goals, it is very
likely that the transnationalization of the conflict in Darfur would involve not only the CAR and
Chad but also Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Somalia, and thereby become Africa's second
continental war.


1 "UNHCR Warns of Impending Genocide in Chad." Aegis February 16, 2007. Website
available at:
2 Keller 1998; Skocpol 1979.
3 Gourevitch 1978; Putnam 1988;Muller and Risse-Kappen 1993; Risse-Kappen 1995;
Keohane and Milner 1996; and Lobell 2003.
4 Rasler 1992, p. 94.
5 McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 1997, p. 143.
6 Reno 1998.
7 Harbom and Wallensteen 2005.
8 Bill Clinton, quoted in "Clinton's Words: 'The Promise of Peace," New York Times,
November 22, 1995.
9 Migdal 1988; Gurr 1993; Keller 1998
10 Gleditsch 2002; Saleyhan and Gleditsch 2006; and Gleditsch 2007.
11 Gleditsch 2006.
12 Brown2001, p. 213.
13 Keller 1998.
14 Posen 1993; Van Evera 1999; Lake and Rothchild 1998, p. 23-32.
15 Keller 2002.
16 Keller 1998, p. 278.
17 Keller 1998, p. 277.
18 See http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/kurdistan-iran.htm
19 Keller 2002.
20 Few wars were fought between African states, with exceptions such as the conflict in
Western Sahara, which involved Algeria, Mauritania, and Morocco, and destabilization
campaigns undertaken by South Africa in Angola, Lesotho, and Mozambique.
21 Clapham 2000.

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Is War Contagious? The Transnationalization of the Conflict in Darfur | 38

22 Weinstein 2000.
23 Levy 2001, p. 16.
24 Waltz 1979; Keohane 1986.
25 Marchal 2006, p. 479.
26 "Thousands of Refugees Flee Chad," BBC News, February 5, 2008.
27 "Darfur Conflict Zones," BBC News December 6, 2006.
28 Prunier 2005.
29 Prunier 2007; Flint and De Walle 2005.
30 Prunier 2006.
31 Blaydes and De Maio 2010.
32 Straus 2005. See also International Crisis Group, "Unifying Darfur's Rebels: A Prerequisite
for Peace." Africa Briefing No. 32, 6 October 2005 and International Crisis Group, "Darfur
Rising: Sudan's New Crisis." Africa Report 76, 25 March 2004.
33 Blaydes and De Maio 2010; Flint and De Walle 2005.
34 While the United States, several other governments, and human rights organizations have
declared the violence as genocide, there is still some controversy about whether the war in
Darfur constitutes genocide. The United Nations, for example, has acknowledged that
there have been mass murders and rape, but states that genocidal intent appears to be
missing. See "Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United
Nations Secretary-General," 18 September 2004.
35 The largest of the rebel groups is led by Minni Minawi and is comprised of fighters
predominantly from the Zaghawa people.
36 Ismali and Prendergast 2007, p. 1.
37 Prunier 2007.
38 Prunier 2007.
39 Prunier 2007 and Titley 1997.
40 Prunier 2007.
41 "They Came Here to Kill Us: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern
Chad." Human Rights Watch Report 19, no. 1(A), January, 2007.
42 Flint and De Waal, 2005, p. 29.
43 De Waal 2005-2006.
44 Flint and De Waal 2005, p. 25.
45 Chad has been exporting oil on a significant scale since 2003 and is estimated to have
reserves of up to one billion barrels, which is a considerable amount with vast potential
spoils by local standards. "Darfur Conflict Zones," BBC News. 6 December 2006.
46 Prunier 2007.
47 Chadian Arabs make up 15 to 20 percent of Chad's population and represent a crucial
political constituency, particularly in the border zone (Marchal 2006).

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39 I Jennifer L. DeMaio

48 UN Security Council. "Report Of The Panel Of Experts Established Pursuant To Paragraph
3 Of Resolution 1591 (2005) Concerning The Sudan," January 30, 2006: 29.
49 Prunier 2007.
50 "They Came Here to Kill Us: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern
Chad." Human Rights Watch Report 19, no. 1(A), January 2007.
51 Many argue that mineral wealth in Chad is contributing to instability and making life
worse for most people, rather than bringing them higher living standards. See Gregory,
Mark. "Oil Politics Fuels Chad Violence," BBC News, 13 April 2006.
52 "Chad steps up claims of Sudanese subversion," Sudan Tribune, 31 December 2005,
53 "They Came Here to Kill Us: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern
Chad." Human Rights Watch Report 19, no. 1(A), January 2007.
54 Ibid.
55 Ibid.
56 See "A Widening War Around Sudan: The Proliferation of Armed Groups in the Central
African Republic." Small Arms Survey: Sudan Issue Brief 5, January (2007): 1.
57 Ibid.
58 Ibid.
59 Berman 2006.
60 "3,000 Darfur Refugees in CAR After 10-Day Trek." Reuters. 29 May 2007.
61 "A Widening War Around Sudan," p. 2.
62 Prunier 2007.
63 Sudan and Chad's have recently begun a dialogue on normalizing relations between the
two countries, but moves have yet to be made to reduce the power of their proxy militias.
See "Sudan and Chad to End Hostilities," BBC News, 10 February 2010. Available at
64 Ibid.
65 John Prendergast quoted in McCrummen, Stephanie. "Sudan Severs Ties With Chad,
Blaming It for Attack on Capital." Washington Post, 12 May 2008, p. A12.
66 Brown 2001, p. 221.
67 IRIN, "Sudan: Year in Review 2005 Ongoing Violence Jeopardises a Fragile Peace," 9
January 2006.
68 See http://www.africom.mil.
69 Statement made by Theresa Whelan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs. "US
Creates Military Command for Africa," Voice of America, 6 February 2007.
70 See Ikokwu, Constance. "Nigeria: U.S. Troops Not Welcome On African Soil, Says
Maduekwe." This Day. 3 October 2007. Available at:

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71 See ResistAFRICOM at
72 Tisdale 2007.
73 Feller 2008.


"3,000 Darfur Refugees in CAR After 10-Day Trek." Reuters. 29 May 2007.

"A Widening War Around Sudan: The Proliferation of Armed Groups in the Central African
Republic." Small Arms Survey: Sudan Issue Brief. No. 5 (2007).

"Chad Steps Up Claims Of Sudanese Subversion." Sudan Tribune, 31 December 2005.

"Clinton's Words: 'The Promise of Peace,"' New York Times. 22 November 1995.

"Darfur Conflict Zones," BBC News. 6 December 2006.

"Sudan and Chad to End Hostilities," BBC News, 10 February 2010. Available at

"They Came Here to Kill Us: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern Chad."
Human Rights Watch Report 19, no. 1(A), (January 2007).

"Thousands of Refugees Flee Chad," BBC News. 5 February 2008.

"UNHCR Warns of Impending Genocide in Chad." Aegis 16 February 2007. Website available
at: http://www.aegistrust.org/index.php?option=comcontent&task=view&id=583&Itemid=88.

"US Creates Military Command for Africa," Voice of America. 6 February 2007.

Berman, Eric G. "African Regional Organisations' Peacekeeping Experiences and Capabilities."
Conflict Trends 2 (2004): 27-33.

La Republique Centrafricaine: Une Etude de Cas sur les Armes Legeres et les Conflits. Special
Report. Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2006.

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Blaydes, Lisa and Jennifer De Maio. "Spoiling the Peace?: Peace Process Exclusivity and Political
Violence in North-Central Africa." Forthcoming in Civil Wars, 2010.

Brown, Michael E. "Ethnic and Internal Conflicts: Causes and Implications" In Turbulent Peace:
The Challenge of Managing International Conflict, ed. Chester Crocker et al. Washington D.C.: US
Institute of Peace Press, 2001, pp. 209-22.

Clapham, Christopher. "War and State Formation in Ethiopia and Eritrea." Brighton, England:
The Global Site, 2000.

De Waal, Alex. "Origins of the Darfur Crisis of 2003-04." ACAS Bulletin 72 (Winter-Spring
(2005-2006). http://acas.prairienet.org/bulletin/bull72-02-deWaal.html

Feller, Ben. "Bush Says No New U.S. Bases in Africa." Associated Press. 20 February 2008.

Flint, Julie and Alex De Waal. Darfur: A Short History of a Long War. New York: Zed Books, 2005.

Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede. "Transnational Dimensions of Civil War" Journal of Peace Research 44,
no. 3 (2007): 293-309.

All International Politics Is Local: The Diffusion of Conflict, Integration, and Democratization.
Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2002.

and Michael D. Ward. "Diffusion and the International Context of Democratization"
International Organization. 60, no. 4 (2006): 911-933.

Gourevitch, Peter A. "The Second Image Reversed: The International Sources of Domestic
Politics." International Organization 32 (1978): 881-911.

Gregory, Mark. "Oil Politics Fuels Chad Violence." BBC News, 13 April 2006.

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Day. 3 October 2007. http://allafrica.com/stories/200710030234.html.

International Crisis Group. "Darfur Rising: Sudan's New Crisis." Africa Report 76 (March 25,

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International Crisis Group. "Unifying Darfur's Rebels: A Prerequisite for Peace." Africa Briefing
32( October 6, 2005).

IRIN, "Sudan: Year in Review 2005 Ongoing Violence Jeopardises a Fragile Peace." 9 January

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Paper 5 (2007). http://www.enoughproject.org/reports/chadrace_20071107.php.

Keller, Edmond J. "Culture, Politics and the Transnationalization of Ethnic Conflict in Africa:
New Research Imperatives." Polis/RCSP/Cameroon Political Science Review 19, Numero Special,

"Transnational Ethnic Conflict in Africa." In The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict:
Fear, Diffusion, and Escalation, ed. David Lake and Donald Rothchild (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1998), pp. 275-92.

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and Helen V. Milner (eds). Internationalization and Domestic Politics. New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1996.

Lake, David A. and Donald S. Rothchild. "Spreading Fear: The Genesis of Transnational Ethnic
Conflict." In The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion, and Escalation. ed. David
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Turbulent Peace: The Challenges of Managing International Conflict, ed. Chester A. Crocker et al.
(Washington, D.C.: USIP, 2001), pp. 3-27.

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Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.
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109 (2006): 467-482.

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Social Movements and Revolution." In Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure, ed.
Mark Irving Lichbach and Alan S. Zuckerman. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997),
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McCrummen, Stephanie. "Sudan Severs Ties With Chad, Blaming It for Attack on Capital."
Washington Post, 12 May 2008, p. A12.

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Midgal, Joel S. Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the
Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Muller, Harold and Thomas Risse-Kappen. "From the Outside In and from the Inside Out." In
The Limits of State Autonomy: Societal Groups and Foreign Policy Formulations, ed. David Skidmore
and Valier M. Hudson. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993).

Posen, Barry. "The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict." In Ethnic Conflict and International
Security, ed. Michael E. Brown. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 103-24.

Prunier, Gerard. Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.

Prunier, Gerard. "Darfur's Sudan Problem." Opendemocracy.net, 2006. Available at

."Chad, The CAR And Darfur: Dynamics Of Conflict." Opendemocracy.net, 2007.

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Communal Strife, ed. Manus I. Midlarsky. (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 93-117.

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Titley, Brian. Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa. Montreal: McGill-Queen's
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African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Struggle for Place

and Voice


Abstract: For many Cape Flats communities in the Western Cape Province of South
Africa, gangsterism defines the dominant culture. How the state of wellness in such
communities influences decisions that individuals make, and the choices that are
available to them when faced with hardships, violence-related trauma, and socio-
economic crises, seldom seem to be part of the research agenda. Limited research has
been conducted on the well-being of the youth who grow up in gang-infested areas. This
article reports on research that sought to develop a critical understanding how the
childhood experiences of township youth influence their decisions to become gangsters.
The findings shows that decisions that township youth make cannot be separated from
their community's social disorganisation. Gangsterism formed a safe backdrop to
childhoods characterized by a lack of personal validation in families, scarcity of suitable
role models and personal economic deprivation. The street gang provided the stability
and validation that was lacking in their home environments. However, in adulthood
their uncritical acceptance of the gangster lifestyle is challenged. The research found that
critical incidents in their lives force them to re-evaluate their childhood decisions. It is
when critically reflecting on the meaning of their lives that decisions to leave the gang


The stories of people's lives have to be read within the historical, cultural, and political contexts
that shape them. This seems to not be the case when the phenomenon of gangsterism is studied.
Our knowledge of gangsterism within the coloured communities around Cape Town is shaped
by the phenomenon as a criminal entity. This is apparent in research conducted in the
disciplines of social work and criminology. In these disciplines, studies overwhelmingly focus
on the social problems that gangsters create for society. The subjects of such studies are
identified as at-risk individuals whose alienation and disengagement from community requires
study. This deficit discourse positions individuals as problems to be solved.
How the state of wellness in their communities influences decisions that individuals make,
and the choices that are available to them when faced with hardships, violence-related trauma,
and socio-economic crises, seldom seem to be part of the research agenda. What is seen as a
limitation of current research is its uncritical engagement with how the individual has been
shaped by his or her community culture and how community history influenced the
individual's decision to become a gangster. To engage with gangsterism only as a criminal

Doria Daniels is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education at
Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Quinton Adams is the director for the Centre for Youth and Child
Development, South Africa.
University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

46 I Daniels and Adams

entity is to miss its complexity as a social and cultural phenomenon. Steinberg's research on the
lives of gangsters, as written up in The Number, underlines this point. His research is one of the
few South African studies that sought to understand crime through the life and circumstances
of the individual.1 By giving crime and criminality a human face he succeeds in moving beyond
the criminal act to make meaning of why young coloured men of the Western Cape continue to
live violent lives despite the opportunities that their democratic society now make available to
Children do not possess the maturity and self-knowledge to critically reflect on the
historical, cultural, and biological reasons for their needs, wants, and interests. Thus, a decision
to become a member of a street gang is not necessarily an informed decision. Researchers have
to make sense of the relational, social, and cultural factors that influence the decisions
vulnerable youth make about their lives and those who inhabit it, in order to understand them
as adult subjects. Adults' understanding of the world is different from when they were children
in that maturity fosters the need in the human being to make meaning of his or her life and to
reflect on past decisions. Adulthood often times brings a clearer understanding of life
experiences when it is known under what circumstances an expressed idea is true or justified.
Transformative learning theory and resilience shaped the theoretical framework within
which we interpret how three former gangsters make meaning of the world they function in
and their development of a more critical worldview2. We are telling their life stories for the
insights they could provide on the dynamic interaction between resilience factors and
transformational learning processes. This new knowledge is not just transformational for the
three men; it could also be valuable knowledge for community educators who work with youth
who are vulnerable to the lure of gangsterism.

Resilience and Transformational Learning as a Framework for Understanding
Disentanglement from Gangsterism
Resilience is often described as "individual variation in response to risk," or as an occurrence
that is characterized by good outcomes in spite of serious threats to adaptation or development.3
The construct of resilience is a derivative of two bodies of literature: physiological aspects of
stress and the psychological aspects of coping.4 Within the discipline of developmental
psychopathology resilience refers to the positive developmental outcomes for youth despite
their exposure to adverse and negative circumstances. Defining resilience is challenging as
many factors can be identified that could play a role. Some of the factors that researchers of
resilience have pointed out are trusting relationships, emotional support that youth enjoy
outside of the family, hope, and a belief in God and morality. The International Resiliency
Project cautions that not enough is known about the dynamic interaction of these factors, the
roles they play in various contexts, and the sources of such factors.
Risk is identified as a primary concept within the resiliency model, being a concept that
refers to any power that facilitates the start of, the digression to or the continuation of the
problem situation.5 An individual's vulnerability to challenges, stress, and anxiety influences
how he or she perceives his/her self worth as well as how he or she interacts with his/her world.
Thus, demographic variables such as age and gender, together with disabling conditions such
as parental conflict and marital violence are factors that could cause stress and anxiety in a

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Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Struggle for Place and Voice | 47

child's world. What is clear from all resilience studies is the relationship between culture and
resilience factors. Culture includes family and community culture. It is from within the confines
of the local community that men can be recognized as men and carry out their responsibility as
such. Rutter and Salo have argued that one's identity is ingrained within the generational
continuity of the household in which one was raised, together with the communal relationships
and networks that exist within one's neighbourhood.6
Transformational learning theory is a second component that informed our thinking about
these men as adults. According to Mezirow, adults are only able to claim ownership of their
personal and social roles once they develop a greater understanding and awareness of the
world and its issues.7 Furthermore, researchers of transformational learning processes argue
that a traumatic personal event or a series of events during adulthood could result in an acute
personal or social crisis for the individual. When this happens, it will challenge their positioning
as men in the world and could lead them to undergo a perspective transformation. Such
experiences are painful and stressful life events that lead the individual to re-evaluate his life
and his purpose in life.

