«The former UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, has deemed the situation in northern Uganda as one of the greatest ...»
MISAPPROPRIATION OF AID: WHY IS AID NOT REACHING THE
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE IN NORTHERN UGANDA?
The former UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan
Egeland, has deemed the situation in northern Uganda as one of the
greatest humanitarian crises in the world. While over half of Uganda’s
national budget is financed by outside donors, the aid has not been distributed equitably across the country by the government of Uganda, revealing extreme contrasts according to ethnic and regional differences.
This paper examines the misappropriation of aid from the internally displaced people camps in northern Uganda to the more developed regions in the South. I open with an overview of economic theories providing possible sources of motivation and evidence which suggest that misallocation is taking place. Exploration is then made into a wide range of political theorists’ work in order to find the most appropriate solution to the problem at hand, particularly that of monitoring corruption and political empowerment. In light of the gaps left by these theories when applied to the specific situation of misappropriation in northern Uganda, it is argued that non-governmental organizations are the actors most aptly suited to fill this void and bring about change.
Introduction The international perception of Uganda contains a bizarre dichotomy.
While some world leaders sing its praises calling it “The Pearl of Africa” and “Africa’s Rising Star,” Uganda continues to be one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. Transparency International states that on a scale of one to ten (with one being the most extreme form of corruption and ten being the complete lack thereof), Uganda sits at a 2.7, far below many of its African counterparts.
Corruption is evident throughout the Ugandan government from the Department of Education to maintaining the country’s basic infrastructure. This corruption results in everyday abuses such as the government denying approval for improved textbooks or for a well installation. However, far greater abuses occur resulting in one thousand deaths every week in the internally displaced people (IDP) camps in the North. Many perceive this atrocity as intentional depravation of people of a different ethnic background from those in power.1 1 B. Bigombe. Chief Peace Mediator in Northern Uganda Conflict, Uganda Lobby Day, Interviewer (October 9, 2006).
Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) The ongoing civil war within the Republic of Uganda between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has lasted for over twenty years, making it one of the longest running civil wars in Africa.2 While peace talks are currently being held between the two groups, over two million people have been displaced from their homes, making this the third largest displaced population in the world. Orphans are forced to live in camps with over 15,000 people for every square mile, one latrine for every 310 individuals, and less than
4.2 liters of water per person per day to be used for all purposes.3 The United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, has recognized this as one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world.
Uganda is heavily dependent upon outside contributors with over half of the country’s national budget stemming from the World Bank, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Program on AIDS (UNAIDS), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as from the United Kingdom and the United States. 4 However, while the greater need lies in the North, the majority of funding is being directed to the South. According to Eunice Reddick, Director of the Office of East Asian Affairs at the US Sate Department, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) gave $201 million to Uganda in 2006; only one-third was sent to provide relief in the North, despite the atrocious living conditions. Studies of Uganda’s history show that while economic improvements brought about a decline in poverty from fifty-six percent in 1992 to thirty-four percent in 2000, the majority of the benefits of this economic growth are going to the wealthiest twenty percent of the population. 5 The aid has not been distributed equitably across the country, revealing extreme contrasts according to ethnic and regional differences. Despite the fact that aid to Uganda continues to increase annually, the gross domestic product of Uganda has not increased and has begun to decline in the past few years.6 Aid is often used with an extremely high degree of fluidity, making it effortless to direct funds away from the intended cause.7 Some scholars almost expect this discrepancy to take place, as demonstrated by the abundance of theories outlining why many governments would prefer the misappropriation of 2 This study was originally composed in December of 2007. Because the situation is highly volatile and constantly shifting, much of the time-sensitive information in this paper may be subject to change in light of developments and set-backs occurring in northern Uganda.
3 International Rescue Committee. Uganda Lobby Day, Interviewer (October 9, 2006).
4 USAID Office of the Inspector General. Analysis of USAID's Financial Statements.
Retrieved December 2, 2007, from USAID: For the American People: www.usaid.gov.
6 Department for International Development. Country Profiles: Africa. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from DFID Web site: www.dfid.gov.uk (December 6, 2007).
7 William Easterly. “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.” New York: Penguin Press (2006).
Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) funds by a small group of the elite over the wider population in need.8 Another exemplary instance is the misdirection of AIDS funding exhibited in the dichotomy between the HIV/AIDS rate in most of Uganda being at 6.4 percent and the rate in IDP camps being at 79.8 percent.9 This also supports theories which suggest that foreign aid often provides an unintended source of motivation for corrupt governments to continue receiving international aid by keeping their citizens in dire conditions.10 Though the challenges presented are certainly daunting, the solution to this dire problem can be found through a close examination of effective monitoring and politically empowering the people of Northern Uganda.
In order to demonstrate the reasoning behind such a solution, this paper will provide a brief overview of the history of the civil war, an application of recent literature on the relevant aspects of misappropriation, and a critical analysis of some of the weaknesses that must be acknowledged within the realm of NGOs as actors in this sphere.
