The Influence of Citizen Competence on District Level Political Accountability in Uganda

John Mary Kanyamurwa, Joseph Okeyo Obosi


Citizen competence in a democratic society is perceived as an essential mechanism for promoting political accountability in local governance. This paper, thus, qualitatively investigates the relationship between citizen competence and political accountability in Uganda’s local governance system across two discrete political regimes, during the post-independence period. Using an in-depth explorative design, it was established that citizens in both regimes were largely inarticulate, disengaged and uninvolved in determining local preferences, suggesting minimal link between citizen competence and the propensity to promote political accountability at district level. The data suggested that citizen competence was less influential in district politics for the greater part of the post-colonial period. Nonetheless, there were also episodes where citizens actively participated in enforcing political accountability at the grassroots under multiparty politics in both the Obote II and NRM regimes, with slight variations in the intensity and pattern between the two periods. Thus, the level of citizen competence and nature of local governance in Uganda mirror the political accountability practices at the local level, mainly shaped by civic challenges and the character of politics in Uganda during the periods studied regardless of differences and longevity. The paper recommended deliberate state intervention for mobilization of citizens and the establishment of state-engineered dynamic social networks to generate capacity for holding local leaders accountable and more empowered civil society to construct robust citizen competence programmes to foster political accountability.

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