Uganda Gains Independence From Britain - History

Uganda Gains Independence From Britain - History

Upon Uganda's achieving independence, Milton Obote became the first leader. A federal form of government was enacted in order to insure the rights of the King of Buganda, Edward Mutesa.

The Divisive Nature of Ethnicity in Ugandan Politics, Before and After Independence

On the 9 th of October 1962 Uganda gained independence from Britain, ending sixty eight years of rule by the Protectorate Government. The independent Ugandan nation inherited many problems, giving Prime Minister Milton Obote ‘the formidable and unenviable task of welding the various communities of the country into a modern nation-state.’[1] Indeed, in 1962 Uganda was still a rather fractured and disparate entity, divided by a multitude of ethnic, linguistic and regional cleavages. During the early 1960s there remained a persistent and ‘almost unbridgeable gap between the various communities in Uganda.’[2] Moreover, in 1957 Sir Andrew Cohen, Governor of Uganda from 1952-57, noted that ‘nationalism is still a less powerful force in Uganda than tribal loyalties.’[3] In the run up to independence Uganda’s politicians failed to form a united nationalist front, and ‘managed to arrive at the threshold of independence with very little to show in the way of political struggle.’[4] This contributed to the lack of unity within Uganda’s political system, and meant that broadly speaking, political parties were split along ethnic lines.

In 1959 Sir Frederick Crawford, then Governor of Uganda, established a Constitutional Committee to discuss political representation across Uganda, and what form 1961 elections to the Legislative Council would take. The Constitutional Committee also noted in their report that ‘Uganda is an artificial unit containing within its borders a very wide range…of different tribes with different languages and customs.’[5] Furthermore, Jan Jelmert Jorgensen notes that ‘the ideology of tribalism was more than a threat to the unity of Uganda.’[6] The primary focus of this essay will be the divisive nature of ethnicity in Ugandan politics, and it is important to first establish what the term ethnicity specifically refers to in a Ugandan, but also broader African context. It is of paramount importance not to confuse ethnicity with the term ‘tribe’ which can ‘promote a racist conception of African ethnicities as primitive and savage.’[7] Bruce Berman claims that ‘African ethnicity is a construction of the colonial period through the reactions of pre-colonial societies to the social, economic, cultural and political forces of colonialism.’[8] The term ethnicity however has no concrete definition, and among other things can refer to nationality, provincial identity, community, village, chiefdom or kin-group.[9] Nelson Kasfir notes that ‘ethnicity is a fluid, not a fixed, condition of African politics.[10] Within this essay the term ethnicity will be used to describe the different communities of Uganda, mostly separated by region and culture, that are defined in almost all secondary literature as separate ethnic entities or groupings. In 1962, on the verge of independence, there were vast discrepancies between Uganda’s different ethnic groups, which contributed towards the lack of unification within the country.

In Uganda there was ‘a long-standing tradition of local nationalism before independence’[11], which was manifested through the presence of different kingdoms, territories and districts. In 1962, Uganda consisted of the kingdoms of Buganda, Ankole, Bunyoro and Toro the territory of Busoga and the districts of Acholi, Bugisu, Bukedi, Karamoja, Kigezi, Lango, Madi, Sebei, Teso and West Nile.[12] Loyalty to such local institutions and identities meant that political behaviour was largely based upon ‘linguistic, socio-cultural and economic identities of interests.’[13] The Independence Constitution, negotiated in London a few months prior to independence, granted full federal status to Buganda and a semi-federal relationship to the other kingdoms. Such devolution of power undermined the authority of the state, and left Uganda in a ‘quasi-federal milieu.’[14] The kingdom of Buganda had for a long time generated resentment throughout Uganda, because it had enjoyed a position of unrivalled superiority throughout the colonial period. Many Baganda in fact ‘developed an attitude of complacent arrogance towards the other people of Uganda.’[15] Almost all other ethnic groups in Uganda were concerned by Bagandan attempts to dominate the post-colonial state, and the ‘suspicion and hostility engendered by this sort of attitude was hardly a sound basis for national unity.’[16]

The 1962 Independence Constitution, the ‘compromise document’, was intended to deal with the political problems that had beset Uganda during the 1950s.[17] It attempted to appease the separatist tendencies of the kingdoms, particularly Buganda, in an attempt to forge a unified state. As a result of this, the Constitution has been described as ‘a parcel of contradictions’, as it was neither fully federal nor fully unitary.[18] The attempt to forge such a state was a rather formidable task, as ethnic divisions within Uganda were deep-set, and had been engrained over a long period of time. Ethnicity was a divisive political issue long before Uganda gained independence, particularly the elevated position of Buganda, which came about largely as a result of the preferential treatment shown towards the kingdom by the Protectorate Government.