I. Brief History of the Civil War
When describing the decades-long conflict in northern Uganda, David McKenzie of UNICEF affirms Jan Egeland’s assessment that it is truly one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. He notes that it has received shockingly little international attention. “Humanitarian agencies talk of silent emergencies. This human catastrophe has registered barely a whisper, states McKenzie” 11 The roots of this devastating situation can be traced to a spiritual woman named Alice Lakwena who believed that the Holy Spirit told her to lead a movement to overthrow the government of Uganda for its injustices against the Acholi people, envisioning herself as a modern-day Moses. 12 Lakwena’s movement initially gained a great deal of support as resentment toward the government increased in the 1980s. However, when the founder was exiled, there was no apparent leader left to take up the reigns. Consequently, Joseph Kony took control under the guise of Alice Lakwena’s cousin and created a new sect which he renamed the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). As a result of Joseph Kony’s extreme tactics, such as mutilation and mass murder, the LRA lost almost all of the support that once was mounted for the Holy Spirit Movement. In order 8 Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce and Alastair Smith. “Foreign Aid and Policy Concession,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 51(2): 251-84 (April 2007).
9 Department for International Development. (December 6, 2007); USAID, Uganda Lobby Day, Interviewer (October 9, 2006).
10 Jean-Paul Azam and Jean-Jacques Laffont. “Contracting for Aid,” Journal of Development Economics 70:25-58 (2003).
11 McKenzie, David. (2006, December 19). School Access a Challenge for Girls at
Camps in Northern Uganda. Retrieved March 7, 2008 from UNICEF website:
Invisible Children, History of the War. Retrieved May 5, 2008, from Invisible Children:
www.invisiblechildren.com/about/history Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) to continue their attacks, the LRA resorted to child abduction, eventually kidnapping over thirty thousand children to fight their war.
Though Joseph Kony claims that the war is being waged against the government of Uganda on account of their prejudicial treatment of the Acholi people, it is the Acholis who have borne the brunt of his brutality. In one such instance, forty-eight people were viciously murdered; the elderly were killed with machetes and spears, and babies are reported to have been flung into trees.13 In what the government of Uganda claims was an attempt to protect the people from the growing attacks, the citizens of Acholi-land were ordered to leave their homes and move to displacement camps. The 1.7 million people affected by the conflict were given seventy-two hours to relocate to the poorly planned camps.
Unfortunately, the government did not properly plan for the displacement, resulting in mass starvation and widespread disease as well as continued attacks against those now living in the camps. To date, more people have died in these internal displacement camps than at the hands of the LRA in the entire twentytwo years of conflict. This has led many to believe that this depravation is an intentional mistreatment of the Acholis by their leaders who may continue to view those in the North as an inferior ethnic group. As more and more donor groups are pouring aid into the country to support those in distress, it is becoming increasingly imperative that effective monitoring and political empowerment take place in order to ensure that funds are directed as intended and not diverted due to any longstanding ethnic or regional bias.
Political corruption is by its nature difficult to measure as it is intended to remain undetected and undiscovered. However, through various forms of monitoring, political corruption may be effectively identified and stopped. Effective monitoring could be one of the keys to eliminating this crime against civilizations as leaders become more accountable for their actions. There are two basic forms of monitoring which have been debated throughout the years: top-down and bottom-up.
The top-down approach is one in which the citizens of a country leave it to their government to establish an internal form of accountability, be it through audits or other actions taken by an additional branch creating a system of checks and balances. The bottom-up approach, on the other hand, assumes that the public can be trusted to report corruption with more integrity than those within the same network of governing actors. This method delegates the monitoring responsibility to a power outside of the government.
There are many criticisms to both approaches. The top-down approach, creates a system in which there is a high-level official charged with monitoring 13 GlobalSecurity. (2006, May 12). Uganda Civil War. Retrieved May 5, 2008, from GlobalSecurity.org: www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/uganda.html Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) corruption and enforcing punishments when a low-level official is found guilty..
This is a design which gives little thought to the likelihood of the high-level official succumbing to corruption as well. Consequently, this enhances the possibility of a mutually beneficial transfer occuring between the two, thus rendering the entire process valueless. On the other hand, the bottom-up system of monitoring depends on grassroots participation and consequently exposes the system to the risk of an excess of free riders. Moreover, it would be fairly easy for the monitoring to be captured by local elites and similarly turned inutile.
The debate between these two approaches has been a great source of controversy among analysts of political corruption, with several critical papers arguing for each side. For the case of Northern Uganda, this paper will examine the studies described by Benjamin Olken in “Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia” as well as Reinikka and Svensson’s “Fighting Corruption to Improve Schooling: Evidence from a Newspaper Campaign in Uganda.” After providing an overall summary of both articles, this paper will explain the weaknesses of the arguments and lay the foundational evidence as to why the most effective solution lies in neither top-down nor bottom-up monitoring but rather in redirecting the funds through NGOs, thus placing the burden of accountability on their shoulders instead.
II.1. Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from Olsen’s Field Experiment inIndonesia