Community Disorganisation and Gangsterism

Coloured people are over-represented in South African prisons. Though this group make up 9
percent of the population, they make up 18 percent of the prison population.8 Higher level of
incarceration could suggest higher levels of community criminality. Gangsterism in the Western
Cape is often linked to the forced removals of coloured families and their dispersal all over the
Cape Flats. Standing and other researchers have argued that the informal social control that
communities had over the youth was lost when established Cape Town communities were
disbanded under the Group Areas Act in the 1960s. Crime and felony-related conflict became
much more prominent and problematic in coloured communities after they were relocated to
the Cape Flats.9 Official estimates for the 1990s put the number of gangs on the Cape Flats at
approximately 130 and their combined membership at approximately 100,000.10 Whereas in the
past street gangs were described as expressions of social cohesion in peripheral communities,
the Cape Flats gangs of the twenty-first century are violent criminal fraternities that have
alarmingly powerful memberships and constitute sophisticated criminal networks."
It cannot be ignored that the high levels of unemployment and poverty amongst township
families have created the opportunity for gangs to exploit the vulnerable and the unemployed.
Although young men are the primary victims of community violence, they are also
overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violent acts committed in such communities.12 This is borne
out by Standing's research that found that hard-core gangs are more likely to target youths
whose vulnerability is enhanced by economically unstable family backgrounds.13 Poverty,
unemployment, and the absence of meaningful jobs are found globally to be contributing
factors to the recruitment of youth to gangs.14 Capozzoli and McVey refer to the sense of
hopelessness that poverty generates when youth are unable to obtain the goods and services
that they need and that their peers have access to.15
The youth's involvements in gangs are often ascribed to either estrangement or
disconnectedness from community.16 However, not all researchers concur with this argument.

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48 I Daniels and Adams

Salo views membership in a gang as the means through which gendered personhood is
affirmed and through which communities are forged and reproduced.17

Narrating the Personal Journey of Three Former Gangsters

Access to Fly, SB, and Nate (pseudonyms) was negotiated through a community leader with
whom all three have a working relationship. This was because we anticipated that these former
gangsters would be suspicious of our motives to research their life stories. They consented to be
interviewed and audio-taped, on condition that the audio-taped interviews were destroyed
once the transcriptions were done. In addition to the 112 to 2 hours' interview transcriptions,
additional field notes were collected in the community during informal contact sessions with
the three men.18 At the time of the interviews all three men had severed their ties with their
gangs and said that they were vulnerable to vengeance attacks from gangsters. The names we
use in the text are pseudonyms to protect their identities. We also scrambled some of the data
that could identify their communities and be traced back to them. The table below provides
demographic data on Fly, SB, and Nate.

Participant Age Parents Siblings
Fly 24 Mother, 2 5 siblings
SB 26 mother 3 siblings
Nate 24 mother 3 siblings

The men's gender identities seemed to supersede their gangster identities, as they spoke
a lot about their biological families and their positioning as sons in such families. When
talking about their families, they focused almost exclusively on their relationship with their
mothers and the absence of their fathers. All three men were raised in female-headed
households. Fly knew who his biological father was, though the men in his childhood were
two stepfathers. There were many men present in the lives of their mothers, but none of
these men seemed to have played a significant role in their lives. The various male figures
from their childhood were described as abusive to both their mothers and to them as
children. The following came from Fly's narrative, referring to one of the stepfathers:
The time when I became aware, he was already there, and he already beat up my
mother and me too ... I remember once when he was hitting my mother, when I
was a small boy, about three, four years old. While he was hitting my mother, I
said to him: 'Dad, don't hit my mother like that,' and he started hitting, and I
jumped back, and he threw me against the wardrobe. ... and I sat there 'wind uit'
(winded) ... and the tears rolled ...,
SB and his three brothers were born out-of-wedlock. His mother was leading a promiscuous
life, and four different men fathered her four sons. She drank a lot and often did not come home
at night. SB remembers that as a child he constantly sought his real father amongst the many
male partners that his mother brought home. His mother's evasiveness about his paternity was
interpreted by him as her unsureness of who fathered him. "She withheld things from me, ...

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Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Struggle for Place and Voice | 49

and the fact that I always found her with different men. That could have led to me becoming
rebellious against her. All the time she hid things about my father from me, and what happens
now?" SB eventually found out who his father was, but by that time he had passed away, and
the opportunity to get to know him was lost.
Nate knew who both his parents were. They were drug dealers who had a shebeen and
traded in alcohol and drugs. He, however, never knew his father, a man who had gained
notoriety as one of the biggest drug lords in the community. Nate's father was forced to relocate
to Johannesburg, due to what Nate believes were drug-related issues. His mother was a shebeen
queen. What was evident from the three men's narratives was that the homes they grew up in
contained no positive role models that they could emulate. Promiscuity, drunkenness, abuse,
criminals, drug dealing, and drug running were amongst the descriptors they used to
describing the adults in their lives. The anger and sometimes blame that the three men doled
out was mostly to the parent who was present in their lives, namely their mothers. Nate stated
that he "does not know what it is like to live with a mother," as he left home for six years as a
child to live on the streets. So too, Fly became a "stroller" and lived on the streets for long
periods of time, while SB's relationship with his mother was tumultuous.

The Community as the Gangs' School of Initiation
We sought understanding of gang discourse and their composition of social capital, which we
understand to be networks that grant a sense of identity and common purpose to both the
gangster and the gang and imply costs and benefits. The townships in which SB, Nate, and Fly
grew up had low socio-economic status and were typified by poverty and unemployment. All
three townships were built between 1965 and 1980, after coloured communities were uprooted
from urban residential areas that were rezoned as white residential areas under the Group
Areas Act of 1950. Their parents' classification as coloured under the Population Registration
Act led to them being restricted to live in these newly created Cape Flats townships.
Nate grew up in Clarkstown, which is "worlds away from Plattekloof (an affluent white
suburb), and also Belhar (a middle-class coloured suburb)."19 He described his family's
resettlement in the early 1960s as being "dumped" in Clarkstown. According to him,
Clarkstown groomed young men for gangsterism. "Clarkstown ... it is the place with the
highest rate of gangsterism. I have adapted myself to what is the constitution of Clarkstown ...
and I fall in with that constitution. If I do not fall in with that constitution, I will never make it
In his township people conform to the norms and standards by which Clarkstown residents
live, namely that they produce and sell alcohol and drugs, and "stoop to the lowest level to
acquire things." Young males become gang members largely in response to their interactions
with the local conditions of poverty. As a youngster, if you did not own a particular pair of
training shoes, you identified someone who did, and then you robbed him of his shoes. Thus,
acknowledgment is earned through engagement with what is valued, which is membership in a
gang and involvement in the drug trade. Nate's family is an example of what he describes. Nate
was born into the drug trade. While growing up he was mainly exposed to people who made a
living from trading in drugs and alcohol. His family was powerful in the community because
they engaged with illegal activities such as running a shebeen in a residential neighbourhood.

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50 I Daniels and Adams

At the time of the interview his sisters were running the shebeen and were still actively
continuing their trade in drugs and alcohol.
Against the other two, SB seemed to have lived a normal childhood. Growing up he
remembers his mother being the sole breadwinner for her four sons. His mother was always
struggling to cope, both personally and financially. Things became difficult for the family
when she fell ill and could no longer afford to keep her younger sons at school. When SB's
eldest brother deserted the family and moved to another township, SB was in Grade 11. He
had to quit school to become his family's breadwinner. It would seem that poverty, together
with being pushed into the role of sole breadwinner whilst still a teenager, made him more
vulnerable to be enticed by the gang. SB said he felt alienated and neglected by his mother
and his tumultuous relationship with her influenced his decision to join a street gang at the
age of seventeen. His gang members were all "boys growing up without dads, and who
were used to being on the street." SB continues: "Maybe I was just looking for people that
could listen to me ... They would maybe better understand than my mother did, that was
what I thought."
After he joined the gang, he quit his daytime job because his gang membership came with
benefits such as accumulating material goods and easy access to money. As an established
gangster SB could walk into a shebeen or any place where illegal activities were taking place
and then demand his "tax," which was the term he used for payoff money. In exchange for the
"tax" that he received from his gang leader, his job was to rob businesses or individuals. SB
later progressed from street gangster to prison gangster when he landed in jail.
Fly's family life can be described as unstable and challenging for any growing child. His
mother was the black sheep of her family, a woman who was never in a stable relationship, and
who constantly uprooted her family. As such, the family was constantly at the mercy of
relatives and strangers to house them when they were homeless. At one time their "home" was
an outside toilet in a family's backyard. An unstable family life together with a history of being
fathered by a criminal impacted on how he was acted on by his relatives. "Whenever something
would disappear, it would be Fly, Fly, Fly. My family, everyone, would ... watch me. When
something goes missing, even when I did not take it ... And many times I would just get fed-
Throughout his narrative, Fly kept on referring to the importance of respect: "... it starts in
the home ... your parents are the first to initiate you ... in other words, they are the first to show
you some respect, discipline. And it is just about that. It is all about you not knowing how to act
and react ... and then it is difficult."
Fly described himself as a quiet child who did not make trouble. However, during
childhood he would disappear for months at a time, living on the street, or helping street
vendors sell fruit in the city center. During such periods away from home, he attached himself
to various male figures. He made constant reference to an "Uncle Leon," a street vendor who
traded on Greenmarket Square in Cape Town. The first time he met Uncle Leon, also known as
"Pappi," he was about eleven years old. He remembers helping Pappi find a site and set up his
table for the day. For two years Pappi was the only family he knew. And the reason that he
stayed with him for so long was because he was shown respect by Uncle Leon. Other than

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Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Struggle for Place and Voice I 51

saying that Uncle Leon gave him accommodation, Fly did not divulge much about their
Fly was fourteen years old when he first went to jail. Police picked him up on an occasion
when he was again "strolling" and kept him in jail for a few weeks while trying to locate his
family. His second brush with the law was in 2002, when he was caught stripping a car that had
been reported stolen. He was jailed for a year-and-a-half. It was at this time that he was
recruited by a jail gang. Fly was a "Frans," a label used for an offender earmarked by the 28
prison gang as one with potential to become a gangster. In the year-an-a-half that he was in jail,
Fly participated in and passed the tests and tasks to be inducted into the 28 gang, which is the
most influential prison gang. Though Fly had tattoos all over the exposed parts of his body, our
reading of him was that he did not fit the hardened gangster profile. His justification for having
been a gangster was, again, that he found the discipline that he sought, which had always been
missing in his life. Furthermore, his notoriety in the community earned him respect amongst his

Leaving the Gang Behind

In each of the men's lives, a series of personal events happened that challenged their positioning
as men in the world. Death of a family member or the birth of a child were two acutely
personal experiences that influenced SB's and Fly's decisions to walk away from their lives as
SB's relationship with his mother was described as tumultuous. His gang involvement
must have been the reason for many of their arguments, as it is clear that she consistently made
her disapproval of his lifestyle known. She would remind him of the effects his lifestyle is
having on her and his younger brothers, though he ignored her. Once, however, there was a
retaliation attack on his family home after he fought with another gangster. The rival gang
threatened his mother with death and trashed his family's home. This incident was SB's first
experience of the dangerous consequences that being a gangster could have for one's family. As
a gangster, his mother's voice stayed in his head, admonishing him about his lifestyle. "My
mother's voice, yes ... Her voice was the only voice that even now helps. She was always there,
even when I went to jail. She would always talk, even scold, and say 'I am not putting you out
because you are a gangster, it is because I do not agree with what you do.'"
His mother persisted in reminding him that his younger siblings were growing up and were
witnessing his actions. On such occasions he did consider distancing himself from gangsterism.
From how he describes her actions in dealing with his gangster activities, it is obvious that she
showed resiliency by refusing to accept any assistance from him that resulted from criminal
activities. This must have been difficult given that she was a cash-strapped single parent who
could easily have benefitted from the protection and material gains that immediate family
members of gangsters enjoy. Instead she distanced herself from him.
The birth of his baby daughter seemed to be the catalyst for his decision to change his life
around. Parenthood forced SB to reflect on his new role as a father as well as challenged his
positioning thus far as a man against the female sex. When SB became a father the realisation hit
him that: "SB, you have a baby, you have a girl, you have a mother ... you are older ... that is

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52 I Daniels and Adams

when I decided that my life as a gangster cannot continue ... it is about the people who care
about you."
He tells the story of how he was standing outside the hospital while his daughter was being
born and how the magnitude of the moment hit him: he was about to become a father, which
would place immense responsibility on him as a person. He remembers that the gender of his
child triggered memories of all the bad things he had done to girls. That night he walked many
kilometres from the hospital to his house, crying about his new baby daughter. That night he
made the decision to be a father who would protect her and raise her. For months after her birth
he avoided his gangster friends and focused on his new role as a father.
Fly's transformation, too, was the result of a collective of transforming life events. Though
he had been a "stroller" all his life, he continued to stay in contact with his family. He would
occasionally return home to check in on his mother and sisters and bring them fruit. However,
when his mother died, he experienced a great sense of loss, and of loneliness. "I was looking for
something that was not there anymore. I lost something valuable that had great meaning in my
life." This great loss spurred him on to rebuild his relationship with his sisters. Though not
close to them, he now more regularly visits them.
A second change in his life is linked to his personal relationship and the deepening of his
spirituality. Even when he was a gangster, Fly would repent about his deeds and "had the urge
to ... take on God in my life." When he walked past churches, the "open lights," he would
pause to listen, and would silently ask that churchgoers pray for him too. However, at the time
he did not take his thoughts about religion seriously and "did not realise how personal the issue
(of finding God) was." Fly's religious conversion is however also tied to the emotional and
spiritual support he received from the woman in his life. She was religious and was the one
who motivated him to attend church with her and to lead "a life for God." Her tragic death
from a snake bite has been a very painful event in his life.
He spoke with great sadness about her death and her influence on his changed perspective
on life. He has gained the confidence to pray on his own. Fly exudes an eagerness to understand
the Bible and to reflect on what the verses mean and what their relevance are in his life. During
the interviews his narrative was interspersed with quotes from the Bible, and he seemed very
eager to engage us in discussion about religion. His wife's untimely death has left him a single
parent of one boy. Fly was very reflective about his role as a father, which he described as "a
God-given responsibility." He made a comparison between his role as a father and his
experience as a son who suffered neglect and deprivation because of an absent father. Fly
decided to break the generational continuity of the absent father by his decision to be present in
his son's life.
Nate gives religion as his reason for turning his back on the gang. He maintained that the
only way for him to leave the gangster lifestyle was if he committed his life to God. Gangsters
have a grudging respect for a gang member who decides to commit his life to God. However,
this decision has made him vulnerable to constant prosecution and monitoring from fellow
gangsters. Former gangsters always have incriminating information about other gang members
and could place the operations of the gang under severe threat. Nate is very aware that one of
the biggest concerns regarding ex-gangsters is that they will inform on the gangs, especially on

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Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Struggle for Place and Voice I 53

the operations of the drug trade. Therefore, the decision to leave the gang and gang culture is a
serious one that required tremendous courage on his part.
When his decision became known, it was met with scepticism. The gang always assumes
that there is a hidden reason for quitting and sets traps to catch one out. Nate related how a
former gang member was shot dead when the gang found out that his religious conversion was
a scam to sell drugs and increase his drug trade in the community. Despite his open declaration
that he had quit gangsterism, Nate has had numerous opportunities presented to him to earn
money by selling drugs. The seduction of easy money through gangsterism is a constant threat.
These Nate saw as tests to determine whether he was serious about leaving the gang and to
make sure that his decision was genuine. By saying no to such offers speak to the resilience of
Nate to resist accepting the tempting offers of gangsters.

