DP8741 Seeds of Distrust: Conflict in Uganda

Author(s): Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig, Fabrizio Zilibotti
Publication Date: January 2012
Keyword(s): ethnic conflict, ethnic identity, fighting, fractionalisation, slavery, social capital, trust, Uganda
JEL(s): A13, D74, O55
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8741

We study the effect of civil conflict on social capital, focusing on the experience of Uganda during the last decade. Using individual and county-level data, we document large causal effects on trust and ethnic identity of an exogenous outburst of ethnic conflicts in 2002-05. We exploit two waves of survey data from Afrobarometer 2000 and 2008, including information on socioeconomic characteristics at the individual level, and geo-referenced measures of fighting events from ACLED. Our identification strategy exploits variations in the intensity of fighting both in the spatial and cross-ethnic dimensions. We find that more intense fighting decreases generalized trust and increases ethnic identity. The effects are quantitatively large and robust to a number of control variables, alternative measures of violence, and different statistical techniques involving ethnic and spatial fixed effects and instrumental variables. We also document that the post-war effects of ethnic violence depend on the ethnic fractionalization. Fighting has a negative effect on the economic situation in highly fractionalized counties, but has no effect in less fractionalized counties. Our findings are consistent with the existence of a self-reinforcing process between conflicts and ethnic cleavages.