Gender, Political Participation and the Transformation of Associational Life in Uganda and Tanzania

Authored by: Aili Mari Tripp

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Human Development, National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Political Transitions
Country: Tanzania, Uganda
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 1994
Citation: Tripp, Aili Mari. "Gender, Political Participation and the Transformation of Associational Life in Uganda and Tanzania." African Studies Review 37, no. 1 (1994): 107-131

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Uganda and Tanzania are two of many African countries with diverse post-colonial experiences that have taken steps towards political liberalization in the 1990s. In both countries, the continued pursuit of political liberalization is threatened by sectarianism. Any consideration of Uganda's political future immediately raises questions of how to resolve the seemingly intractable religious, regional and ethnic differences that have had devastating consequences in its recent history. Concerns voiced by non-Baganda over the recent upsurge in monarchism in Buganda and the resented perceived political advantage of individuals from western Uganda in positions of power are but two examples of the ever present issue of ethnicity in Uganda. Tanzania, which has had a less volatile recent past, was by the early 1990s seeing manifestations of religious sectarianism and undercurrents of ethnic tensions, including tensions between Muslim and Christian communities and between the African and Asian business communities, that were being expressed more openly than at any other time in its post-colonial history. Rather than explore the new manifestations of sectarianism in Tanzania and Uganda, which remains an important task, this essay asks what are the countervailing forces within society that challenge these new or revived sectarian tendencies? Are there concurrent developments that provide bases for institutional change that might serve as alternatives to a political, economic and social order based on sectarianism? While there are no simple answers to these questions, research on the informal economy in Tanzania and its related organizations (1987-88) and currently on women's associations in Uganda (1992 to the present) suggests one arena where one finds such cross-cutting tendencies: in the emergence of new women's urban associations in the late 1980s.