The Long Road Ahead
Their break with a gangster lifestyle is allowing SB, Nate, and Fly the space to commit
themselves to their personal visions and dreams. They have replaced the gang identity with a
personal identity. However, their personal identity requires that they take responsibility for
their own actions and commit themselves to new visions for the future. In the past, the gang put
pressure on them to act according to the norms and rules of the gang, and there was little or no
time as individuals to take responsibility for their personal needs and aspirations. Now they
have the freedom of making decisions that could affect their future and purpose in life.
The personal hardships that those who break away from gangs have to experience are
sometimes the very reason why people remain in the gang or return to it. SB, Nate, and Fly
found themselves without an income, and not knowing how to earn an honest living. Though
they did not possess the skills to launch themselves into new careers, they resisted returning to
their former activities. Bouncing back from a lifestyle of gang activities and criminality requires
consistency in pro-social behavior. Both Nate and Fly were fortunate and could make use of the
training opportunities that their church provided to help them prepare for their new lifestyle.
Both have participated in a government-sponsored life skills training program for adults living
in adverse risk conditions. Nate has plans to set up his own belt-making business, Fly has
decided to start his own scrap metal business, and SB has been trained to refurbish old
computers. The jobs that they now hold are a far cry from the life of a gangster, and the income
that they generate is a pittance when compared to the money to which they had access before.

In this article we presented the stories of three former gangsters. By gaining knowledge from
the perspective of the researched, we wanted to understand why male youths become involved
in gangsterism and why some of them walk away from this lifestyle. The challenges that SB,
Fly, and Nate faced as young men who became gangsters was researched within the ecology of
their childhood, as well as that of the broader community.20 The townships all three grew up in
were characterized by disorganisation in both their personal and public life. Their childhoods
mirror their multiple marginalities as poor, coloured children from very distressed families.
Nate was raised in a shebeen where illegal activities were happening daily and where he was

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

54 I Daniels and Adams

initiated as a child drug runner. Fly's family was often homeless; thus becoming a child of the
street was an option he preferred over being at home. SB's mother's promiscuous lifestyle and
his early baptism into the life of family breadwinner could have been very stressful
responsibilities for a seventeen year-old. Given such family backgrounds they had to find ways
to survive, and gangsterism provided the way.
Poverty's impact on their worlds was in limited opportunities, marginalization, and social
exclusion. All three boys' vulnerability to challenging, stressful families influenced how they
perceived their self-worth as well as how they interacted with their worlds. Their involvement
in gang activities was their way of obtaining a competitive advantage in their own poor and
unstable communities. More importantly, the gang became the substitute family where their
gendered personhood was affirmed. Furthermore, it became a vehicle to acquiring material
goods necessary for minimal well-being, which in their situations were the shoes, clothing, and
money to which teenagers from a higher socio-economic community had access. Gangsterism
was an avenue to adulthood that these three men from three different townships on the Cape
Flats took.
In adult life, the trusting relationships and emotional support that were provided by a
partner, together with a growing trust in God and family, were challenging their existing belief
system. Many disconcerting moral dilemmas started presenting themselves, such as how to be a
good father whilst still a gangster, or how to be a gangster without bringing harm to your
family. As gang members they were used to unquestioning and sometimes mindlessly
accepting gang rules. Becoming a parent or losing a parent challenged their value systems. They
started to actively engage with and question who they are in the world. This ties in with what
Mezirow refers to as transformational learning.21 They had "matured out" through a process of
gradual disaffiliation and breaking away from the gang, at least in terms of commitment to and
participation in violent gang activities. These changed perspectives were, however, facilitated
by a need for common ground. Whereas in the past they adopted a self serving stance, they now
seem to be living by normative values and rules.
Their transformed thinking about life and their roles in it are not easy and straightforward
processes. They are constantly confronted by the deeds of their past for they had lived lives that
included violence, crime, and drug trafficking, which led to their alienation from the
community in which they lived. Though they have shed their gang lifestyle, they know that it is
not a straightforward process of cutting one's ties with the gang. Nor is there instantaneous re-
admittance to the community; or immediate support. These individuals know that living the life
of the former gangster requires tremendous resilience and ongoing courage to stay focused on
their new paths: one perceived misstep could mean alienation from the community, or even


1 Steinberg, 2005.
2 Taylor, 2008.
3 Hawley, 2000; also Masten, 2001.
4 Tusaie and Dyer, 2004.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Struggle for Place and Voice I 55

5 Waller, 2001.
6 See Salo, 2005; Rutter, 1987.
7 Mezirow, 1987.
8 Leggett, 2004.
9 Pinnock, 1984.
10 See Standing, 2005, on statistics on gangs. See also Kinnes, 2000.
11 For more, also see Kynoch, 1999.
12 Samara, 2005.
13 Standing, 2005.
14 For more see Curry and Thomas, 1992; Fagan, 1990; Huff, 1990; and Vigil, 1988.
15 Capozzoli and McVey, 2000.
16 Glaser, 2000
17 Salo, 2005.
18 One of us was working closely with these communities and with the families of these men.
As such, data on the men were known prior to the interviews and were verified during that
19 This is a fictitious name for the township.
20 Bronfenbrenner, 1979.
21 Mezirow, 2000, p.8.

Bronfenbrenner, U. The Ecology of Human Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,

Capozzoli, T.K., and R.S. McVey. Kids Killing Kids: Managing Violence and Gangs in Schools. Boca
Raton: CRC Press, 2000.

Curry, G.D., and R. W. Thomas. "Community Organization and Gang Policy Response." Journal
of Quantitative Criminology 8, no.4, (1992): 357-74.

Fagan J. "Gangs, Drugs and Neighbourhood Change." In C.R. Huff (ed.) Gangs in America.
(Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1996), pp. 39-74.

Glaser, C. "Swines, Hazels and the Dirty Dozen: Masculinity, Territoriality & the Youth Gangs
of Soweto 1960-1976." Journal of Southern African Studies 24, no.4 (1998): 719-36.

Hawley, D.R. "Clinical Implications of Family Resilience." The American Journal of Family
Therapy, 28, issue 2 (2000):101-16.

Huff, C.R. Gangs in America. Newbury Park, Ca: Sage Publications, 1990.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

56 I Daniels and Adams

Kinnes, I. From Urban Street Gangs to Criminal Empires: The Changing Face of Gangs in the Western
Cape. ISS, monograph, no.48, 2000 http://www.iss.co.za/Pubs/Monographs/No48/Contents.html
(Retrieved 12.12.2006).

Kynoch, G. "From the Ninevites to the Hard Living Gang: Township Gangsters and Urban
Violence in Twentieth-Century South Africa." African Studies 58, no.1 (1999): 55-86.

Leggett, T. "Still Marginal: Crime in the Coloured Community." South African Crime Quarterly 7
(2004): 21-26.

Masten, A.S. "Ordinary Magic: Resilience Processes in Development."American Psychologist 56,
issue 3 (2001): 227-38.

Mezirow, Jack. Learning as Transformation. Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, 2000.

"Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice." In Transformative Learning in Action:
Insights from practice, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, ed. P. Cranton., no. 74,
(San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1997). p 5.

Pinnock, D. The Brotherhoods: Street Gangs and State Control in Cape Town, Cape Town: David
Philip, 1984.

Rutter, M. "Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms." American Journal of Child
Psychology and Psychiatry 30 (1987): 23-51.

Salo, E. "Mans is Ma Soe. Ganging Practices in Manenberg, South Africa and the Ideologies of
Masculinity, Gender and Generational Relations." Paper presented at Criminal Justice
Conference, 7-8 February 2005.

Samara, T.R. "Youth, Crime and Urban Renewal in the Western Cape." Journal of Southern
African Studies 31, no.1 (2005): 209-27.

Standing, A. "The Threat of Gangs and Anti-gangs Policy." Policy discussion paper. ISS Paper
116, August 2005.

Steinberg, Jonny. The Number. Jeppestown, South Africa: Jonathan Ball Publishers S.A, 2004.

Taylor, E. "Transformative Learning Theory." In Third Update on Adult Learning Theory, New
Directions for Adult and Continuing Education No. 119. (Dublin: John Wiley and Sons, 2008) pp. 5-

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Breaking with Township Gangsterism: The Struggle for Place and Voice I 57

Tusaie, K. and J. Dyer. "Resilience: A Historical Review of the Construct." Holistic Nursing
Practice. 18, no.l, (2004): 3-10.

Vigil, J.D. Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California. Austin: University of Texas
Press, 1988.

Waller, M.A. "Resilience in an Ecosystemic Context: Evolution of the Concept" American Journal
of Orthopsychiatry 71, issue 3 (2001): 290-97.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Disadvantaged

Urban Communities in Ghana


Abstract: Ghana, like most developing countries, struggles to improve access to water
and sanitation to its urban population. Presently, many areas within the country do not
have access to dean water from the national grid. And in areas served by the approved
utility company, water service is mostly erratic and increasingly unreliable. Available
evidence indicates that only 59 percent of urban residents have access to improved
drinking water. The main policy tool aimed at improving water supply is private sector
participation in the water sector. The inadequacies in urban water supply are felt
disproportionally in disadvantaged or peri-urban communities. Often, the needs of the
disadvantaged communities are hidden in the aggregate statistics of the larger urban
areas. This research theorizes that because of the unique characteristics of the
disadvantaged community-a high concentration of low income dwellers, squatter
communities, and poor infrastructure developments-private sector participation often
has very limited effect on the disadvantaged communities. Using a multiple case study
approach, this study analyzes the unique water problems faced by disadvantaged urban
communities. The research concludes by espousing a multi-sectoral approach which
utilizes all resources and uses multiple avenues for water delivery as the best approach
to ensure water security to disadvantaged communities.


In spite of the benefits of adequate water supply to economic wellbeing, Ghana like other
developing countries struggles to improve access to water and sanitation to its urban citizens.
At present, many areas within the country do not have access to potable water from the national
grid. And in areas served by the approved utility company, water service is mostly erratic and
increasingly unreliable. Available evidence indicates that as of 2008, only 59 percent of urban
residents have access to improved drinking water from the national grid.'
Low water supply coverage is not peculiar to Ghana alone, but forms part of a systemic
urban water supply problem in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).2 According to the UK based
international charity WaterAid, water supply coverage in Burkina Faso and Uganda is
estimated at 61 percent and 60 percent, respectively. In Ethiopia, only 22 percent of the
population have access to potable water, while 43 percent and 48 percent of the population in
Mozambique and Nigeria, respectively, have access to potable water.3

Kweku G. Ainuson is an Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University with a joint appointment at
the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and the African American Studies
University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

60 I Ainuson

The problems that account for urban water supply shortages in SSA are enormous and very
complex in nature. These problems range from institutional bottlenecks like water utility
management capacity and weak regulatory mechanisms to infrastructure problems such as
poor urban planning, rapid growth of squatter communities, and insufficient financial
According to the United Nations, the urban population in SSA continues to grow at a faster
pace than any of the other continents. With an urban population of 13 percent in 1950, the urban
population in SSA had increased to 33 percent by 2002.5 The United Nations (UN) estimates that
by 2030 one in two Africans will be living in urban areas. In Ghana, the proportion of total
population living in urban areas increased from 26 percent in 1965 to 46.3 percent in 2005. It is
projected to increase to 58 percent within the next twenty years.6 The growth in the urban sector
outpaces the growth in infrastructure development and therefore limits the ability of
government to provide adequate utility services to all urban dwellers. The group hardest hit by
this shortfall in urban water supply is the urban poor.7 Current estimates indicate that over 28
percent of the urban dwellers in Ghana live below the poverty line. The urban poor are more
likely to congregate along urban fringes and defined areas within the urban centers.8 These poor
urban communities are mostly populated by squatters and migrants workers, lack basic
amenities, and usually have very poorly developed infrastructure.9
The response of governments to the urban water crisis has been through a multi-sectoral
approach that strengthens legal and regulatory structures and emphasizes a clear separation
between water policy making, water regulation, tariff reforms, and operational functions.10 The
main goal of water sector reform in Ghana has been geared towards introducing private sector
participation (PSP) into the water supply sector." This idea of PSP is based on a neo-liberal
market ideology which advocates that PSP in the water sector will improve technical know-how
and efficient utility management and bring much needed private capital investment.12
However, gains from PSP in the water sector have received mixed reactions from scholars and
researchers, and its continued use as a policy tool has become very controversial among
Within the disadvantaged urban areas, the gains of PSP have been very minimal as PSP
often leads to an increase in tariffs and slow expansion of infrastructure to disadvantaged urban
areas.14 Private water companies have no real incentives to expand services to disadvantaged
urban communities, which tend to have a high concentration of low income dwellers. To this
end, residents in the disadvantaged urban communities are more likely to be unconnected to
the national grid and therefore more likely to resort to the unofficial and informal sector for
their water supply.15
This research studies three disadvantaged communities to explore a multi-sectoral
approach to ensure greater water security in disadvantaged urban communities in Ghana. Part
One sets the context of urban water policy in Ghana. It highlights the main policy areas and
how they affect the low income urban resident. Part Two is a case study of three disadvantaged
urban communities in Ghana. It highlights the unique water supply challenges faced by these
communities. The third part explores multiple avenues to ensure greater water security in
disadvantaged urban communities.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana I 61

Urban Water Supply Policy in Ghana
Under the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy I and II (GPRSI and GPRSII), adequate water
supply is featured as one of the priorities to reduce the incidence of poverty in Ghana.16 The
GPRS sets out strategies to "to reduce human deprivation, promote human rights and achieve
sustainable growth." In spite of the emphasis on increasing access to water as part of poverty
reduction, urban water supply is still under 60 percent coverage of its capacity. Meanwhile,
with almost 50 percent of Ghana's total population of 23 million living in urban centers and
growing at an annual rate of 3.5 percent, inadequacies in water are bound to grow if there are
no sustained measures aimed at addressing the phenomenon.17
The total renewable water resource in Ghana is estimated at 53.2 km3/yr out of which 30.3
km3/yr is produced internally. In 2000, only 0.982 km3 of water representing 3.27 percent of
internally produced water was withdrawn for use.18 Thus, there are enough water resources
within the country to satisfy urban water needs. However, in spite of the abundant water
resources, water supply is erratic and unavailable in many places. Available data shows that in
Accra, the capital, only 25 percent of residents have 24 hour water supply. For about 30 percent
of residents, water supply service averages twelve hours a day for five days a week. For another
35 percent of residents, water supply is estimated at two days per week. For the remaining 10
percent living mainly in poor neighborhoods at the urban fringes there is no access to piped
water supply.19 Ghana Water Company (GWCL), the only regulated utility service which
provides water to all urban areas in Ghana, is able to meet the water demands of only 59
percent of urban residents.20
It must be noted that the availability of water in its natural state does not necessarily lead to
adequate water supply. Delivering water to needed points within urban centers entail four
separate actions?21 This urban water delivery process entails capturing the needed water
through diversion, reservoirs, or ground wells. The captured water then has to be transported
to areas of economic need where it will be treated and delivered to consumers through pipes.
The infrastructure system needed from capture to delivery requires long-term investments in
fixed capital assets at a considerable cost.22 The investment cost in the capital assets to ensure
delivery of water to all needed points is often beyond the means of governments, especially in
developing countries.23
Population growth in Ghana has also exploded in the last 50 years. With a population of 6.7
million in 1960, the population is estimated at 23 million currently, representing almost a 350
percent increase.24 The population has grown faster than government has been able to keep up
with infrastructure development. Problems with sourcing technical experts, efficiency issues,
and inadequate funding have all prevented GWCL from operating at it optimum.25
Water Sector Reforms
In 1983, under the World Bank sponsored Economic Recovery Program (ERP), Ghana Water
and Sewerage Corporation (GWSC) adopted a five year water sector rehabilitation and
development plan. The plan was aimed at institutional strengthening through manpower
development, rehabilitation, and expansion of existing service and decentralization of water
and sewerage supply.26 Following the decentralization plan in the five year rehabilitation and
development plan, GWSC was mandated to concentrate on the provision of water and sewerage

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62 I Ainuson

in urban areas only. A semi-autonomous division within the GWSC, called the Community
Water and Sanitation Division, was created in 1994 and charged with the responsibility of rural
water and sewerage supply
Restructuring the urban sector has been aimed at encouraging PSP in the delivery of water.
As part of the restructuring and in preparation for public sector participation in urban water
supply, the government has set up various institutions in the water sector to serve as facilitators
and provide the backbone for a viable PSP regime. In this direction, the GWSC which hitherto
was a full government corporation operating both rural and urban water was changed to
GWCL, a semi-autonomous public agency. A Community Water and Sanitation Agency
(CWSA) was set up in 1998 to facilitate rural water supply and a Water Resources Commission
(WRC) was established in 1996 to see to the environmentally sound management of water
resources in Ghana. In 1997, the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) was established
to see to the regulation and provision of quality utility services. To coordinate the activities of
the various institutions and get them to conform to government policies in the water sector, a
water directorate was created within the Ministry of Works and Housing to coordinate all
activities in the water sector. The work of PURC and GWCL provide the background
information for this research.

