Chickens, Eggs and Northern Uganda

Up until now, for a variety of reasons, I have not written on the issue in which I have the most background and strongest interest; the conflict in Northern Uganda. Happily, the last few weeks have brought a historic peace that has many signs of holding. Incidentally, this occurs right when I am starting an exciting new job with USAID's Northern Uganda Peace Initiative (NUPI).

To be sure, the conflict in the North is but one abhorrence in a line of ethnic and regional clashes spanning to the days before colonization. Therefore, parallel with the peace process, NUPI is working on implementing, with the support of the Government of Uganda, an infrastructure of conflict management and reconciliation that would help prevent future conflict and help close the ethnic divides that were responsible for the conflict in the north, as well as other previous conflict.

I really believe that the end of this conflict is an amazing opportunity to ensure that Uganda is a functioning state, capable of protecting all its citizens and preventing future conflict erupting along traditional ethnic lines.

Creating functioning states is extraordinarily difficult, as Francis Fukuyama pointed out this week:

"Way before you have a liberal democracy, you have to have a functioning state. But state building has been extraordinary difficult in practice; we take for granted in the west a process that took centuries of often bloody struggle to complete. The practical problems mirror a deeper lack of theoretical understanding, and the relatively thin comparative historical literature on state formation. Charles Tilly's familiar theory of European state formation doesn't tell you why strong states appeared in parts of Asia, but not in Africa or parts of Latin America."

Or as he put it more succinctly...

"The chicken of economic growth precedes the egg of democratic politics, but must in turn be preceded by the egg of state formation, and we don't really know which chicken lays that egg."

The hard work of building the institutions necessary for state building is an experimental and practical process. I hope my work at NUPI can make a contribution.

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