Crisis responses, opportunity and public authority during Covid-19's first wave in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan

Tom Kirk, Duncan Green, Tim Allen, Tatiana Carayannis, Jose Bazonzi, Jose Ndala, Patrycja Stys, Papy Muzuri, Aymar Nyenyezi, Koen Vlassenroot, Abraham Ding Akoi Nyuon, Anna Macdonald, Arthur Owor, Liz Storer, Joseph Okello, Julian Hopwood, Holly Porter, Robin Oryem, Melissa Parker, Grace Akello

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Discussions on African responses to Covid-19 have focused on the state and its international backers. Far less is known about a wider range of public authorities, including chiefs, humanitarians, criminal gangs, and armed groups. This paper investigates how the pandemic provided opportunities for claims to and contests over power in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. Ethnographic research is used to contend that local forms of public authority can be akin to miniature sovereigns, able to interpret dictates, policies, and advice as required. Alongside coping with existing complex protracted emergencies, many try to advance their own agendas and secure benefits. Those they seek to govern, though, do not passively accept the new normal, instead often challenging those in positions of influence. This paper assesses which of these actions and reactions will have lasting effects on local notions of statehood and argues for a public authorities lens in times of crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S195-S215
Number of pages21
Issue numberS1
Early online date22 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Africa
  • Covid-19
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  • South Sudan
  • Uganda
  • governance
  • pandemic
  • public authorities

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