The build-up to independence

In order to evaluate the role that ethnicity played in Ugandan politics after independence, it is important to understand the course of events leading to 1962, and whether said issues were relevant under British rule. As previously noted, Uganda was a rather disparate entity during the 1950s, and as James Mittelman aptly notes, Uganda’s history was ‘marked more by internal heterogeneity and conflict than by shared tradition or co-operation.’[19] Compared to other British colonies in Africa, discontent with the colonial authorities was not channelled into a strong nationalist movement, and ‘neither the leaders nor the sentiments…essential to internal stability’ were present in Uganda.[20] The nationalist cause was rather weak during the 1950s, and there were in fact a number of competing nationalisms in Uganda. Firstly, there was ‘Uganda-wide nationalism’ which aimed to serve the country as a whole. Second, there was ‘Kiganda nationalism’, which aimed to serve the interests of Buganda, and finally ‘anti-Kiganda’ nationalism, which primarily aimed to serve the interests of all other ethnic groups in Uganda.[21] In light of such differing priorities, it is hardly a surprise that the nationalist cause was fractured. As noted by M.S.M Kiwanuka, ‘Kiganda nationalism’ was intrinsic to the success or failure of national unification, as was Buganda’s position of preponderance, which stemmed largely from the overt favouritism shown to the Buganda by the British.

During the colonial period, the British authorities adopted a policy of indirect rule, and made a series of agreements with the different kingdoms of Uganda. These included treaties with Buganda (1900, 1955), Ankole (1901), Toro (1900) and Bunyoro (1933).[22] The Protectorate government made little investment outside of Buganda, both economically and politically. The British held the view that ‘tribal governments were the proper arena for African politics’[23], and therefore made little effort to provide representative political institutions. In addition, whilst recognising some broad ethnic affinities, in the majority of cases the British attempted to segregate Uganda’s different ethnic communities. The Protectorate Government attempted to keep the peace ‘through a policy of separating peoples rather than bringing them together.’[24] Ali Mazrui stresses the fact that British rule sharpened ethnic loyalties, and that ‘colonial policy made the task of national integration more difficult.’[25] This viewpoint proves to be particularly pertinent when the role of Buganda is considered, and the preferential treatment it was shown by the Protectorate Government.

Throughout the colonial period, the Protectorate Government bestowed special treatment upon Buganda, and it was ‘through which, and by whose people the British had developed the country.’[26] Buganda had existed as an independent country for nearly five hundred years before the arrival of the British, and was ‘the largest, but also the wealthiest, the most advanced and most strategically placed of the African tribes in Uganda.’[27] In 1900 the Uganda Agreement helped to enshrine Buganda’s privileged identity, which was then revised and replaced by the Buganda Agreement of 1955. The Agreement ‘satisfied Buganda’s separatist loyalties’, which made the task of national integration decidedly more difficult.[28] In addition, it also enhanced Buganda’s position at independence conferences in 1961, and ‘was a major factor leading to federal status for Buganda.’[29] The colonial authority’s preferential treatment of Buganda was largely responsible for regional inequality within Uganda and a major cause of resentment towards Buganda by other ethnic groups. Members of other ethnic units ‘tended to resent Buganda’s special position’, which in time manifested itself in the form of political opposition.[30] The appointment of Sir Andrew Cohen as Governor of Uganda in 1952 did bring reform to the policies and attitude of the Protectorate Government, and started the process of rebalancing the uneven distribution of power between Uganda’s different ethnic groups.

During the 1950s Uganda was transformed ‘by the political and constitutional policies introduced by Sir Andrew Cohen.’[31] It was Cohen’s arrival as Governor in 1952 that ‘coincided with the development of nationalism and political parties’ in Uganda.[32] Tribal governments were democratized and given local government functions, and the Protectorate began to push for the formation of a unitary state. In 1953, shortly after Cohen’s arrival, it was announced that African representation was to be increased on the Legislative Council, which ‘was intended to provide an institutional means of achieving national unity.’[33] However, these reforms were only applied in Buganda, and when direct elections to the Legislative Council were proposed in 1956 they were initially only held in Buganda, which ‘would provide an example to other parts of Uganda’[34]. It seems that despite reform the Baganda were still subject to preferential treatment from the British. Despite some criticism, reform of the Legislative Council was largely welcomed, and came to epitomise ‘tolerance and combined effort.’[35]

In a speech given at a joint meeting of the Royal African Society and Royal Commonwealth Society in 1962, Dr Kenneth Ingham lavished praise upon the Legislative Council, claiming that Cohen’s reforms were integral to Uganda gaining independence, and that the Legislative Council became Uganda’s ‘first truly national institution.’[36] Furthermore, Ingham also noted that the emergence of political parties in Uganda was assisted by the Legislative Council, because it was an institution ‘which had already established itself as the apex of the political pyramid.’ [37] Although the merits of the Council were disputed by some, it seems beyond question that Sir Andrew Cohen’s actions heralded a general change in attitude of the Protectorate Government. In his last major act as Governor, in a speech on April 24th 1956, Cohen delivered a message about the importance of direct elections, which became ‘a major step toward the building of an independent, primarily Ugandan nation.’[38]

After his tenure as Governor had ended, in a speech given to a joint meeting of the Royal African Society and Royal Empire Society in February 1957, Cohen detailed how his principle goal had been ‘to help the people and the country to move steadily and in an orderly fashion towards self-government.’[39] This Cohen claimed was Britain’s only justification for being in Uganda, and that ultimately a successful transition towards independence was in the hands of Ugandans and the emerging political parties.[40] Before his departure, Cohen ‘served notice that it was incumbent upon Africans to make their own pace’ towards independence, and it was indeed the emerging political parties of the late 1950s that determined this pace.[41]

