Uganda is the third country in the world for absolute numbers of refugees hosted. Why is this the case? Is it just a geographical accident, or does it gain benefits from its open policy? This article contributes to the literature addressing these questions by shedding light on how a refugee emergency can be used for state-building purposes. Thanks to its history as a donor darling, Uganda was able to position itself as a model for refugee-hosting, receiving significant amounts of international aid to sustain the country’s extraversion strategies. Even though the state-building project nurtured by these resources is not a liberal one, being marred by corruption and scandal, it cannot be dismissed as individual rent-seeking. The paper shows that this project aims to recentralization and the strengthening of the incumbent regime through the strengthening of the central state structure in the refugee-hosting peripheries to the detriment of local governments.
keywords: refugees, state-building, extraversion, international aid, uganda.