The Public Utility Regulatory Commission
PURC is an independent regulatory institution set up to regulate water and electricity services.
Under the Public Utility and Regulatory Commission Act of 1997 (Act 538), the functions of
PURC among other things are setting water rates, regulating and monitoring the activities of
GWCL, and embarking on public education to sensitize consumers about the functions of
PURC. Section sixteen of Act 538 provides guidelines as to how water tariffs are to be fixed by
utility companies. These functions are aimed at ensuring safe, clean, adequate, reliable, and
efficient water service to the consumers while at the same time ensuring that consumers pay
reasonable prices for the sustenance of utility providers. Within the water supply sector, PURC
interprets its obligations as being limited to the regulation of the activities of GWCL.27 Thus,
PURC jurisdiction does not extend to the informal water sector dominated by the small-scale
water providers that serve as the main service providers in the disadvantaged urban
By far, PURC's most important function is setting of tariffs by which utility companies
charge consumers for services provided. Act 538 provides in section 16 (3) that the tariff
guidelines provided by PURC must strike a balance between consumer interests, investor
interests, and the cost of production for water service providers. Since GWCL is the only
recognized company providing water in urban areas, PURC uses a nationwide uniform tariff
structure. For domestic customers, PURC utilizes an increasing block rate pricing scheme.

Ghana Water Company Limited
GWCL is an independent public company created in 1999 to succeed GWSC. The creation of
GWCL was part of the water sector restructuring effort of the government of Ghana (GOG). The

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Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana I 63

restructuring of GWCL was partly to increase its efficiency and effectiveness and also position it
to encourage private sector participation in the water sector.28 The main objectives of GWCL are:
planning and development of water supply systems in urban communities in Ghana;
provision and maintenance of acceptable levels of service to consumers in respect of water
quantity and quality;
preparation of long term water supply plans in consultation with the appropriate
coordinating authority established by the president;
conduct water supply related research;
create engineering surveys and plans as appropriate;
construct and operate water works in urban areas;
submit tariff proposals to PURC for review and approval; and
conduct other related or incidental activities.

GWCL operates under the direction of the Ministry of Water Works and Housing which has
oversight authority over the sectorial policies within the water sector. GWCL operates 86 pipe
water systems in urban areas across the country. The total installed capacity of the water
systems operated by GWCL is 737,000 m3 per day as against an estimated urban demand of
939,070 m3 per day, revealing a shortfall in water supply. Water supply problems are
compounded by the fact that even though GWCL has the capacity to produce 737,000 m3 per
day, administrative and distributional inefficiencies put actual supply at 551,451 m3 per day.
The inefficiencies in GWCL account for most of the shortages in urban water supply to
customers within the piped network of GWCL.
Most of the problems that affect GWCL were inherited from GWSC. GWSC was a public
corporation that was, for a considerable period of time, kept under the dictates of politicians.29 It
operated at a time when there was no independent regulatory institution to monitor its
activities. GWSC operated as a water supplier, water resources manager and a water supply
and resource regulator. Accordingly, politicians were able to keep water tariffs low with the aim
of protecting consumers for a long period of time.30 Public policy objectives of GWSC were to a
large extent geared towards satisfying political ends instead of strengthening the corporation to
efficiently and effectively supply water. With low tariffs and interference from politicians, the
corporation was plagued with low investment and general breakdown of water systems.31
One of the important problems that confronted GWCL when it came into existence in 1999
was therefore capital investment to maintain the existing water systems and to undertake
system expansion to cover the ever increasing urban population in Ghana. In 2005, PURC
estimated that a total of $891 million will be required to meet the Millennium Development
Goal (MDG) of 85 percent urban water coverage by 2015.32 Similarly, estimates by WaterAid
Ghana indicate that $85 million in annual investment is needed to reach the MDG. Current
spending averages only $17 million annually.33 GWCL is therefore in need of an average of $68
million in investment funds annually to reach it MDG goals.
The current financial commitment of the Ghanaian government and other donor partners to
the water sector is woefully inadequate. For instance, GOG's allocation to the water and
sanitation sector in 2006 was lower than the previous year even though it is expected to increase
its expenditure over time to meet set targets. Out of the expected annual expenditure of $85

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64 I Ainuson

million in the sector in 2006, government expenditure was only 3.7 percent, with the rest
expected to be picked up by the donor community.34 However, donor funding is erratic and
often inadequate. From 1990 to 2003, Ghana's major donors contributed $220 million to the
urban water sector. It is estimated that within the period of 2004 to 2010, donor support
(excluding NGOs) for the urban water system will be only $185 million. In the light of the recent
world economic crisis, these estimated donor contributions are likely to fall below target. GOG
will therefore need to increase its financial commitments in the water sector and at the same
time convince donor partners to increase theirs as well in order to meet its water supply targets
by 2015.

Private Sector Participation
An earlier attempt at PSP in the water sector failed when a twenty year lease contract between
the now defunct Azurix, a subsidiary of Enron, and the government of Ghana was cancelled.
This lease contract failed mainly due to allegations of corruption and increasing public
opposition to water privatization.35 In 2006, GWCL entered into a five year management
contract with Vitens Rand Water Services BV of Netherlands and its subsidiary in Ghana, Aqua
VitRa Limited operating under the joint name of Aqua Vitens Rand Limited (AVRL). The main
components of the management contract are system expansion, rehabilitation of existing water
systems, capacity building to enhance the skill, and competence of the staff of GWCL and
project management.36 Under the system expansion and rehabilitation component, the operator
must work to increase the amount of treated water for sale, extend service to low income areas
and rehabilitate existing networks to reduce non-revenue water (i.e., unaccounted for water).
The operator also must work to ensure safety at the various dam sites and procure and install
billing meters for consumers. Under the capacity building and project management component
of the contract, the operator shall among other things train seconded staff and offer technical
assistance to the grantor.
Since the agreement is only a management contract, AVRL does not have to provide any
funding for the project. They get paid for the services of managing the urban water system in
Ghana. The grantor (GOG) through GWCL has to provide the funding for the realization of the
target components set out under the contract. The contract is estimated to cost $120 million. The
government of Ghana is providing $12 million while its development partners, the World Bank
and the Nordic Development Fund, are providing $103 million and $5 million, respectively.
AVRL is entitled to contract with consumers for the supply of water on behalf of the GWCL.
AVRL will therefore issue bills, receive payments, and disconnect consumers for non-payment.
The facilities of GWCL also shall be under the care of AVRL for the duration of the contract.
Upon satisfactory execution of the contract, AVRL shall have the right to submit a bid for a
leasehold agreement. AVRL shall be paid a base fee for its services. In addition to the base fee,
AVRL shall receive financial incentives based on the extent to which it exceeds performance
targets as stated in the contract. The base fee will also be reduced by penalties based on the
extent to which AVRL falls behind on the targets of the contract.
The success of the management contract depends to a large extent on the ability of GWCL
and other regulatory agencies to monitor the performance of AVRL. For instance, adjustments

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Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana I 65

in the base fee can be made only with data on the performance of AVRL. Performance measures
such as reduction in non-revenue for water needs accurate water production levels to measure.
Other indicators like extension of services to areas outside the network are relatively easy to
measure. Extension of water supply services to areas outside the coverage areas will have
physical infrastructure and consumer satisfaction as indicators of performance. Personal
interviews conducted with officials at the GWCL show that GWCL does not have the capacity
to collate the data necessary for a full performance review of the management with AVRL. A
senior policy staff interviewed at GWCL acknowledged that almost three years into the
management contract GWCL has not been able to establish a baseline for AVRL on which to
measure performance targets.

Urban Poor

Although extension of water infrastructure to serve the poor was a component of the AVRL
management contract, three years into the contract no significant improvement in the services
to the poor has been recorded. Under the contract, low income areas are defined as all areas
which do not receive piped water services from GWCL. For purposes of this research, low
income areas have been defined as areas which do not receive regular or piped water services
from GWCL as well as areas with higher concentration of residents with average annual income
at the threshold level of $400.
The urban poor in Ghana find themselves in a very vulnerable situation. When GWCL was
created in 1998, it was mandated to supply water to urban areas in Ghana, i.e. cities or towns
with population exceeding five thousand residents. There are areas or communities within
these urban centers which exist almost as autonomous communities but are regarded as part of
the larger city because of their location within the city limits. Thus, though these communities
would have been regarded as rural because of the size of their populations, there are regarded
as urban because of their geographic location. These communities tend to be at the urban
fringes, exhibit shanty town characteristics, and have a high concentration of poor people. The
communities are characterized by low income dwellers, squatters, inadequate infrastructure,
and low levels of education. A sizeable proportion of these residents are rural-urban migrants
in search of work in the cities. GWCL, which caters to the needs of the more traditional urban
centers, therefore severely disadvantage these poor urban dwellers in water service provision.
Although there is an acute water supply shortage in such areas, their plight is often hidden
within the aggregate data obtained for the entire urban areas. Thus, though GWCL figures put
urban water coverage at 59 percent, coverage in the poor neighborhoods is around 20 percent
and in the worst areas below 5 percent. In Accra, GWCL water connection rates average 90
percent in high-income areas and sixteen percent in low-income settlements.37 In fact, in some of
these poor neighborhoods, the living arrangements make it almost impossible for the GWCL to
extend pipe service to the area. Residents build structures anywhere within the community, in
most cases without official approval. In the communities of Nima, Sukura, and Ashiaman
residential areas for instance, it is difficult for vehicles to drive through most of the area because
buildings and structures have been erected on every possible space in the community. The
political will needed to demolish illegal structures to pave way for pipes to be laid is often

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66 I Ainuson

The main function of CWSA is to assist district assemblies with water supply in rural
areas.38 Since rural dwelling units are generally not suitable for piped water systems, CWSA
facilitates the construction of boreholes and hand dug wells to make water readily available to
rural dwellers. Boreholes and hand dug wells provide suitable water alternatives to rural
communities with fewer people and low incomes to economically afford the convenience of
network piped water systems. Boreholes and hand dug wells therefore serve as a cheap
alternative to get reliable and clean water supply throughout the year. However, since low
income communities within the urban centers are not defined as rural areas, they do not come
under the jurisdiction of CWSA and can therefore not benefit from the boreholes and the hand
dug wells provided by CWSA. Poor communities in urban centers therefore resort to buying
water from water vendors, small-scale water suppliers and other unapproved sources. Where
there is piped water system close by, family members walk to fetch water or pay for people to
cart water to their residence. In communities which are far from piped water supply, residents
pay small-scale water suppliers who fetch water in motorized tanks for delivery. There is a lot
of controversy about the source and quality of the water supplied by the motorized tanks as
well as other small-scale water providers.
Residents in low income communities pay three or four times what residents on the GWCL
network pay for water. In Accra, many of the 800,000 people living at or below the poverty line
pay ten times more for their water than residents in high income areas.39 The operations of the
small-scale water suppliers do not come within the purview of the PURC and therefore are not
required to adhere to the regulations of PURC. PURC itself has not shown any interest in
regulating the activities of the small-scale water providers. In its 2005 tariff policy statement,
though PURC agreed that the best pro-poor measure of water supply will be to extend GWCL
coverage to such areas, it said that the operations of the small-scale water providers should be
left to the market forces. Because of information asymmetry, low income consumers do not
possess the necessary information to make the right decision as to whom to buy water from and
how much to pay. The urban poor are therefore left at the mercy of the small-scale water
suppliers while the high income consumers enjoy the protection of PURC and the convenience
of piped water from GWCL.

Case Study Communities
A multiple case study involving the three disadvantaged communities of Nima, Ashalley
Botwe, and Ashaiman was used to study water supply in disadvantaged urban
neighborhoods.40 The three case studies were arrived at by considering demographic factors
such as income levels, educational levels, and ethnicity. Experts in the water sector were
consulted as well as various government documents on the subject area. Data collection in the
case study areas took place in December 2007 and January 2008 after obtaining the necessary
permit on conducting research involving human subjects.41 Congruent nested mixed method
was used to collect and analyze data in the case study areas.42 Actual data collection methods
involved a combination of interviews of water sector stakeholders, focus group discussions, and
household surveys.43

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Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana I 67

The three communities exhibit the attributes of the quintessential peri-urban neighborhood
with their poor infrastructure development and continuous deterioration of the surrounding
environment.44 They fit the description offered by Birley and Lock that the informal nature of
settlements makes it attractive to rural migrants because they serve as a conducive location for
the establishment of squatter settlements in hope of deriving benefits from the city.45 In
addition, city residents who are priced out of high income neighborhoods find these areas
cheap alternatives.
Ashalley Botwe was barely a community in 1970; it was at best a rural area with only a few
inhabitants and houses. The growth in the city of Accra in the latter part of the 1980s and the
1990s saw an increase in the population of residents in the area. Migrants coming into Accra to
work settled in the relatively less expensive areas in Ashalley Botwe. Rapid population growth
in Ashaiman took place during and after the construction of the main seaport terminal in
Ghana. Low income migrants in search of jobs at the harbor hub quickly filled up the area.
Subsequently, returning peacekeeping troops with saved income from their missions settled in
Ashaiman as their income was not enough to earn them places in high income residential areas.
Nima grew as an area that socializes new migrants to the city of Accra. Most of the growth in
Nima took place during Nkrumah's five year development plan in the 1960s when migrant
trooped to Accra in such of jobs. Table 1 details these population changes.