During the 1950s, as a result of the changing attitude of the Protectorate Government and the growth of political parties, ‘the tempo of political life in Uganda changed.’[42] Calls for independence were certainly a part of political rhetoric, though superseding this were regional concerns and the fear of political domination by the Baganda. Politicians from outside of Buganda ‘began to unite and to advocate outright challenge to so-called Kiganda domination and leadership.’[43] Understandably, non-Bugandan citizens desired representation, and ‘political co-operation between disparate groups outside Buganda was itself a kind of protest against Buganda’s position of aloofness.’[44] There was one party that managed to gain electoral success both inside and outside of Buganda, namely the Democratic Party. Founded in 1956 as a Catholic party, the Democratic Party (DP) were led from 1958 onwards by Benedicto Kiwanuka, an outspoken critic of the Baganda Government and Lukiiko. [45] Able to appeal to Catholics in Buganda, the DP were ‘also very important outside Buganda’, forming a strong minority in many regions as well gaining electoral victories in West Nile in 1958, and Lango and Acholi in 1959.[46] In addition to the DP, the Uganda People’s Congress (hereafter UPC) quickly became a powerful political force, and offered itself to the Ugandan public as ‘the party of compromise.’[47]

The formation of the UPC began in 1958, when seven unaffiliated members of the Legislative Council came together to from the Uganda People’s Union. In March 1960 the Union joined with the Uganda National Congress, and under the leadership of Milton Obote, the UPC was born.[48] The UPC was formed as a non-Ganda party, and became increasingly hostile towards ‘the feudal tribalism of Buganda.’[49] In addition, in Buganda Obote was deemed to be an unacceptable leader of the UPC as he was from the Lango District. As noted, the UPC was staunchly anti-Baganda, but there were also ethnic divisions within the ranks of the UPC itself. Bantu and Nilotic blocs within the party competed for power, with the Nilotic group pursuing more radical social policies, with the Bantu taking a more conservative stance.[50] Despite some conflict within the party, the UPC were an integral part of Uganda’s political progression. Both the UPC and the DP were ‘in policy and intention, trans-tribal parties’[51] and without these two parties it seems doubtful whether Uganda would have gained independence in 1962.[52] In the run-up to independence in 1962 the UPC failed to work successfully with the DP, and despite huge conflict in ideology, the UPC instead formed a coalition with Kabaka Yekka (hereafter KY), a pro-monarchist Bugandan party.

Despite having ‘divergent views on almost every conceivable subject’[53] the KY and UPC were able to form a majority government that took Uganda to independence in October 1962. Launched on 10 th June 1961, the Kabaka Yekka movement quickly spread throughout Buganda, and by the end of 1961 had become a rallying point for all opposition against the DP in Buganda. The KY epitomised the isolationist tendencies of the Baganda and immortalised the role and status of the Kabaka (King), Edward Mutesa II. The KY ‘acquired mass support drawn from all levels of Gandan society’[54] and were presented as the party that ‘was for Buganda and the throne.’ [55] The formation of KY was preceded by two major events, namely Buganda’s declaration of independence in 1960 and boycott of national elections in 1961.

On 4 th October 1960 the Bugandan Lukiiko adopted a resolution stating that Buganda would become an independent state on 31 st December 1960, justified by the failure of the Protectorate Government to acknowledge the role of existing institutions in Buganda in the move towards parliamentary democracy.[56] In the memorandum, members of the Lukiiko documented that ‘Buganda is determined to be a separate autonomous State’ and that ‘the Baganda believe that they can safeguard their prestige only through the survival in a living and functioning form of the Kabakaship and the Lukiiko.[57] Though highly symbolic, the declaration of independence ‘turned out to be an idle threat’ and Buganda did not secede.[58] The Kabaka’s government did however call for a boycott of national elections in 1961 which was over 97% effective in Buganda, highlighting the level of authority that Mutesa possessed. Of those that voted, 67% voted for the DP, which gained the party twenty out of twenty one seats in Buganda.[59] For Bugandan leaders this defeat ‘was the worst possible result, but they alone were responsible for the outcome.’[60] The embarrassment of the 1961 elections fuelled the formation of the KY, which ‘aimed to unite all Baganda in the common cause’ of defending their own identity and interests.[61] Despite such conflicting ideologies, the UPC and KY managed to form a working coalition and gain a strong majority, with 21 KY seats in Buganda and 37 UPC seats in the rest of Uganda.[62] However, after independence the marriage of convenience between the UPC and KY soon failed, with Prime Minister Obote turning his efforts to the subjugation of Mutesa and the KY during the early 1960s.

Ethnic differences were clearly divisive in Uganda before 1962, especially the discrepancy between Buganda and the rest of the country. The British Protectorate Government played a major role in establishing Buganda’s position of prevalence, which considerably heightened the level of resentment felt towards the Baganda by other ethnic groups in Uganda. The policies of Sir Andrew Cohen as Governor brought change to the emerging political landscape, but were unable to reverse the discrepancies between different ethnic groups that British policy had for so long extenuated. Broadly speaking, Buganda managed to sustain its position of prevalence within an independent Uganda, manifested through the adoption of a federal constitution in 1962. As Hugh Dinwiddy accurately observes ‘the previous history of the country made the formation of a federal constitution an inevitability.’[63] Uganda was carried to independence by the most unlikely of coalitions, as the KY and the UPC had divergent political goals and ‘contradictory ethnic bases’[64]. However, neither the KY or the UPC had ‘had any illusions about the permanency of the alliance’, which rapidly disintegrated after independence. [65]

