Uganda's Resistance Councils

Researching the origins of local, democratic governance

Hosted by LSE’s Centre for Public Authority and International Development

Researcher: Dr Rebecca Tapscott

This project documents the process of establishing one of the few originally African institutions of local democratic governance.

Dr Rebecca Tapscott


Uganda’s first Resistance Councils (RCs) were established in the Luwero Triangle during the National Resistance Army (NRM)'s Bush War from 1981-1986.

After the NRM took power, these RCs were established across the country. Renamed “Local Councils” in 1995, they are now the most basic unit of local government and an important public authority actor in Uganda. However, with the exception of a handful of key studies on the RCs that were created in the Luwero Triangle during the conflict, the process of establishing RCs has received limited scholarly attention.

This study contributes to existing knowledge by documenting how RCs were established across Uganda in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and how they interacted with existing authorities to create the well-known systems of local governance in Uganda today.

The project interviews those with first-hand knowledge of Uganda’s first RCs, combined with archival research, retrieving and analyzing documents that can cast light on these questions.

Project objectives

  • To document the historic process of establishing one of the few originally African institutions of local democratic governance, which is now one of the most important public authorities in day-to-day Ugandan life.
  • To consider how this democratically elected local authority interfaces with the national-level government to produce state authority at a local level.

Read more: findings

Early findings illustrate important differences between study locations, including greater continuities between pre- and post-NRM local governance in some regions, such as Mbarara and Fort Portal, compared with other locales, such as Gulu and Soroti.

The findings also provide fascinating details about how the new NRM government communicated to new members of their Resistance Councils, how RCs differed from past governance arrangements, and how their role in implementing government and foreign donor programs made them a central lynchpin in local governance and national-level authority from their earliest days.



Profile photo of Rebecca Tapscott

Rebecca Tapscott

Dr Rebecca Tapscott is an Ambizione fellow at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy at the Graduate Institute in Geneva and concurrently a Visiting Fellow at LSE's Centre for Public Authority and International Development and Edinburgh's Political and International Relations Department. Her research focuses on political violence, authoritarianism and masculinity in low-capacity states, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

Research interests: statebuilding, democratic governance, armed conflict, violence
Regions: Uganda

Twitter: @rtapscott


This research is co-funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation's Special Programme on Security, Society and the State and The Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy at the Geneva Graduate Institute

Tapscott affiliations
Thumbnail image: © Nelson Kasfir - queuing up to vote in a resistance council election in a village just outside Kampala, August 1986