Table 1 Population Change in the Case Study Areas
Population Population Change Percentage Change
1970- 1970- 1984-
Area 1970 1984 2000 1984 1984-2000 1984 2000
Accra Region 734,896 1,203,292 2,548,975 468,396 1,345,683 63.74 111.83
Ashalley Botwe 383 410 11,974 27 11,564 7.05 2820.49
Ashiaman 22,549 50,918 150,312 28,369 99,394 125.81 195.20
Nima 52,270 52,906 69,044 636 16,138 1.22 30.50
Source: Ghana Statistical Service 2000 Census Data

Source of Water Supply in Disadvantaged Communities

Disadvantaged communities are often the last to receive water services from official water and
sanitation providers. Living arrangements within these communities are often ill-suited to allow
piped network without a major reorganization of structures. Where piped water exists, the
informal nature of the living arrangements may prevent residents from acquiring the necessary
legal documents necessary for pipe connection. While many "house owners" in Nima and
Ashaiman could not produce any legal documentation to their properties, they did not feel
threatened by their lack of documentation, arguing that their neighbors and others within the
community knew they owned their properties.
Data from the study revealed that the case study communities relied heavily on small-scale
water providers for their water supply. Ashalley Botwe residents depended on a combination of
private mobile water tankers and hand dug wells. Nima and Ashaiman residents got their
water supply mainly from their neighbors' house pipe or public stand pipe. The market

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68 I Ainuson

arrangement for water in all three communities is similar even though providers differ slightly.
Water providers are mainly local residents, and water is primarily sold in buckets to consumers.
There are enormous health risks associated with small-scale water providers. Local
business people store water in poly tank containers-usually with a capacity of 1000 liters-
with water from piped connections where it exists or tanker-delivered water. These poly tank
containers are rarely cleaned and evidence of growing spirogyra around the tanks points to the
quality of water in the tanks. The tanks mounted on water tankers, often manufactured from
scrap metal, are also hardly ever cleaned. In an interview of twenty water tanker operators in
Ashalley Botwe, the average cleaning time ranged from once a month to once every three
months. The disturbing part was that drivers climbed into the tanks to clean them using
laundry detergents containing bleach. It is not surprising therefore that international health
agencies including the World Health Organization do not recognize the activities of small-scale
water providers, especially tanker service.46 It is for this same reason also that the GOG does not
recognize the activities of the water tanker suppliers.
Resident participants in the focus group discussion were emphatic when it came to the
quality of water supplied by small-scale providers. There were numerous complaints about
odor and particles in the water supplied by vendors. Mobile water tankers cart stream water or
other kind of untreated water for consumers when the intended use is for construction or
outdoor use and cart treated water when the intended use is domestic. However, consumers
have no way of knowing the source of water when it is delivered to them. During the focus
group discussion, consumers charged that tanker drivers often deliver untreated water even
though they had paid for treated water. Mobile water tanker drivers vehemently denied this
charge during an interview with selected drivers. Without testing the water delivered by these
mobile water drivers it is difficult to determine in certainty the charge of consumers. However,
the picture is quite clear. With no regulation and uninformed consumers, the incentive to cheat
is very great.
There also was evidence of illegal water connections in the communities. Some poly-tank
owners directly tap into the main water lines to fill their containers for sale. This phenomenon
was very prevalent in Nima. In spite of persistent resident complaints both to the police and
officials of GWCL, nothing seemed to have been done about them. With limited resources from
GWCL and ill-equipped police to check such illegal connections, perpetrators sense a lack of
credible commitment on the part of the authorities and therefore operate with impunity.
Information gathered from the case study area indicated that residents in disadvantaged
urban neighborhoods paid more for water that residents in other parts of the urban area with
piped water from GWCL. Based on the tariff structure of PURC, a bucket of water (35 liters)
should be priced at GHc 0.0145, for this is the calculation used for residents in other parts of the
city with piped water. However, in Ashaiman and Nima, residents paid an average of GHc 0.07
for every 35 liters of water consumed, and Ashalley Botwe residents paid an average of GHc
0.25 for every 35 liters of water consumed. (Table 2) The price differentials in the case study
areas reflect the level of water scarcity in the localities. According to GWCL, unlike Ashaiman
and Nima where about 50 percent of water demand is met, in Ashalley Botwe only 45 percent of
water needs are met. In addition, residents in Ashalley Botwe reported earning more than

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Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana | 69

residents in the other two communities. Thus, there is a higher demand for water in Ashalley
Botwe than in Nima and Ashalley Botwe. Table 2 illustrates the water prices in these three

Table 2 Water Prices in the Case Study Areas
Ashalley PURC
Number Botwe Ashaiman Nima Approved
of Number Price Price Price Price
Buckets of liters (Cedis) (Cedis) (Cedis) (Cedis)
1 35 0.25 0.0700 0.0700 0.0145
2 70 0.50 0.1400 0.1400 0.0290
3 105 0.75 0.2100 0.2100 0.0435
4 140 1 0.2800 0.2800 0.0581
5 175 1.25 0.3500 0.3500 0.0726
Source: December 2007 Household Survey

It must be noted that small-scale water providers incur transactional costs such as
transportation and purchase of equipment and do not enjoy the economies of scale of the large
utilities providers. However, with no regulatory oversight and no obligation to follow the
directives of the PURC, they are free to charge any amount they deem fit. In all three
communities there were voluntary institutions that have made attempt at some regulation. The
chief concern of these voluntary organizations is the regulation of prices for small-scale water
operators. Lists of prices approved by the local institutions were displayed on a number of
buildings in the communities. However, there was very little indication that water sellers took
the price list seriously, as prices varied from seller to seller with many in excess of the approved
prices. With no compulsion and no selective incentives, very few small-scale water operators
join these organizations.
The voluntary institutions were not so much concerned with regulating the quality of water
their members sold. In any case, the associations possess neither the technical know-how nor
the financial resources to arrange for quality checks. Membership in the water associations does
not give one any special advantages, thus associations risk losing members if they push any
regulations that will increase the operating cost of members. Thus, low income urban residents
are left at the mercy of the small-scale water providers. Institutional reforms in the water sector
have not been fast and far reaching enough to ensure increased water security in low income
areas. The only option left to residents in disadvantaged communities is to rely on the
unregulated services available through the informal sector.

Opportunities for Ensuring Improved Water Security
Achieving water security is very important. In fact, water security forms a fundamental part of
poverty alleviation and forms part of the critical infrastructure that attracts foreign
investments.47 It is obvious that GOG lacks the capacity to mobilize the needed resources to
build network pipes to all needed areas by 2015. Thus, exploring other avenues to increase

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water supply as well as strengthening local institutions, even in the interim, is important to
diversify supply sources and ensure increased water security. In this direction, there is the need
for technical and financial support for small-scale providers. Official recognition of small-scale
providers that will include being subjected to the regulatory supervision of PURC will be a step
in the right direction.

Regulation of Small-Scale Water Providers
As the case studies indicate, small-scale water providers provide valuable services to the
disadvantaged urban community. Small-scale water providers are relied on as the main source
of water for disadvantaged urban areas in Ghana, providing more than two-thirds of all their
water supply. The usefulness of small-scale water providers is not unique to Ghana.
Disadvantaged urban communities in Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania as well as in
other African countries rely heavily on their services.48 In spite of their importance, several
problems exist in this sector. Chief among them is lack of access to capital to purchase tankers,
containers, water pumps, and resources to maintain their equipment. They also face constant
harassment from local officials as well as utility providers. These problems have been
exacerbated by the refusal of government and other practitioners to pay close attention to their
services, thereby preventing effective policy support for their efficient engagement. The lack of
support from government as well as practitioners has been due to the fact that in the first place
the services of the small-scale water provider are seen as a short-term fix to water inadequacies
in the urban area. Secondly, policy makers have dealt with a few large public enterprises that
have historically handled urban water supply. To them, it is easier to deal with the few large
enterprises than to deal with a heterogeneous group of small-scale water providers. Third,
international technical standards sometimes do not recognize the activities of the small-scale
water providers. For instance, because of the controversy surrounding water handling, the Joint
Monitoring Program of the World Health Organization does not consider water tankers and
water vendors as sources of safe water supply.49 Nonetheless, donor agencies and NGOs such as
the World Bank, the Canadian International Development Agency, the United Kingdom
Department of International Development, and WaterAid International have increasingly
recognized the services of the small-scale water providers and thus provide some assistance.
The heterogeneous nature of the operations of the small-scale water providers as well as the
lack of a coherent organization of their trade, however, severely hampers such assistance.
With rapid population growth, urbanization, and scarce financial resources, sub-Sahara
African governments cannot effectively provide for all their urban population in the foreseeable
future. Already, civil society groups have charged that the MDG goal of ensuring 85 percent
water coverage by 2015 is unattainable given current policies and financing levels.50 As a result,
the services of small-scale water providers have almost come to stay.51 If governments want to
make real progress at achieving the MDG goal of ensuring 85 percent water coverage by 2015,
then they must accept small-scale providers as partners.
Too little attention has been devoted to regulating small-scale water providers. The lack of
attention creates a serious regulatory gap, especially from the point of view of residents in
disadvantaged communities. Adopting policy interventions that regulate the quantity, quality,

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Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana I 71

and prices of the small-scale water providers can close this regulatory gap. Formal recognition
will make it easy for small-scale water providers effectively to organize into cooperative
associations through which their activities can be better regulated. Public agencies can then
partner with them to ensure that proper equipment are used for the trade and strict hygiene
standards are adhered to. For instance, individual business owners who pass a periodic hygiene
and equipment test can display a sticker to that effect. Public agencies, through the cooperative
associations can use negative market incentives like suspensions or withdrawal of licenses for
operators who do not adhere to the strict hygiene standards. Consumers can then use the
market information supplied through the hygiene stickers as well as membership in approved
water associations to determine the services they choose. Public agencies must also work to
ensure them easy access to capital as well as technical support for the mobile water providers
for buying equipment and building containers. For the mobile water providers, such support
must ensure that proper materials are used to construct water tanks. Support should also
facilitate the designing of tanks so that drivers wouldn't have to stand in the tanks to clean
them. Education on the frequency of cleaning tanks as well as the right cleaning materials to use
will remedy the scenario where drivers clean their tanks once every three months with laundry
detergent. Water resellers should also be assisted as to the proper place to site containers and
build tanks to either prevent or drastically reduce the buildup of spirogyra.
PURC has consistently said that they will not regulate the prices of the small-scale water
providers, especially because of the fact that transport cost which makes up the bulk of
production cost for the small-scale provider is difficult to control. PURC has therefore argued
that prices should be subjected to the law of supply and demand. However, in the water
business there is a high level of information asymmetry in favor of the water provider. Not only
do consumers find it difficult to ascertain the source of water, they also have very little
information about the quality of water delivered to them. With no enforced regulations and
very little information available, consumers do not have enough information to make the right
choice as to whom to buy from. Distortions in the market therefore make it easy for the poor to
be further exploited. In any case, consumers who fall sick as a result of the negative externality
of the operations of the small-scale providers may burden public health care cost. In addition,
other adverse effect from the health problems may be eventually felt throughout the economy
as lost job hours increase. If PURC hope to fulfill its mandate of protecting the interests of
consumers, then it is incumbent upon that authority to regulate the activities of the small-scale
PURC must work with GWCL to ensure that small-scale providers, especially mobile
tanker services, have access to quality water. Existing booster stations (water treatment centers)
must be expanded to ensure small-scale providers clean water for resale. In fact, GWCL must
proportionally allocate treated water to small-scale providers. Consumers in the disadvantaged
communities are also tax-paying members of the society and must therefore benefit from
publicly supplied water. If piped networks cannot be constructed quickly to all needed areas,
then water treatment centers should be sited strategically so that small-scale suppliers have
access to treated water for their customers. GWCL must work to ensure that water sold to
small-scale providers is sold at bulk water rate. When water treatment centers become easily
accessible to tanker services, it will reduce their transportation cost and thereby translate into

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reduced prices for consumers. In a survey conducted by PURC in 2005, consumers rated water
accessibility as the most important water issue.52

Community Involvement in Decision Making Processes
Water supply agencies must actively engage consumers in the decision making process as well
as in the implementation of policies. Burby has argued that lack of public involvement in
government plans often lead to wrong solutions and an apathetic public. Policies that have low
public involvement tend to be dominated by technical experts and may then raise the
fundamental issue of democratic participation in governance.53 In addition, as Lindblom and
Cohen have acknowledged, citizens possess pertinent situational knowledge that can help
ensure that policies take account of local conditions and reflect local values.54 The relevant
situational knowledge is lost when there is no committed attempt at actively engaging the
public, and the policies government or donor agencies seek to implement may seem irrelevant
to the citizenry.55 In engaging consumers, public agencies must also engage the civil society
groups that represent the interests of the consumers. The way forward is to use information,
subtle persuasion and openness to ensure mutual understanding, trust and strive to achieve
consensus. The current process of heavy handedness, name calling, and secrecy only deepens
the mistrust between stakeholders.56 Current civil society opposition to water privatization has
been due to the fact that civil society stakeholders have fundamentally regarded the planning
process as shrouded in secrecy. Gleick et al. notes that water is so important for human health
that in privatizing water services governments must set up clear guidelines that among other
things ensure transparency and include all stakeholders in the decision making process.57
Through a committed engagement process during planning and implementation, potential
opposition to policies can be identified at the outset and dealt with appropriately. In the words
of Pressman and Wildavsky, policy implementation that is revolutionary and not evolutionary
is more likely to fail.58 In 1992, the city of Cartagena, Columbia was confronted with a situation
very familiar in other developing countries inadequate water supply. The city responded to
the crisis with a management contract, but strong public opposition affected its effectiveness.
Acuacar, the private company eventually won the support of the people when, with the help of
the government, they implemented a large public relations campaign. It organized educational
campaigns for community leaders and other stakeholders about the water treatment process
and other important operating issues as well as the vision of the private company for the city.
The water managers also listened to the concerns of the consumers and addressed them in an
open and collaborative manner. In Cartagena, the efforts of the private operator not only
demonstrated their commitment to reform water services, but it also began to alter the view of
most residents that potable water was a free and ever abundant resource. In Ghana, a
committed engagement process has the potential of changing the relationship of the
government and the private company on one hand and civil society groups from one of distrust
to mutual trust and coordination.
Involving consumers in the planning and implementation of water policies creates a sense
of ownership and fosters a culture of maintenance which may mature into an elaborate
community self-policing system.59 Community self-policing has the potential of reducing

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Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana I 73

agency policing costs. A genuine interest in communal projects will also ensure that community
members give prompt and accurate feedback about the nature of community projects.60 In
Bangalore, India, the use of citizen report cards has given community groups and consumer
associations greater say in reforming utility companies and improving performance by
publishing utility performance assessments.61 In this direction, PURC and GWCL should grant
to consumer groups and civil society groups access to their operations. In India, the utility
company joined forces with civil society groups to undertake public meetings and also
administer surveys to measure consumer perceptions about utility services. Through this
process, there was evidence of improvement in water services with local consumers reporting
improvement in efficiency and less bribes being paid for water connections.

Increased Coordination of Water Supply Agencies
Current evidence points to very little coordination between public agencies. For instance, there
is no formal relationship between local government institutions and the key water supply
agencies. Local governments are mandated to initiate development projects at the district
level.62 Better coordination between local government officials and the water supply agencies
would ensure that all the necessary information needed at the community level is solicited to
provide proper management of water supply systems. In addition, since local government
institutions are directly involved with local communities, local government institutions can
become partners in ensuring small-scale water provider compliance with regulations as well as
help reduce the incidence of illegal water connections.
Ultimately, a major problem of water inadequacies in the disadvantaged neighborhoods is
the issue of illegal settlements. The financial costs of breaking down illegal structures as well as
the political costs are sometimes too prohibitive for water agencies to undertake any
progressive water supply planning. In Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire for instance, efforts on the part
of governments to reduce water supply inadequacies in disadvantaged communities by
providing subsidized water connections have been hampered by the existence of illegal settlers
who do not have the requisite documentation to participate in the program.63 A concerted
coordination between developers, planners, and utility providers will be very instrumental in
handling the problems of illegal structures. Often, planning departments and city councils are
ill-equipped to handle the avalanche of building permits as well as handle defaulting
developments. The result is the overnight mushrooming of unplanned, un-serviced and in
many cases unrecognized neighborhoods. The Ghana Ministry of Water Works must create an
interagency task force involving GWCL, PURC, district assemblies, town planning departments,
and civil society groups to coordinate water supply management and most importantly curb the
growth of squatter communities in urban centers.

Rain Water Harvesting
Rain harvesting has the potential to provide cheap and available water to disadvantaged
communities. With torrential rainfall occurring during the months of April to June and
September to October in most parts of southern Ghana, rainwater can supplement existing
water sources to enhance water security. According to UNEP, a threshold of 200 millimeters of

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rainfall is considered the minimum rainfall arrival to embark on a viable rainfall harvesting
program.64 In Ghana, rainfall ranges from 800 millimeters to 2000 millimeters, thus offering a
atmosphere conducive for rainfall harvesting. Extensive rainwater harvesting is already
underway in Kenya, Botswana, Malawi, and Uganda. Maasai women taking part in a pilot
rainfall harvesting program in Kisamese, Kenya have reported gaining four hours in a day due
to reduced demands on their time to travel to their water source.65
The culture of rain harvesting has existed for a long time in Ghana, especially among rural
residents. With little modification, rainfall harvesting can be used in urban centers as well. In
consultation with estate developers and builders, modifications can be made to current building
codes to facilitate rainfall harvesting. Requiring newly constructed houses to have rain caps for
harvesting rainwater will ensure readily available water to supplement domestic use such as
bathing and washing. Technical assistance can also be provided to owners of existing houses
who will want to modify their homes to maximize rain harvesting. In addition, urban residents
can use rainwater for washing cars and gardening so that the pressure on GWCL to continually
increase production of treated water will be minimized. Water savings realized from this
program can then be channeled to supplement the needs of disadvantaged communities.
Within the disadvantaged urban communities, local government, and civil society groups
utilizing communal labor can collaborate to construct rainwater harvesting points and store
water in tanks. This could serve as supplemental water source to the residents, especially the
most vulnerable who do not live in any permanent structure to enable them embark on their
own water harvesting projects.