Independence: the formative years

The marriage of convenience between the UPC and the KY that brought Uganda to independence resulted in Milton Obote assuming the position of Prime Minister, and Edward Mutesa II the position of President. Mutesa’s position gave him a largely ceremonial function, whereas Obote’s appointment as Prime Minister forced him to deal with the ‘highly politicized cleavages’ that beset the country.[66] As previously noted, a federal constitution was adopted in 1962 in an attempt to appease the desires of different kingdoms and regions across the country. T.V. Sathyamurthy claims that much greater attention should have been given to the relationship between the kingdoms/districts and the federal government in the Constitution of Uganda, than the powers of the central federal government itself.[67] The 1962 Constitution of Uganda failed to successfully redistribute power among the smaller ethnic groups of Uganda, and failed to successfully curb the overwhelming power of the Baganda. After 1962 however, Obote did his utmost to ensure the balance of power was reversed.

Despite the devolution of power throughout Uganda, Obote still ‘saw his role as one of uniting Uganda into a single nation.’[68] This view was expressed by Obote in London in 1960, where a commitment was made to ‘a free, untied Uganda in which the dignity of every inhabitant was recognised.’[69] Unlike the Kabaka, Obote had an ‘unalterably strong conviction’ that Uganda should ‘become one nation in which tribal differences would ultimately disappear.’[70] After independence, it was in fact Obote’s primary concern ‘to weaken the organisational manifestations of ethnicity.’[71] This conviction proved to be a salient issue for Obote, who continued to stress his desire for unity as the 1960s progressed. On 9 th July 1965, on the radio station BBC Home Service, Obote stated that Uganda’s ‘greatest achievement since independence…is national consciousness.’ Furthermore, in response to a question from host Roy Lewis about the importance of tribal affiliation, Obote remarked that ‘tribal consciousness is now quietened down, what is now taking its place is a clear cut national consciousness.’[72] These statements indicate that Obote was committed to national unification, but fail to indicate what measures were taken to achieve such a goal. Between 1962 and 1966 Obote attempted to stimulate the process of ethnic integration by engaging in ‘a struggle against feudalism.’[73] This largely manifested itself in the appropriation of Bugandan privilege.

In 1962 Uganda was still afflicted by ‘an extreme form of uneven development’, created in particular ‘by Buganda’s dramatic historical head start.’[74] Obote adopted an aggressive stance towards Buganda, and believed that its suppression was integral to the formation of a unified nation. Ali Mazrui succinctly describes the contradiction that Obote faced, claiming that ‘Uganda is an impossible country to govern with the support of the Baganda, but it is also impossible to govern without the support of the Baganda.’[75] Obote came to believe that Buganda would ‘constitute the main threat to national unity until its special position was abrogated and its monarchy abolished’, and therefore made a concerted effort to bring about the kingdoms demise.[76] From 1962 onwards, Obote claimed that national identity was replacing regional identity, but this was not the case in Buganda. As a result, Obote chose to enforce the Ugandan ideal upon the Baganda by slowly destroying its institutions and position of advantage within the country.

Although relations between Buganda and the central government descended rather rapidly after independence, it must be noted that Obote was in fact very popular in Buganda in 1962. Phares Mutibwa claims that such popularity came about because of the ‘seemingly peaceful transition to independence’ that was being orchestrated by Obote. The brief period of cooperation in 1962 soon came to an end, when in 1963 contrary to an earlier agreement with the KY, the UPC began to establish party offices in Buganda outside of Kampala.[77] The ‘complacency and ineptitude of the Kabaka’s advisers’ began to show as they believed the agreement with the UPC was binding, whereas Obote saw ‘the alliance was no more than a temporary necessity.’[78] The federal nature of the new government soon began to unravel, resulting in the increasing domination of the UPC and development of one party state. Obote was unhappy that regional governments had become ‘a microcosm of the central government rather than its local outpost’, and therefore manipulated local government to enhance the position of the central authorities.[79] In a speech given in 1964, Obote vocalised his desire for the creation of a one party state, which led to a collapse of the alliance with the KY later in the year. On the 24 th August 1964, Prime Minister Obote terminated the alliance between the KY and UPC, which had lasted for only 27 months. The announcement was made possible by defections to the UPC from both KY and the DP, guaranteeing the supremacy of the UPC in the National Assembly. This new position of strength meant that ‘Buganda was relegated to a marginal position in national politics’, much to the delight of Obote.[80] By August 1964 the intentional subjugation of Buganda was becoming readily apparent, and was confounded further by the ‘lost counties’ referendum.

