Chapter 5: Inclusive co-optation and political corruption in Museveni’s Uganda
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Uganda has consistently ranked poorly on the annual corruption perception index by Transparency International and the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. This is hardly surprising to analysts who closely follow the country’s politics. For the better part of the three decades of the current NRM regime, corrupt practices have been integral to the evolution of the political system. The longevity of the incumbent president, and his NRM party, has hinged significantly on clientelism and patronage executed through the state. This chapter argues that the key driver for the pervasiveness of regime-preserving corruption in Uganda is inclusive political co-optation as a regime survival strategy adopted in earnest in 1986. The strategy was initially aimed at assembling a broader spectrum of elite power-brokers to build a more inclusive governing coalition and attain legitimacy. Although the idea of ‘broad-based’ government officially ended in 1995, the NRM and Museveni continued to pursue the strategy of elite co-optation and inclusivity. This necessitated opening up avenues for rewarding and accommodating an ever-expanding coalition, thereby fuelling patronage inflation but also use of corruption to extract resources needed to oil the system. The upshot is that political corruption is not just an unintended consequence of the politics of co-optation, it has become critical to regime survival.

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