Ultimately, the problem of inadequate water supply is not limited to one SSA country. It is a
pervasive problem that permeates all urban centers throughout the developing world. The
problems are therefore not new, and many countries have embarked on different strategies to
address these problems. A formal collaborative regime between different water agencies
throughout the sub-region will help propagate best practices and avoid mistakes. For instance,
Kenya and Tanzania in 2005 embarked on a citizens' audit approach to improve utility
efficiency.66 In Kenya, the cities of Kisumu, Mombasa, and Nairobi have launched a water and
sanitation social audit that brings together residents associations, NGOs, and service providers.
This audit has been used successfully to improve the performance of service providers in
Philippines, Ukraine, and Vietnam.67
Collaborating with the Greater Horn of Africa Rainwater Partnership (GHARP) can help
water agencies to develop a sustainable water harvesting program while avoiding earlier
mistakes. Established in 2001, the GHARP is a regional network of rainwater associations
involving Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. GHARP seeks to promote effective
rainwater harvesting and management by sharing technologies to, among other things, increase
water supply and ensure food security. This is a partnership that holds prospect for other SSA
countries that struggle to ensure adequate water supply.
In Cote d'Ivoire, apart from lifeline water policies, the Water Society has also licensed water
resellers (small-scale providers) in disadvantaged communities to ensure increased water

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Urban Water Politics and Water Security in Ghana I 75

security. Available evidence indicates that water coverage has steadily increased for the last ten
years in Abidjan, the largest city. In addition, with surtax on water bills, the water agency is
able to provide 75 percent subsidy to low income residents for first time water connection.68 In
this case, because the requirement to qualify for the subsidy was proof of legal settlement, many
poor households in the informal sector were not able to take advantage of the subsidy.
In KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, as part of efforts to increase cost recovery in the water
sector, the utility company introduced prepaid water meters. Each family had to buy a plastic
card with a chip for R60 (about US$9) with additional "water units" available for purchase to
supplement the card. People who were not able to pay for the cards resorted to unapproved
water sources to satisfy their water needs. Subsequent research found that prepaid water meters
negatively impacted hand washing and other hygienic practices. Eventually, this policy
contributed to the worst cholera outbreak in South Africa's history with more than 200 deaths
recorded.69 Etego-Amenga reported that Ghana through a British company was installing
prepaid water meters on a pilot basis in some part of the city of Tema.70 Collaboration with
water agencies in South Africa will help to avoid a repeat of the problems South Africa
experienced in 2003.
The water needs of low income urban communities cannot continue to be unserved. These
communities form part of the larger urban society, and their water needs are tied to the overall
water targets of the country. In addition, diseases that confront residents in disadvantaged
urban communities reverberate through the entire urban areas as health care cost increases and
production decreases because of lost job hours. Ensuring water security should involve
innovation and pragmatism and should be devoid of dogmatic theories. In Ghana, like other
developing countries, problems confronting the water sector are enormous and resources
needed to solve these problems are limited. Thus, no single solution should be touted as
holding the key to water security. The government in consultation with major stakeholders
must combine various policy tools with the aim of ensuring water security.


1 GNA, 2009.
2 Jaglin, 2002; Estache and Kouassi, 2002.
3 www.wateraid.org.
4 McGowan and Johnson, 1984; Hyden and Bratton, 1992; Pallett, 1997; Starr, 1991.
5 Tabutin and Schoumaker, 2002.
6 UNEP, 2005.
7 Rakodi, 1997; de Soto, 2000.
8 Hardoy and Satterthwaite, 1989.
9 Lauria, Hopkins and Debomy, 2005.
10 Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005; Balance and Tremolet, 2005; GPRS, 2005.
11 Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005.
12 Gortner et. al, 1997; Hall, et al. 2004.
13 UN-HABITAT, 2003; Dore, et. al. 2004, Clarke, et. al. 2004, Anwandter and Ozuna 2002;
Balance and Tremolet, 2005; Lauria, Hopkins and Debomy, 2005.

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14 Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005; Hall, et al. 2004.
15 Whittington, 2006.
16 GPRSI and GPRSII 2003 and 2006.
17 WaterAid Ghana, 2007.
18 FAO Country Stat, 2005.
19 WaterAid Ghana 2005.
20 Ghana News Agency, 2009.
21 Noll, et. al., 2000.
22 Aldo and Raymond, 2005, Hanemann, 2006.
23 UNDP, 2006.
24 Ghana Population Census, 2000.
25 Mensah, 1999; IFFM, 2002; Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005.
26 IFFM, 2002; Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005.
27 PURC, 2005.
28 ISODEC, 2001; Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005.
29 Mensah, 1999.
30 Ministry of Works and Housing Report, 1998.
31 Mensah, 1999.
32 PURC, 2005.
33 UNDP, 2006.
34 UNDP, 2006.
35 Public Citizen, 2002; Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005.
36 Management Contract, 2006.
37 UNDP, 2006.
38 CWSA Act, 1998.
39 UNDP, 2006.
40 Yin, 1984.
41 Permission was sought from the Clemson University Institutional Review Board as part of
a dissertation field trip.
42 Creswell, 2003; Cooper and Schindler, 2001.
43 Morgan, 1997; Morgan and Krueger, 1998; Krueger and Casey, 2000; Litoselliti, 2003.
44 Olumjimi and Gbadamosi, 2007.
45 Birley and Lock, 1998.
46 WHO, 2005.
47 Shiva, 2002; Barlow and Clarke, 2003.
48 Manu, 2001; WSP, 2003; Kariuki and Schwartz, 2005; Gulyani et al, 2005.
49 WHO, 2005.
50 http://www.AllAfrica.com.
51 Kariuki and Schwartz, 2005.
52 PURC, 2005.
53 Burby, 2003.

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54 Lindblom and Cohen, 1979.
55 http://www.WaterAid.org.
56 Amenga-Etego and Grusky, 2005.
57 Gleick et al, 2002.
58 Pressman and Wildavsky, 1984.
59 Ostrom, 1990; Smith, 2004.
60 Adikeshavalu, 2004; Paul, 2005.
61 Adikeshavalu, 2004.
62 Local Government Act, 1993.
63 Luria et al, 2005.
64 UNEP, 2006.
65 Steiner, Achim UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. (2006) Press
release accompanying the release of a report compiled by the United Nations Environment
Program (UNEP) and the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, Kenya.
66 UNDP, 2006.
67 Paul, 2005.
68 Collignon, 2002.
69 Public Citizen, 2003.
70 Etego Amenga, 2003.


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"Water Privatisation in Ghana: Women's right under siege." Integrated Social
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Anwandter, Lars, and Ozuna Teofilo Jr. "Can Public Sector Reforms Improve the Efficiency of
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Balance, Tony, and Sophie Tremolet. Private Sector Participation in Urban Water Supply in Sub-
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Bakker, Karen. "A Political Ecology of Water Privatization." Studies in Political Economy 70
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"Archipelagos and Networks: Urbanization and Water Privatization in the South." The
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Barlow, Maude, and Tony Clarke. Blue Gold: The Battle against Corporate Theft of the World's
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Bartram, Jamie, et al. "A. Focusing on Improved Water and Sanitation for Health." Lancet, 365
(2005): 811

Burby, Raymond. "Making Plans that Matter: Citizen Involvement and Government Action."
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Clarke, George, et al. Has Private Participation in Water and Sewerage Improved Coverage? Empirical
Evidence from Latin America. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3445, 2004.

Collignon, Bernard, and Marc Vezina. Independent Water and Sanitation Providers in African Cities:
Full Report of a Ten-Country Study. The World Bank, 2000.

Cowen, Brook, and Nicola Tynan. "Reaching the Urban Poor with Private Infrastructure."
Public Policy Journal 188 (1999).

De Soto, Hernando. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails
Everywhere Else. Basic Books, 2000.

Dore, Mohammed, et al. "Privatization of water in the UK and France-What can we learn?"
Utilities Policy 12, No. 1 (2004): 41-50.

Estache, Antonio, and Martin Rossi. "How Different is the Efficiency of Public and Private
Water Companies in Asia?" The World Bank Economic Review 16, No. 1 (2002): 139-48.

Estache, Antonio, and Eugene Kouassi. Sector Organization, Governance, and the Inefficiency of
African Water Utilities. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2890 (2002).

Galiani, Sebastian, et al. "Water for life: The Impact of the Privatization of Water Services on
Child Mortality." Journal of Political Economy 113 (2005): 83-120.

Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy. (GPRS) Government of Ghana Document, 2005.

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Gleick, Peter, et al. The New Economy of Water: The Risks and Benefits of Globalization and
Privatization of Fresh Water. Report of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development,
Environment, and Security, Oakland, California, 2002.

Gortner, Harold, et al. Organizational Theory, A Public Perspective. 2nd ed. Florence, KY:
Wadsworth Press, 1997.

Grusky, Sarah and Fiil-Flynn. Will the World Bank Back Down? Water Privatization in a Climate of
Global Protest. A special report by Public Citizen's Water for All program, 2004

Hall, David, et al. Water Privatization in Africa. London: University of Greenwich, Public Service
International Research Unit, 2002.

Hall, David, et al. Dogmatic Development: Privatisation and Conditionalities in Six Countries.
London: University of Greenwich, Public Service International Research Unit, 2004

Hanemann, Michael. "The Economic Conception of Water." In Water Crisis: Myth or Reality? ed.
Peter Rogers et al. (London: Taylor and Francis plc., 2006), pp. 61-91.

Hardoy, Jorge, et al. EnvironmentalPproblems in an Urbanizing World: Finding solutions inAafrica,
Asia and Latin America. London: Earthscan Publications, 2001.

and David Satterthwaite. Squatter Citizen: Life in the Urban Third World. London: Earthscan
Publications, 1989.

Hyden, Goran and Michael Bratton. Governance and Politics in Africa. Boulder: L. Rienner
Publishers, 1991.

Jaglin, Sylvy. "The Right to Water Versus Cost Recovery: Participation, Urban Water Supply
and the Poor in sub-Saharan Africa." Environment and Urbanization 14 No. 1(2002): 231-45.

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Ghana." Journal of the Third World Spectrum 2, no.l, (1995):102.

Kariuki, Mukami, and Jordan Schwartz. Energy and Water Small-Scale Private Service Providers of
Water Supply and Electricity A Review of Incidence, Structure, Pricing and Operating Characteristics.
World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3727 (2005).

Krueger, Richard, and Mary Case. Focus Groups. A Practical Guide for Applied Research (3rd
Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2000.

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Lauria, Donald, et al. Pro-poor Subsidies for Water Connections in West Africa: A Preliminary Study.
Report of the World Bank Water and Sanitation Sector, 2005.

Lindblom, Charles, and David Cohen. Usable Knowledge: Social Science and Social Problem Solving.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

Litosseliti, Lia. Using Focus Groups in Research. New York: Continuum International Publishing
Group Ltd, 2003.

Mensah, Kwadwo. Water Law, Water Rights and Water Supply: Ghana Country Study. A Study
sponsored by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of
developing countries, 1999.

Morgan, David. Focus Groups as Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc,

Morgan, David, and Richard Krueger. The Focus Group Kit. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications, Inc., 1997.

McGowan, Pat, and Thomas Johnson. "African Military Coups d'Etat and Underdevelopment:
A Quantitative Historical Analysis." The Journal of Modern African Studies, 22 no. 4 (1984): 633.

Manu, Sarpong. Study on Private Sector Participation in Small Towns Water Supply. Final Report.
Accra: Ghana Community Water and Sanitation Agency, 2001.

Noll, Roger, et al. "Reforming Urban Water Systems In Developing Countries." In Anne
Krueger, ed. Economic Policy Reform: The Second Stage. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2000), pp. 243-94.

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American Journal of Public Health 78 No. 11 (1988) 1463.

Olujimi Julius and Gbadamosi Kola. "Urbanisation of Peri-Urban Settlements: A Case Study of
Aba-Oyo in Akure, Nigeria." The Social Sciences 2 No. 1 (2007): 60-69.
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York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Pallet. John. Sharing Water in Southern Africa. Windhoek, Namibia: Desert Research Foundation
of Namibia. 1997.

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Paul, Samuel. Holding the State to Account: Lessons of Bangalore's Citizen Report Cards. Bangalore:
Public Affairs Centre, 2005.

Pressman, Jeffrey, and Aaron Wildavsky. Implementation. Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1973.

Public Citizen. Water is a Human Right, say no to Prepaid Water Meters, 2003 available at
http://www.citizen.org/documents/prepaidmeters.pdf. Retrieved, 2/20/2009.

Rakodi, Carole. The Urban Challenge in Africa: Growth and Management of its Large Cities. New
York: United Nations Press, 1997.

Shiva, Vandana. Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit. Cambridge, MA: South End Press,

Smith, Laila. "The murky waters of the second wave of neoliberalism: Corporatization as a
service delivery model in cape town." Geoforum 35 No. 3 (2004): 375-93.

Starr, Joyce. "Water Wars." Foreign Policy 82 (1991): 17-36.

Tabutin, Dominique, and Bruno Schoumaker. "The demography of sub-saharan from the 1950s
to the 2000s: A survey of changes and a statistical assessment." Population 59, No, 2 (2004): 455.

UN-Habitat. Water and Sanitation in the World's Cities: Local Action for Global Goals. UN-Habitat,

United Nations Human Settlements Programme. Meeting the Development Goals in Small Urban
Centers: Water and Sanitation in the World's Cities. London: Earthscan, 2006.

United Nations Report of midyear population of areas defined as urban in each country.
Available at http://globalis.gvu.unu.edu/indicator detail.cfm?IndicatorID=30andCountry=GH
Retrieved, 2/20/2009.

UNDP. Getting Africa on Track to Meet the MDGs on Water and Sanitation: A Status Overview of
Sixteen African Countries. A Regional Initiative by the African Development Bank and UNDP,
Vaux, Henry, and Richard Howitt. "Managing Water Scarcity: An Evaluation of Interregional
Transfers." Water Resources Research 20 No. 7 (1982): 785-92.

Vickers, J., and G. Yarrow. "Economic Perspectives on Privatization." The Journal of Economic
Perspectives 5, No. 2 (1991); 111-32.

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Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) Field Report. Building the Capacity of Consumer
Organizations to Engage in Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform in Africa, 2004.

Whittington, Dale. "Reflections on the Goal of Universal Access in Water and Sanitation Sector:
Lessons from ghana, Senegal and Nepal." In Liberation and Universal Access to Basic Services:
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WHO and UNICEF Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target. A Mid-term
Assessment of Progress. Geneva: World Health Organization, and New York: United Nations
Children's Fund, 2004.