Only a day after the termination of the UPC-KY alliance on the 25 th August 1964, a bill was introduced for a referendum to be held on the question of the ‘lost counties’ of Bunyoro, which ‘was to prove the turning point in relations with the Baganda.’[81] In 1894 the counties of Buyaga and Bugangazzi were given to Buganda after the British defeat of Kabarega, which was strongly resented by the Banyoro. The independent government was keen to settle the issue, and a provision for the referendum was enshrined in the 1962 constitution.[82] Bugandan authorities were unwilling to cede control, and although Buyaga and Bugangazzi had both been placed under the control of the central government pending the results of the referendum, Buganda still attempted to exert its authority over the counties. In an article in the Uganda Argus on 23 rd July 1962 it was claimed that ‘British imperialism has been replaced in the “lost counties” by Buganda imperialism.’ Furthermore, on 13 th August 1962, in the British newspaper The Telegraph, it was claimed that Buganda’s continued domination of the counties ‘leaves unremedied a grave injustice to the weaker kingdom.’[83] In 1963, in a flagrant attempt to skew the results of the referendum, the Kabaka established a lodge on Lake Albert in one of the disputed counties and then invited Bugandan ex-servicemen to take up residence there to increase the pro-Buganda vote. Bunyoro reacted by settling its ex-servicemen in Hoima, the regional capital. These measures however proved to be fruitless, as Obote insisted that voting should be carried out on the basis of the 1962 electoral registers, discrediting the votes of thousands of Baganda that had settled in the counties at the behest of the Kabaka.[84]

When the vote itself took place, the residents of Buyaga and Bugangazzi voted overwhelmingly to retain their traditional attachment to Bunyoro. The defeat, that ‘was defined in ethnic terms’ was extremely embarrassing for the Kabaka, and was a severe blow to the prestige of the kingdom.[85] High ranking Baganda ‘were demonstrating their inability to control their own destiny in an independent Uganda.’[86] Edward Mutesa II took the view that ‘far from uniting the country’ the referendum ‘had decisively split’ Uganda, but could do little to reverse the damage that had been inflicted.[87] An attempt was made to declare the referendum illegal because the 1962 electoral register had been used, but this motion was swiftly defeated in the high court.[88] In Buganda, with the ‘loss of the referendum, the Buganda government faced the wrath of its citizens’, which resulted in the resignation the Bugandan Prime Minister Michael Kintu. The ‘lost counties’ debacle was a nail in the coffin for the Baganda, and acted as a precursor for Obote’s final showdown with the Kabaka in 1966.

The year 1966 proved to be of pivotal importance in Ugandan history. In a letter sent on August 28 th 1970 from the British High Commissioner in Kampala to Minister of Foreign Affairs in London, 1966 is described as ‘the saddest year in the history of Uganda, when the right of law was suspended and barbaric actions started to take place.’[89] Between 1962 and 1966, the insular tendencies of the Baganda proved to be very divisive, and were openly challenged by Prime Minister Obote, culminating in a constitutional crisis that ‘changed the course of Ugandan history’.[90]

The first four years of independence bore witness to the ‘increasing isolation and eventual eclipse’[91] of Buganda, and also the establishment of an overtly ‘sectarian government’, dominated by individuals from the North of Uganda.[92] In a Commonwealth Office Print, published on 26 th October 1966, Peter Foster claims Obote’s campaign for national unity was ‘to some extent a euphemism for the (partly justified) attack on Bugandan privilege, and the less excusable establishment of Northern hegemony.’[93] The aggressive actions of Obote against the Baganda appear rather hypocritical, as Bugandan hegemony was merely being replaced by hegemony of the ethnic groups from the north of Uganda. Holger Bernt Hansen succinctly observes that ‘in order to neutralise the ethnic factor in Uganda Obote had to lean for support upon an organ universally regarded as northern dominated’, and was therefore himself ‘resting on an ethnic foundation.’[94] This apparent reversal in ethnic domination did not go unnoticed or unopposed within Uganda, highlighted by a letter from the Opposition Officer to Obote on 19 th March 1966. In the letter, signed by the M.Ps A.A Latim and G.O.B Oda, it was claimed that Uganda was ‘getting bitterly divided tribally’ and that a ‘North versus the rest’ mentality was emerging. Furthermore, the letter documents how Obote was ‘not helping to stop this development.’[95] Evidence indicates that Obote was contradicting his own policy of stimulating national unification by showing bias towards the ethnic groups of Northern Uganda, an issue which was also caused friction within his own party. From mid-1965 a number of Bantu ministers and leading Baganda began plotting to oust Obote in order to ‘reverse the northern and supposedly radical bias of the Cabinet.’[96] The plot highlighted the somewhat fractured nature of the UPC and its supporters, and the prominence of regional and linguistic divides within the party.[97] The plot against Obote in time developed into a second crisis, that coupled with the attack on the Kabaka, made 1966 an incredibly tumultuous year in the history of the Ugandan nation.

The turmoil of 1966 commenced in February when Obote was on a tour of the northern districts. On the 4 th February Daudi Ocheng, leader of conservative forces outside the UPC, introduced a bill in Parliament calling for the suspension of Col. Idi Amin and an investigation into the alleged receipt of gold and ivory from Congolese rebels by government notables, including Amin and Obote. In response Obote sent Amin on a two week leave, and then arrested his opponents within the UPC and suspended the 1962 constitution.[98] On April 15 th Obote presented a new constitution, and even though members of the national assembly had no time to read it, insisted that it was adopted immediately.[99] The new constitution made Obote president, which infuriated the Baganda because it ‘struck directly at the power of the traditional hierarchy in Buganda.’[100] It undermined the Kabaka, abolished the Buganda Civil Service Commission and also undermined the economic base of Buganda. The Baganda could no longer tolerate ‘the arrogance of power of Obote’s government’, which resulted in another bid for secession from the rest of the country.[101] In May 1966 the Lukiiko ordered the government of Uganda to leave the soils of Buganda, as for them secession had become ‘the only answer.’[102] This measure caused a drastic response from the central government, precipitating the ‘battle of Mengo’, described by the Kabaka himself as ‘an amazingly inexpert attack on my palace.’[103]

