Researching the politics of development



The political settlement and oil in Uganda

Working paper 48

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Sam Hickey with Badru Bukenya, Angelo Izama and William Kizito
The capacity and commitment of Uganda to govern its oil in developmental ways has generally been discussed through a ‘new institutionalist’ prism that focuses on the dangers of the ‘resource curse’. This paper argues that the developmental potential of oil in Uganda can be more insightfully understood through a political settlements framework which goes beyond a focus on institutional form to examine deeper forms of politics, power and ideas. Drawing on in-depth primary research, we focus in particular on the extent to which the interplay of interests and ideas within the ruling coalition in Uganda has enabled it to protect its national interest during negotiations with international oil companies. However, our reading of the underlying dynamics within Uganda’s political settlement suggests that the impressive levels of elite commitment and bureaucratic capacity displayed to date are unlikely to withstand the intensified pressures that will accompany the commencement of oil flows.