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African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

A Bridge Between the Global North and Africa? Putin's Russia

and G8 Development Commitments


Abstract: This article investigates the extent to which President Vladimir Putin's Africa
policy was shaped by Russia's membership in the Group of Eight (G8). Mindful of the
changing geopolitical situation and Africa's role in the global economy, Russian officials
have viewed Russia's ability to forgive the debt of African nations and contribute to
solving international development problems within the G8's framework as measures of
its economic success and resurgence as a great power. Moreover, its G8-oriented strategy
became a key part of Russia's relations with Africa. Putin officials argued that Russia
was better positioned to defend the interests of developing countries and could act as a
metaphorical bridge between the G8 and the global South. While Russia complied with
several Africa-related G8 commitments, its arms sales to Sudan and a widespread
perception that it gave Africa inadequate attention during its chairmanship of the G8 in
2006 weakened its attempts to portray itself as a bridge between the global North and


Russia joined the Group of Seven to form the G8 in 1998, when it was more focused on its
economic and other domestic problems. However, during Vladimir Putin's presidency (2000-
2008), as the economy recovered due to increased revenues from high oil and gas prices, Russia
became a net creditor, and foreign policy was used more systematically as a tool to further its
economic goals and revive its great power status.' Aiming to fulfill these objectives, Russia
began to participate in debt relief and other multilateral development assistance programs,
particularly in Africa, to which the G8 had been paying a growing amount of attention.2
In Russian foreign policy circles, realist thinking, which focuses on geopolitics and balance-
of-power calculations, predominates. Russian leaders view great-power multilateralism as
"more about co-ordinated action than fostering and adhering to common norms," and their
approach is more "instrumental than principled."3 Russia therefore has used its new
responsibilities as a G8 member in a realpolitik manner.4 Russia's leaders also support a new

Pamela A. Jordan is an associate professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon,
Canada. She is the author of Defending Rights in Russia: Lawyers, the State, and Legal Reform in the Post-
Soviet Era (University of British Columbia Press, 2005), as well as several articles in scholarly journals on
legal reform and human rights in Russia and Russia's membership in the G8. Her research project on
Russia and the G8 was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She
wishes to thank Geoff Cunfer, Paul Holtom, Simonne Horwitz, John McCannon, Jim Miller, James Richter,
Valerie Sperling, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. However,
the opinions and errors herein are entirely her own.
University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

84 | Jordan

configuration of international financial institutions (IFIs), to reflect changes in the global
economy and in the increasing influence of the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India,
and China) and other emerging powers in the global South.5 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov has stated that Russia accepts the "objective reality of multipolarity" and "will actively
continue to play a balancing role in global affairs."6
In furthering its realpolitik approach to international relations, Russia attempts to balance
the actions of its economic rivals in Africa, including other G8 members. Russia's rhetorical
appeals to Africans therefore sometimes underscore how it differs from other G8 members.
Such appeals note Russia's preference for safeguarding national sovereignty in the face of
foreign interference in domestic politics and giving non-Western states greater decisionmaking
power in IFIs. They also refer to a sense of solidarity forged from similar experiences of
economic hardship and the Soviets' support for the African National Congress and other
national liberation movements during the Cold War. The Putin regime argued that, because
Russia was better positioned to defend the interests of developing countries, it would act as a
bridge between the G8 and the global South. In 2006, when Russia held the rotating G8
presidency, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserted that Africans "realize that Russia
continues to be an influential player in the system of global ties and [seeks] to use [its] authority
and weight... on the international scene in the course of the solution of the tasks of
development, particularly those directly affecting the interests of the African continent."7
In contrast to this official Russian line, foreign observers sometimes emphasize Russia's less
savory behavior vis-a-vis Africa, including its arms sales to Sudan's genocidal regime and
reluctance to sanction the Sudanese and other African authoritarian governments for human
rights violations.8 Foreign media outlets have also covered a series of violent, racially-
motivated attacks in Russia against African students.9 In addition, Russia's increased
investments in North and West Africa's oil industry have been viewed as a potential threat to
the energy security of the US and the European Union (EU).10
The Africa policies of other G8 members, however, are no less self-interested than Russia's.
In fact, several other G8 members have lost credibility due to their own role in militarizing
Africa and/or failure to comply with international human rights laws. For instance, between
2004 and 2008, the top five weapons suppliers were G8 members: the US, Russia, Germany,
France, and the UK (in that order)." In addition, the US "war on terror" served as grounds for
the militarization of its Africa policy. Several Canadian mining companies have reportedly
gained a reputation for having poor human rights records.12
In light of these considerations, this article will examine the Putin leadership's behavior in
fulfilling Africa-related G8 commitments, with emphasis on debt relief, official development
assistance (ODA), and funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and primary education.
Did Russia's membership in the G8, a great-power forum, actually prompt it to shoulder more
responsibility for aiding African countries? If so, was Russia perceived by Africans and
Western observers alike as having represented Africans' interests and served as a metaphorical
bridge between the global North and South? More generally, how did Putin's objectives in
Africa fit into his realpolitik approach to international relations? In answering these questions,
this article shows how Putin's G8-oriented strategy became a key part of Russia's relations with

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Russia's Contributions to G8 Development Initiatives in Africa during Putin's Presidency | 85

Africa, although Russia's objectives there were more attuned to its broader strategic interests.
An examination of the scholarly literature on great and emerging powers' renewed interest in
Africa, with emphasis on their aid policies in the post-Cold War period and Russia's evolving
relations with Africa, precedes the analysis of Russia's behaviour within the G8 framework.

A Renewed Scramble for Africa? National Self-Interest and Aid Policies
Many analysts view the behavior of foreign powers in Africa through the lens of power politics
rather than through that of institutional liberalism, which focuses more on the role of
international organizations in promoting cooperation among states.13 In addition, they place the
topic within a broader discourse about how emerging powers such as the BRICs have
transformed global economic relations and how increased energy demands have influenced
emerging and great powers alike to exploit Africa's natural resources.14
Is a new scramble for Africa's riches unfolding, then, with the emerging powers raising the
stakes? Some analysts argue this point. Shaw, Cooper, and Chin stress that notions of global
governance are changing as emerging powers, what they call the "new global middle," are
asserting themselves diplomatically and economically in Africa and elsewhere.15 "The EU is
still Africa's privileged political partner," argues Holslag, "but China, Russia, India and Brazil
are turning their African embassies into new diplomatic nerve centres."16 In Russia, journalists
began reporting more on how G8 member states and the BRICs came to view developing
countries as markets for their goods and investment opportunities, particularly in the energy
sector.17 Furthermore, commentators in African newspapers have expressed renewed concerns
about foreign intervention and widespread prejudice against Africans.18
Other analysts, such as Frynas and Paulo, caution that characterizing the current foreign
interest in Africa as another winner-take-all "scramble" for its resources is an exaggeration, and
that Western countries' investments and volume of trade with African countries still outshine
those of the emerging powers (i.e., the US and France are Africa's top trading partners, with
China in third and Britain in fourth place).19 These scholars prefer to frame the heightened
competition over natural resources in Africa "in narrow terms as an increased international
interest in African oil resources focused largely on the Gulf of Guinea, entailing greater private
investment and diplomatic engagement from a larger than before number of external actors."20
But they still admit that "the interest in Africa's oil and gas resources has spurned a rivalry
between international actors in Africa, notably the American and Chinese governments."21
How are aid policies affected by these new geopolitical and economic realities? The answer
is not straightforward and reflects how the line "between [foreign direct investments (FDI)] and
aid is often blurred, as is the line between aid and trade."22 Many scholars agree that strategic
and political considerations are often paramount in decisions about allocating official
development assistance (ODA), although other factors, such as colonial history, trade, and
poverty level, also are taken into account.23 Clearly, no government decides to donate based
solely on altruism, and donors "will likely continue to shift resources to other countries through
bilateral and multilateral aid organizations to achieve some mixture of goals."24 Moreover,
foreign governments G8 members, the BRICs, and lesser powers alike often prefer bilateral
approaches, which grant them more control over the setting of conditions (i.e., requiring

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86 | Jordan

recipients to follow "good governance" principles) and often feature high proportions of tied
aid, which requires recipient countries to purchase goods and services from donor countries.25
During the early 1990s, many foreign governments, including Russia's, significantly
decreased their ODA to Africa, which could "perhaps [be] explained by the end of the cold war
and a weariness with meagre results," although domestic economic concerns and mass publics'
prejudiced views of Africans also played a role.26 Between the late 1990s and early 2000s,
however, Western donors increased development and security-related assistance to Africa, a
change that analysts attribute to foreign governments' renewed attention to Africa's energy
resources and its growing importance in the world economy; the campaigns of aid
organizations (i.e., Oxfam and Care), UN-sponsored agencies (UNICEF, the UN Development
Program, and the International Labor Organization), and global networks (i.e., Jubilee 2000 and
Make Poverty History) in pressuring G7/G8 governments to give more generously; and the
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which led the US and its allies to target parts of Africa in
their anti-terrorist campaigns.27 Taylor and Williams note that "the growing fascination with
globalization and interdependence within Western governments, [combined with the effects of
9/11], persuaded some leaders to argue for a return to earlier notions that foreign aid should be
used explicitly as an instrument of enlightened self-interest."28
In turn, the period from the late 1990s until mid-2000s was marked by several major
multilateral development initiatives. These include the IMF-World Bank's Highly Indebted
Poor Countries (HIPC) mechanism; the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); the
International Conference for Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002;
and the G8's pledges to increase support to Africa, notably at the 1999 Cologne (the Cologne
Debt Initiative to expand debt relief to HIPC), the 2002 Kananaskis (with its Africa Action Plan
to assist the New Partnership for Africa's Development, or NEPAD) and 2005 Gleneagles
(expanded ODA and debt relief) summits. Poku, Renwick, and Porto find that "while some
[ODA] continues to be given in furtherance of geopolitical considerations (recent Chinese
investment in Africa being a good case), there is a marked shift to allocations based on good
policies driven by the practical development needs of Africans."29
Other analysts, though, emphasize donors' strategic calculations and criticize the G8 for
insufficiently funding multilateral aid initiatives and for continuing to apply restrictive
conditions to the receiving of aid.30 The EU allocated more money to development programs to
prevent failed states and added Africa as "an important component" in its common foreign and
security policy, while the US response was more geared to fighting the war on terror, according
to Engel and Olsen.31 Japan also designed its Africa policy around strategic concerns, including
its need for Africa's raw materials.32 According to Ronald Labonte et al., before 2005, Canada
was the only G8 country "even to approach [a more radical] position on debt cancellation/debt
relief," while the UK was considering the idea of debt cancellation, and Germany and the US
were opposed.33 Sautman and Hairong found in 2008 that "Africa's debt still [stood] at about
US$300 billion. An additional $50 billion in aid was promised in 2005, but more than half was
either double-counted or involved money already pledged."34 The primary function of Western
countries' ODA, concludes Mahbubani, "is to serve the immediate and short-term security and
national interests of the donors rather than the long-term interests of the recipients."35

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Russia's Contributions to G8 Development Initiatives in Africa during Putin's Presidency | 87

By the late 1990s, aspiring great powers such as Russia and China also increased their
development aid to African countries. Like Russia, China "practices a realpolitik of
aggrandising national wealth and power."36 In addition, both countries seek to balance US
power worldwide and win hearts by espousing rhetoric about multipolarity and the principle of
non-interference in political affairs that resonate throughout the developing world.37 Remarks
by Chinese leaders and diplomats have also reflected a theme of solidarity with African
countries, because of similar economic development concerns and past colonial legacies.38
Finally, Russian and Chinese leaders alike want to demonstrate their countries' improved
economic status and position themselves as trustworthy trade and investment partners in Africa,
particularly in lucrative energy industries. China's volume of trade with and FDI in African
countries to date have been higher than Russia's. For instance, by 2010, China expects its
annual trade with Africa to top $100 billion.39 In contrast, between 2008 and 2009, the volume of
trade between Russia and African countries was approximately $8.2 billion.40 However, Russia
has written off more African debt than China has, given the Soviets' larger investment in Africa
during the Cold War and Russia's obligation to contribute to debt relief as a G8 member. By
2006, China had written off nearly $1.27 billion in bilateral debts of 31 African states,41 whereas
by 2007, Russia had cancelled over $20 billion of African debt.42

Russia's Evolving Relations with Africa
During the Cold War, the USSR spent billions of rubles, largely in military assistance, in
developing countries with arguably limited long-term ideological or geopolitical benefit.
During the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev's new thinking about Soviet foreign policy resulted in
a withdrawal from costly entanglements in the developing world.43 Immediately after the
USSR's collapse, Russia lacked defining interests in the developing world, apart from specific
countries (i.e., China and Iran) and from soliciting debt payments, selling arms, and securing
military cooperation agreements.44 Deterred by Russia's economic problems and Soviet-era
debt burden, state officials further de-emphasized development assistance, and sub-Saharan
Africa was "perhaps the lowest priority on postcommunist Russia's foreign policy agenda."45
By the mid-1990s, as foreign policy objectives began to expand geographically, the Russian
government "resumed its earlier practice of extending credits to sweeten its economic dealings"
and began to give more humanitarian assistance to Africa, including to Rwanda.46 By this time,
the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences was one of world's largest
research centers of its kind, with approximately 130 researchers.47 However, some political
elites continued to oppose new investment in Africa. According to Shubin, deputy director of
the Institute for African Studies, they blamed Russia's economic woes partly on its inherited
Third World debt and held racist, condescending views of people in developing countries.48
Quist-Adade, a Ghanaian-born sociologist who earned his Ph.D. from St. Petersburg State
University, similarly argues that Russia's politicians and news media used Africa "as a
metaphor for poverty, backwardness, and hopelessness."49
By the late 1990s, Russian officials began to rethink their relations with Africa, particularly
in response to their growing geopolitical concerns. Because Russia sits "uncomfortably in both
Northern and Southern camps," Cornelissen argues, it "has had more incentive to accrue
alliance partners from the South, including Africa, given the encroachment by the United States

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on its traditional sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus."50 The Putin regime's
plans to expand relations with African nations originated with its "Concept of the Foreign
Policy of the Russian Federation" of June 2000, which focused on security and economic
assistance.51 It states that:
Russia will expand interaction with African states and assist an earliest possible
settlement of regional military conflicts in Africa. It is also necessary to develop
a political dialogue with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and with
sub-regional organizations and to use their capabilities for enabling Russia to join
multilateral economic projects in the continent.52

By 2006, Russian soldiers and Interior Ministry personnel were deployed to eight UN
peacekeeping operations in Africa. In addition, Russia also participated in conferences related
to achieving the MDGs, sent observers to meetings of regional organizations such as the African
Union, and, in 2006, hosted the seventh meeting of the African Partnership Forum (APF), an
international initiative to coordinate assistance to Africa that includes the G8, the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the EU, the AU, African subregional
organizations, and the African Development Bank.53 Between 2001 and 2005, the leaders of
Gabon, Guinea, Nigeria, and Ethiopia made official visits to Russia.54
While Russia's goal to shoulder its share of responsibilities as a G8 and UN Security
Council member shaped its behavior in Africa, its strategic objectives there were paramount.
As one Kremlin official noted, the "most important aspect of economic cooperation in our
foreign policy is to encourage African countries to trade with us and to not only depend on
development aid."55 Since 2000, Russia has capitalized on its hydrocarbon resources as a way to
gain geopolitical influence and expand its economy. Kornegay and Landsberg explain how,
using the state-run oil giant, Gazprom, as its chief vehicle, Russia intends to create and control
an east-to-west energy grid involving other producers such as Iran, Algeria, and Libya, "in
order to consolidate an encircling dependency of the European market on the one hand and the
emerging Asian markets on the other."56
By 2004, Russia had signed 37 economic assistance and technical agreements with African
countries and trade agreements with 42 African countries.57 Russian officials and business
people struck several more lucrative deals with their counterparts in African countries,
including Algeria, South Africa, Nigeria, and Libya.58 In 2006, a Kenyan newspaper reported
that "Russian companies such as Alrosa, RusAl, Renova and Norilsk estimate to invest, over the
next five years, a total of US$5 billion in sub-Saharan Africa's natural resource industry."59 Two
years later, a Russian business newspaper saw Gazprom's expansion into Nigeria and
elsewhere in West Africa as a part of its overall strategy to strengthen its position in global
energy markets.60 In an effort to expand trade with its African partners, the Russian State Duma
passed legislation stipulating that "traditional export goods from least developed, including
African, countries shall be exempt from import customs duties."61
In persuading Africans that the Russian government prioritized relations with their
countries more highly and had adopted a respectful approach to investment, the Putin regime
claimed that Russia has a special affinity with African countries due to Soviet-era ties and

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common development trajectories. In September 2006, during his only official visit to South
Africa, Putin noted how the USSR had supported the then-outlawed African National Congress,
and he and then President Thabo Mbeki stressed "striking parallels as both embark on periods
of economic consolidation and growth on the back of economies expanding from the mineral
wealth that provided the foundation of current prosperity."62 The Russian government hailed
Putin's visit as a "signature event" that "imparted a powerful impetus to the development of
the entire range of relations with the region, primarily in the context of the deepening of
political engagement, a serious expansion and the diversification of ties in the trade, economic,
scientific, technological, investment and other fields."63 Agreements included Russian
investments in South Africa's nuclear power, aluminum smelting, and diamond industries, and
a Russia-South African Business Council was formed. In 2007, the two governments agreed to
initiate more joint projects in the areas of nuclear and space technology, defense, mining, and
energy.64 Two years later, in September 2009, a South African satellite was launched from
Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan propelled by a Russian rocket.65
Russia's G8 membership offered Putin officials additional ways to improve political and
trade ties with Africa's political and business elites. In particular, they stressed how Russia,
more than any other G8 member, represents the concerns of developing countries in energy-
related terms and understands their problems better because of its economic struggles.66 For
instance, Vadim Lukov, a former Russian G8 official, remarked that, "Due to its close historical
links with developing nations, Russia acted as a kind of a bridge between them and the G8."67
An example of Russia's acting as a bridge between developing countries and the G8 is the
request made by Angolan president Jos6 Eduardo dos Santos to Putin in 2006 for help from the
G8 to forgive debt, eliminate famine, and fight pandemics.68 Lukov also noted Russia's
knowledge of overcoming problems related to energy production as useful to developing
countries and how Russia forgave $34.6 billion in debts as a part of the G8 Cologne Debt
Initiative and related programs.69 Another Russian commentator reported in 2006 how via the
G8 and the APF, Russia "[sought] to help shape reliable mechanisms for attaining sustainable
development and strengthening regional stability, and at the same time [sought] solutions to
other problems facing the continent."70 In 2008, Russians also emphasized how their
government, unlike the US and Japanese governments, supported G8 expansion to include
Brazil, South Africa, and India.71
Often the Putin regime's rhetoric about its priorities in Africa centered on the G8's
development commitments. For instance, Alexey Doulian, former Russian ambassador to
Rwanda, and Oleg Scherbak, former Russian ambassador to Zimbabwe, stressed in African
newspapers how the agenda of Russia's G8 presidency in 2006 addressed Africans' concerns.72
According to Scherbak, "As a country that is developing socially, we probably understand the
problems of developing nations better than anyone else in the G8."73 In his address on Africa
Day in May 2006, which was published in African newspapers, Putin said he was "convinced
that the St. Petersburg Summit priorities -energy security, combating infectious diseases and
education--are in full conformity with the interests of African peoples."74 He claimed that his
Africa trip fulfilled G8 commitments to expand trade and promote education.