On the 24 th May 1966 troops from the central government, lead by Idi Amin, attacked the Kabaka’s palace, which lead to the ‘first major blood bath in independent Uganda.’[104] The Kabaka and his lieutenants put up a stiff resistance but were no match for Amin’s troops, and resulted in Mutesa escaping over the walls of his palace, eventually seeking asylum in London. During the emergency there were widespread reports that ‘soldiers were out of the control of their officers, and frequently behaving beyond the acceptable limits of contemporary behaviour.’[105] Some estimates indicate the death toll of the battle could have been as high as 2,000, which included many civilians. Despite this, Kenneth Ingham claims there was ‘little indication that the rest of the country was unduly disturbed by these events.’[106] In fact, ‘political actors from outside Buganda believed a historic wrong had been set right.’[107]

The battle at the Kabaka’s palace destroyed the Bugandan legacy with its king in exile the kingdom had effectively been defeated. The incident marked ‘the termination of Buganda’s special status on both a political and constitutional level.’[108] Obote had successfully redistributed power away from Buganda, and chose to place it instead in the hands of politicians from the north of the country. When the palace was stormed there was little meaningful support from the rest of Buganda, and when all is taken into consideration, Mutesa II was in fact ‘failed and abandoned by the people of Buganda, who proved to be talkers rather than actors when the chips were down.’[109] In the months following the incident, Buganda was divided into four administrative districts and a state of emergency imposed, that remained in place until 1971.[110] Obote had succeeded in his defeat of Buganda, and thus the ethnic group he deemed to be an obstacle to national integration had been reduced to a position of virtual irrelevance. Despite the defeat of the Baganda, it is claimed that ‘national unity was no nearer achievement than it had been in the first years of independence’.[111] This situation changed little after 1966, and ‘did not automatically mean that people ceased acting on the basis of loyalty to the ethnic group.’[112]

The military, ethnicity and the ‘move to the left’:

The struggle that Obote waged against Buganda during the early 1960s was largely political in nature, but in order to deliver the decisive blow in 1966 it was necessary to resort to military force. The combination of political stratagem and military force has been described as a ‘fatal error’, because it meant that the army ‘assumed a pivotal role in the political process in Uganda’.[113] The army in fact became the power-base of the Obote regime because it possessed ‘the means of physical coercion.’[114] This significantly reduced the legitimacy of the UPC, as it could only effectively sustain authority through the use of force. Despite the omnipresence of the military in Uganda after 1966, Obote also introduced a number of positive political reforms that were intended to stimulate national unification and reduce the influence of ethnic affiliation.

After the events of 1966, Obote realised that he had placed himself in somewhat of a quandary. Obote’s problem centred around the desire to reduce the importance of ethnicity, whilst simultaneously showing favour to those from northern Uganda. The reliance upon an ethnic foundation reduced Obote’s freedom of action, and between 1966 and 1971 Obote made a number of attempts to manoeuvre himself out of this position. He no longer wanted to be a victim of ‘the ethnic sickness’ that ‘still afflicted the system despite constitutional and organisational changes.’[115] In September 1967 a new constitution was enacted, which strongly enhanced the power of the central government. The constitution also abolished the kingdoms of Buganda, Ankole, Bunyoro and Toro, turning Uganda into a republic.[116] The disappearance of the kingdoms was ‘an indication that the different regions of Uganda had now achieved equality’, and that the ‘symbols of inequality’ were no more.[117] In addition, a programme of nationwide reforms were introduced, that were intended to reduce discrepancies between the different ethnic groups of Uganda. In order to address the economic and educational imbalance in the country, there was heavy investment in areas deemed to exhibit backward tendencies. In 1968 reforms were made within the UPC itself, firstly the party organisation was centralised, and secondly the ethnically orientated districts that were used as organisational units were abolished. Finally, there was reform of the parliamentary voting system which meant that every candidate had to stand for election in three constituencies other than their own, reducing the importance of ethnic and regional identity in electoral campaigns.[118] These policies demonstrate a partial political reversal by Obote, especially when compared to his behaviour in government before 1966. The northern domination of government was somewhat relinquished, and a new ideological approach was adopted. This shift was largely realised in Obote’s ‘Move to the Left’ strategy, that was further enshrined by the Common Man’s Charter in 1969.

In November 1968 Obote adopted the ‘Move to the Left’ strategy, and announced that the country would be adopting a socialist ideology. Through the implementation of the ‘Move to the Left’ Obote was ‘attempting to establish a power base among the masses’, and also work towards ‘an alternative pattern of politics.’[119] This was realised during the early part of 1968 when Obote and his ministers went on country-wide tours to ‘meet the people’ and generate a mass following for the UPC.[120] The ‘Move to the Left’ came to be epitomised by the Common Man’s Charter, which was signed into law on 24 th October 1969, and envisaged ‘the creation of a new political culture and a new way of life.’[121] It was ‘an effort to break out of the ethnic dimension’ and also a promise for ‘justice, equality, liberty and welfare for all sons and daughters of the Republic of Uganda’. [122] It flatly rejected ‘isolationism in regard to one part of Uganda towards another.’[123] In theory the Charter was meant to reduce inequality throughout the country and generate national loyalty, which caused a considerable stir. The introduction of radical new policies such as the plan to spread wealth more equitably, reform the electoral system, state acquisition of many multinational companies and the eradication of regional mentality created shockwaves throughout Uganda.[124] The proposition of such radical reform meant the Charter was greeted with widespread scepticism, especially as the document itself appears to have been ‘riddled with ambiguities.’[125]

A large section of the population treated the ‘Move to the Left’ with considerable cynicism because it was vague, and could be interpreted in a variety of ways. The Charter was ‘received with alarm by the commercial circles in the country’ because the government wanted to adopt a much greater profile in the Uganda’s economy.[126] John Saul claims ‘it is perfectly clear that Obote was no socialist’ and that ‘it is all too easy to overstate the significance’ of the Common Man’s Charter and the ‘Move to Left’.[127] Indeed, it appears that the shift to the left had limited long term significance, and that part of Obote’s strategy was to isolate his political opponents within the UPC. It would appear that ‘Obote’s real purpose was not so much a new system as the elimination of those he could no longer trust’, and also the development of a new generation of leaders that were loyal to him personally.[128] The presence of an ulterior motive in the formulation of the ‘Move to the Left’ illuminates a much greater theme in the policies of Obote. It highlights an undercurrent of superficiality in the post-1966 political reforms, and suggests that the President was not overly committed to reducing the potency of ethnic affiliation in Uganda. One example of this, among many others, is Obote’s treatment of the Baganda after the crisis of 1966.

The treatment Buganda received after 1966 lends little credibility to Obote’s declared intention ‘of reducing the significance of the ethnic factor.’[129] Despite the destruction of the Bugandan monarchy in 1966, the region was kept in a state of emergency until Obote was overthrown in 1971, and its citizens were regularly mistreated by the army and security services. In 1968 a number of ‘quite unnecessary’ steps were taken, including the establishment of the Uganda Armed Forces Headquarters on the premises of the Lukiiko, and the Kabaka’s palace being turned into army barracks. These actions exacerbated the resentment felt by the Baganda and symbolised ‘the final desecration of the kingdom.’[130] Furthermore, after Obote had forced the Kabaka to flee Uganda in 1966, Mutesa II later died in exile during 1969 in a state of poverty. The government refused to allow him to be buried in a traditional ceremony on Bugandan soil, which ‘further humiliated the Baganda and welded them together in enmity towards Obote.’[131] Such treatment of the Baganda highlights the lack of effort Obote made to integrate an important and populous region within the national framework, and that his public declarations about a new era of politics, free from ethnic division were both erroneous and hypocritical. This argument proves to be particularly pertinent when the ethnic composition of the army is considered, given that Obote was preaching about the death of ethno-politics whilst also ensuring that recruitment for the army was ‘being conducted on an ethnic basis.’[132]

As has been previously discussed, the political landscape after independence was for the most part dominated by politicians from the north of the country. This was also the case in the army, which Obote manipulated along ethnic lines by recruiting heavily from the north of the country. In the military Obote had created ‘a reliable constituency based on ethnicity’ that was used as a base of political support.[133] Throughout the 1960s Obote manipulated ‘the tribal composition of the armed forces in order to retain support for the regime’ and excluded ethnic factions that he deemed unreliable.[134] The army was stuffed with recruits almost exclusively from the north, who were ‘united in a common cause for survival against the rest.’[135] Like the political environment, ethnicity was also extremely divisive within the armed forces, and throughout the 1960s the divide between these two different bodies became increasingly blurred. The first major event that saw the military become involved in the political arena took place not long after independence, and was fuelled by events elsewhere in East Africa.

The first intrusion into politics by the armed forces took place in 1964, part of a chain reaction of army mutinies across East Africa that were sparked by revolution in Zanzibar. On the 23 rd January 1964 disturbances broke out on the Jinja barracks, during which time expatriate officers were specifically targeted. The rebellion ‘was effectively the only form of expression’ for the mutineers, who wanted an increase in pay and the removal of British officers from key positions in the army.[136] The government capitulated to virtually every demand, implementing better pay for private soldiers and non-commissioned officers, which accelerated the speed of Africanisation within the army. The lack of resistance the government displayed had far-reaching consequences, and also highlighted Obote’s intention to ‘buy time and the loyalty of the military.’[137] It has been claimed that ‘changes in the attitudes and behaviour of the Ugandan armed forces can be dated from the reaction of this mutiny’, as soldiers realised they had influence over the political leadership in Uganda. The lack of any real punishment for the mutineers also helped to engender a sense of impunity within the armed forces, which only increased as the decade progressed.[138] The mutiny also had an ethnic dimension, expressed through the resentment of northern soldiers towards the officer corps, who were largely from the southern Bantu group. This conflict ‘exercised a high degree of influence on the Africanisation programme’ and meant that ‘ethnic divisions became an internal fact of life within the army.’[139] As a result of the rebellion in 1964 ‘personal, factional and tribal considerations became much more important in maintaining military chains of command’, and were exacerbated even further as a result of the events of 1966.[140]

As previously mentioned, the army adopted an increasingly important role in Ugandan politics after the events of 1966. After the Buganda crisis, the UPC was reduced ‘to the position of a phantom party’, because once the armed forces had been used to achieve political goals ‘it was impossible to return to a practice of reconciliation politics.’[141] As time progressed the UPC became far too divided and heterogeneous to provide effective leadership, and therefore the army became the only organisation ‘which had the immediate political potential for imposing, if not creating…an integrated political order.’[142] The army emerged from the 1966 crisis ‘with flying colours’ and Obote distributed rewards accordingly. The size, quality and equipment of the army were all improved, and various military personnel were afforded training opportunities outside of Uganda.[143] Despite the ascendency of the Ugandan military between 1966 and 1971, internal conflict soon arose. In the late 1960s a fractious split emerged between Obote and then Major General Idi Amin, which resulted in the formulation of ethnic powerbases and ultimately the overthrow of Obote in 1971.