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Rhetoric vs. Reality: Analyzing Russia's Overall Compliance with the G8's Africa-related

How does Putin's rhetoric about honoring Russia's G8 commitments to Africa add up? Using
annual compliance reports by the University of Toronto's G8 Research Group as measures, it
appears to be weakly substantiated. The group's findings indicate that Russia had the lowest
overall level of compliance with the G8's Africa-related commitments made between 2001 and
2008, although its record on certain commitments is more encouraging (see Table 1).75
On the positive side, as shown in Table 1, the G8 Research Group-which now includes
scholars from the G8 Research Center at the State University Higher School of Economics in
Moscow -awarded Russia full compliance on fourteen important Africa-related commitments.
These include fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, debt sustainability,
and ODA. On the other, in 15 of the 56 commitments outlined in Table 1, the G8 Research
Group awarded Russia the single worst rating (although Germany, France, Italy, and Japan also
received the single worst rating at least once). Its weakest ratings tended to be for commitments
concerning trade, technical assistance (including bridging the North-South digital divide), and
"good governance," primary education funding in Africa, and peace support operations.
How can Russia's lackluster performance be explained? First, Russia's own socioeconomic
development should be placed into historical context. During the 1990s, as it struggled to
recover economically, it needed technical assistance, such as in the area of communications and
computer technology. Its volume of trade with African countries progressively increased
throughout the 2000s, but it did not match that of other G8 members. Secondly, the G8 Research
Group's final compliance reports evaluate only a twelve-month snapshot of a country's
performance, so they are weak longitudinal studies. Russia's ratings on commitments to ODA,
for instance, improved markedly between 2003 and 2008, while its ratings on commitments to
debt relief fluctuated. Therefore, Russia appears to lack the capacity (if not the political will) to
carry out some of these measures within twelve months, but may have a better track record
over ten years. For instance, since 2003, Russia has been increasing its funding to an IMF-
sponsored program to create regional technical assistance centers in Africa called AFRITRAC.76
Russia's poor performance ratings on commitments to good governance (i.e.,
democratizing the decisionmaking process, judicial reform, strengthening the capacity of civil
services, enhancing parliamentary oversight) and peace support operations, however,
underscore the differences between Russia's and other G8 members' approaches to Africa.
Russian officials tend not to pressure its African partners to conform to Western notions of
democracy, and, in the UN Security Council, Russia has objected to sanctioning Sudan's,
Zimbabwe, and other authoritarian African regimes for human rights violations.
Lastly, Putin officials likely were aware that no G8 member state has a perfect compliance
record (i.e., as noted in Table 1, overall compliance ratings for the 56 commitments range from a
high of 88 percent for Canada and the UK to a low of 45 percent for Russia). They also may
have calculated that Russia would not be expelled from the G8 for poor compliance with
commitments that do not carry the force of international law. Russia already has learned that it
can weather such controversies: it has remained a Council of Europe member, despite failing to

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Russia's Contributions to G8 Development Initiatives in Africa during Putin's Presidency | 91

comply fully with the legally binding European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms.77 With these explanations in mind, we will now turn to a
discussion of Russia's record on specific G8 Africa-related commitments adopted while Putin
was president.

Russia's Contributions to G8 Commitments to Debt Reduction and Official
Development Assistance

By the late 1990s, Russian officials came to value international development issues more highly.
In 1999, the Yeltsin government already planned to contribute to debt initiatives within the G8
framework, including the G7's Cologne Debt Initiative, to which Russia was not formally bound
to contribute.78 During the Putin era, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Foreign Minister
Lavrov, and several Russian journalists argued that Russia's writing off billions of dollars in
debt owed by African countries enhanced its international reputation by making it a major
creditor nation and increased its economic opportunities in Africa.79
At the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa, G8 member states introduced a new plan for poverty
reduction, including debt relief and promoting open trade and investment. The plan also
required each G8 member state to appoint a representative to Africa to coordinate its
implementation. In some respects, 2001 marked a major breakthrough in Russia's economic
recovery and contributions to debt relief. It was then that Putin agreed to support the Genoa
Plan for Africa, including to open its markets (i.e., no import duties on goods from the poorest
countries, except on weapons) and write off debt.80 By 2001, Russia was already the leader
among G8 nations in the amount of debt relief it paid as a percentage of its GDP and fourth in
terms of the total amount of debt relief (as of 2008, Russia was in third place, behind Japan and
In June 2002, at a meeting of G8 finance ministers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Russian Finance
Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced that Russia was now capable of fulfilling its financial
responsibilities as a member of the Paris Club and the G8.82 At the 2002 G8 Summit in
Kananaskis, Alberta, the leaders of Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa witnessed
the G8's adoption of an Africa Action Plan to support the New Partnership for Africa's
Development (NEPAD). The Africa Action Plan included a "new US$6billion in ODA, US$1
billion in debt relief, and greater access to G8 markets for African exports."83 One G8 expert and
former British diplomat, Sir Nicholas Bayne, described the plan as "a weapon in the fight
against terrorism," because of its commitments to peace support operations, although it failed
to "endorse the NEPAD proposals for infrastructure projects or for more generous debt relief."84
At the Kananaskis Summit, Putin spoke about how Russia's commitment to the resolution
of Africa's development problems was "appreciable" and that it supported NEPAD.85 As a part
of its contributions to NEPAD, Russia donated millions of dollars for emergency relief to
specific countries (i.e., Algeria, Ethiopia, and Eritrea) as well as to the UN World Food Program
and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.86 Putin also announced that Russia would help
eliminate the external debt of the poorest countries, by contributing 20 percent of the total
amount ($26 billion) agreed to by G8 countries.87 The G8 Research Group concluded in 2002
that, although Putin "was delayed in appointing an [Africa Action Plan] representative, Russia
has since become relatively engaged in the process."88

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Back at home, however, Russians still debated the worth of paying the external debt of
poor countries. Former Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits argued that opening markets of
developed countries to goods from the poorest countries would be a more effective form of
economic development than financial aid. Doing so, he said, would improve production and
encourage foreign investment.89 At this point, when the Paris Club had decided only to
restructure instead of forgive Russia's multi-billion dollar Soviet-era debt, some Russian
analysts criticized Western countries for not wiping it (and the debt of other former Soviet
republics) clean while forgiving the debt of other economically-vulnerable countries.90
Ultimately, Putin decided to ignore these critics and continued allocating some of Russia's new
wealth towards debt relief. In so doing, he sent a strong signal to his G8 partners that Russia
would act responsibly.
At the 2003 summit in Evian, France, Russian officials maintained that Russia was meeting
its financial obligations as a G8 member. Putin's G8 representative, Andrei Illarionov, told the
press that the G8 "is a club of the strong, where you can't come with an outstretched hand,
because you need to pay."91 Instead of negotiating over debt restructuring, Putin took part as
an equal at Evian, Illarionov said. By 2003, Russia had written off $11.2 billion of African debt
and donated millions of dollars to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other
humanitarian agencies.92 Despite this effort, it still received a poor rating from the G8 Research
Group for not complying with its 2002 commitments to expand capacity-building programs
related to "good governance" in African countries and to funding its share of the shortfall of the
HIPC Initiative.93 The following year, the G8 Research Group awarded Russia "work in
progress" ratings on 2003 Evian commitments to ODA and the HIPC initiative.94
The US hosted the 2004 G8 summit on a remote island in Georgia, where leaders adopted
Africa-related commitments concerning debt sustainability, technical assistance, fighting
infectious diseases, food security, and peace support operations. The G8 Research Group
awarded Russia a positive compliance rating on debt sustainability but ratings of
noncompliance or "work in progress" for 2004 G8 commitments concerning technical assistance
and providing emergency assistance to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan in the wake of a
widespread famine in the Horn of Africa.95 One potential reason for Russia's lack of compliance
on these measures may have been that it was experiencing high inflation rates in late 2004, and
Finance Minister Kudrin had announced that the government's overall spending would be
Britain's 2005 G8 presidency focused on increasing the amount of development assistance
to Africa. The leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa--the so-called Outreach
5 (05)- attended the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. At the summit, G8 members pledged to
double their ODA to African countries, to $50 billion, by 2010. Russia was not initially included
in an additional pledge to write off $40 billion worth of debt of eighteen of the poorest countries
to the IMF, World Bank, and the African Development Bank because the agreement was made
at a separate meeting of G7 finance ministers in June 2005. However, at the summit, the
Russian government announced its plans to forgive an additional $2.2 billion in Third World
debt within the HIPC framework.97 State Duma Deputy Vladimir A. Vasiliev reported in
October 2005 that Russia had written off (or pledged to do so) $11.3 billion of African debt,

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Russia's Contributions to G8 Development Initiatives in Africa during Putin's Presidency | 93

"including the $2.2 billion within the HIPC Initiative."98 Also in Russia's favor, the G8 Research
Group found that it was now fully complying with the G8 commitment to debt sustainability in
the HIPC framework.99 Back at home, some Russian analysts worried that domestic finances
were being overstretched by the debt write-offs, while others recognized that Africa's role as an
international source of energy resources had grown, and that Russia needed to cultivate closer
ties to its leaders.100 The latter view prevailed inside the Kremlin.
In 2005, Russia's contributions to debt relief were strategically important. First, Russian
officials hoped that their efforts to clear their own debt and contribute to Third World debt
relief would lead to Russia's joining the financial G7.101 Secondly, Russia was preparing for the
G8 presidency the following year, when foreign observers would scrutinize it more closely.
Kudrin announced during the Gleneagles Summit that "this year, on the threshold of our
chairmanship of the G8, we will announce about a 100 percent write-off on a bilateral basis of
the debts of the poorest countries."102 Russia's good faith efforts had their limits, though. The
Russian government was less motivated to fulfill the Gleneagles commitments to doubling
ODA to Africa by 2010, to promote economic growth in Africa through involvement in the
NEPAD framework, and to improve Africa's infrastructure and capacity to trade.103
During Russia's G8 Presidency in 2006, Putin-enjoying economic success and high
popularity ratings compared to other G8 leaders-proposed new initiatives related to debt relief.
First, he tried to use Russia's promised debt write-off within the HIPC framework as leverage in
appealing to his G8 partners to forgive the debt of poor countries in the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS), including Tajikistan, although this proposal was rejected.104 Secondly,
he proposed that Russia's upcoming payment to the Paris Club of $1.9 billion be directed
toward paying more debt relief to the International Development Association.105 Then, a month
before the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Kudrin announced that Russia would excuse an
additional $700 million in African debt.106 The G8 Research Group acknowledged Russia's full
compliance with its 2006 St. Petersburg commitment to debt relief.107
Some Russians more strongly supported the government's approach to writing off the debt
of developing countries because of Russia's improved financial position.l08 In addition, in 2006,
a coalition of Russian and foreign NGOs concerned with poverty issues (Dvizhenie Protiv
Bednosti-Movement Against Poverty) formed to advocate the fulfillment of the UN's MDGs
and part of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.109 However, others, including a
noteworthy economist, still argued that paying off African debt was not in Russia's interests,
that Russia had no ethical reason to do so because it was not a former colonial power in Africa,
and that CIS countries deserved to be included on the HIPC list.110
Russian officials apparently were aware of and responded to these domestic concerns.
Putin's comments about debt relief before and during the St. Petersburg Summit reflected his
regime's growing emphasis on the need to reform international economic relations to help
developing countries avoid future debt crises and disappointment that no CIS countries were
added to the HIPC formula.1' In outlining the long-term political and economic advantages of
Russia's contributions to Third World debt relief, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak
bluntly stated that "Russia is a great power, a member of the G8. We are interested in how the
economic prosperity of countries would increase and in the advancement of the image of our
country."112 As Rossiiskaia gazeta, a state-run newspaper, explained, "The Russians assume that

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94 | Jordan

the debtor countries will use the funds for health, education, and various other social programs
and that the countries will use Russian specialists, and Russian scientific potential, to enliven
trade-economic ties and make it easier for Russian business people to enter markets there."13
Russian officials also tried but failed to convince foreign observers that Russia was
adequately supporting the G8's Africa initiatives. For example, two Russian Foreign Ministry
press releases stressed how the G8's Africa-related commitments had remained active during
Russia's G8 presidency, including how Russia's hosting of the APF meeting in October 2006
indicated its "growing contribution...to multilateral efforts to aid the continent, especially in the
part of debt burden reduction (totaling 11.3 billion dollars)."114 Despite these reassurances,
several Western and African analysts still concluded that Russia's G8 presidency had
discounted earlier G8 development commitments. Political scientist Anthony Payne judged
that the Russian government "did not want to invite [05 leaders to the St. Petersburg summit],
but ultimately fell in with the new practice, although at no point seeking to do anything serious
with the wider dialogue."115 A Namibian newspaper emphasized how Africa was "relegated to
the margins" at the St. Petersburg Summit.116 Ross Herbert, head of the South African Institute
of International Affairs' NEPAD and governance unit, said "the signs are that the days of Africa
being top of the G-8's agenda are fading. Russia is resisting this.""117 These negative reactions
suggest that Putin's charm offensive in Africa in 2006 failed to convince observers that Russia's
G8 Presidency took development commitments seriously and that Russia represented a strong
bridge between the G8 and the global South.
During Germany's G8 presidency in 2007, G8 leaders made new development-related
commitments, including a pledge to invest responsibly in Africa and a two-year Heiligendamm
Dialogue Process "between the member states of the G8 group of countries and the important
emerging economies [the 05] that deals with the biggest challenges the global economy is
facing today."18 In 2007, Russian officials continued to publicize their increased efforts to assist
Africa's economic development, whether as a part of the G8 framework or through bilateral
trade agreements. By 2007, Russia reportedly had written off over $20 billion of African debt.119
In March 2007, members of the Movement Against Poverty met with the Putin's G8
representative, Igor Shuvalov, to discuss ways to combat poverty in Africa.120 Shuvalov
outlined the government's goals: investing in railway and transport communications,
improving conditions for economic investment, increasing access of African agricultural goods
to markets in developed countries, and supporting efforts to combat global pandemics. Russia
signed preferential trade agreements with the least-developed countries, which exempted them
from paying import duties.
African diplomats tended to praise these decisions. The Union of African Diplomats in
Russia called the agreements "commendable" and in line with G8 initiatives and the World
Trade Organization's Doha agenda.121 Patrick Chokala, former Tanzanian ambassador to Russia,
argued that "Russia's debt relief plan under the auspices of [the] G8 would understandably
help stimulate our national economy and reduce the poverty burden of our people."122 This
time the metaphor of Russia's acting like a bridge between the G8 and global South was
beginning to seem more credible.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 11, Issue 4 I Summer 2010

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