During the latter half of the 1960s a divergence of opinion emerged between Obote and Amin that ‘rendered the vital premise of the post-1966 power-system no longer valid.’[144] The conflict that emerged between the civil and military authorities proved once again to be ethnically divisive. The conflict that emerged can be highlighted by the different approaches Obote and Amin took towards the civil war in neighbouring Sudan. Obote gave orders that Sudanese guerrilla activities could not take place on Ugandan soil, and that the national border must be respected. Amin however authorised support for Southern Sudanese rebels, and even directly involved some Ugandan army units in the conflict.[145] Obote and Amin both resorted to the ‘manipulation of ethnic, language and geographical variables to shore up their support in the armed forces’, and in an attempt to exert control over the whole country.[146] Obote created a number of armed organisations in an attempt to rival the regular army, namely the Special Force and the General Service Unit (GSU), which was controlled by his cousin Akena Adoko. The Special Force and the GSU were filled with individuals from Obote’s own district of Lango, and were favoured in terms of arms, equipment and budgetary allowance, which greatly angered the regular army. Furthermore, the secretive nature of the GSU ‘greatly magnified the danger it seemed to represent to the army.[147] As well as the creation of these paramilitary organisations, Obote also ensured that Langi and Acholi officers were given strategically important positions within the army, pinning his hopes of an alliance between the Langi and Acholi, thus ‘clearly exploiting the army’s ethnic composition.’[148] Obote’s behaviour caused an equal reaction from Amin, who mobilised his own ethnic affiliates from West Nile to counter balance the inflated numbers of Langi and Acholi in the army.

On 12 th April 1968, Obote “promoted” Amin to the position of Major General, a position that was of greater honour but of much less influence. This represented an attempt by Obote to weaken the West Nile group within the army, of which Amin was sole representative.[149] In response, Amin began recruiting heavily from his own language cluster, which saw a sudden rise of Sudanic-speakers in the army and a corresponding decrease of Nilo-Hamatic-speakers. Between 1968 and 1969 the number of Sudanic-speakers in the army in fact rose by 74 per cent.[150] On January 25 th 1970 Brigadier Peirno Okoya, a leading Acholi officer, was murdered in cold blood alongside his wife only eight days after accusing Amin of cowardice. It was widely believed that Okoya’s position as a high ranking Acholi in the army was behind his murder, and ‘despite the unequivocal clearance which Amin received from an investigating committee, his unseen hand was still believed in some quarters to have been behind the assassination.’[151] Finally, Amin also managed to generate popularity in Buganda, whose citizens were still resolute in their hatred of Obote. In a television interview in August 1970 Amin drew a distinction between his support for the office of the President and his support for Obote, which was well received in Buganda.[152] Amin came to represent Buganda’s opposition to the regime, and thereby brought about a coalition ‘between his group in the army and the civilian groups, especially in Buganda, opposed to Obote.’[153]

Thus came about the coup of 1971, with Amin seizing power on the 25 th January whilst Obote was attending a Commonwealth Summit Conference in Singapore. The coup took place at the end of a period ‘fraught with tension’, that came about as a result of both Obote and Amin establishing conflicting, ethnically orientated blocks of support within the armed forces.[154] Michael Lofchie argues that the primary reason the coup took place was in fact the formation of class consciousness among the military, and the desire to sustain the position of economic preponderance that the military had recently achieved. Lofchie states that because the army ‘had come to constitute a more and more economically privileged stratum’, Obote was overthrown because the ‘Move to the Left’ threatened the economic prosperity of the armed forces.[155] This however is vehemently disputed by Holger Bernt Hansen, who claims it is ‘meaningless to treat the army as a uniform entity…as it was only a single ethnically-defined group that took power’, and therefore ‘it is difficult to interpret the coup in elite or class terms.’[156]

During the late 1960s and early 1970s a destructive show down occurred between Obote and Amin for the ethnic control of the army, and in effect control of the entire state. The political reforms brought about by the ‘Move to the Left’ were extremely hypocritical and essentially meaningless, given that Obote was simultaneously organising the military along ethnic lines. The claims made by Obote in the Common Man’s Charter that the days of regional and ethnic identity in fact seem rather laughable. When the decisive hour came in 1971 Obote was abandoned by his Acholi allies in the army, who were disgruntled about the government response to the murder of Brigadier Pierino Okaya.[157] Obote had dug his political grave ‘by using ethnicity to contain ethnicity.’[158] After Amin overthrew Obote the centre of power remained in the north of the country, but ‘moved to a new and more narrowly-defined group’.[159] Unsurprisingly, this did not herald an end to ethnic division within the army or the country as a whole, in actual fact perhaps the polar opposite.

The Amin regime and the Asian expulsion

After the overthrow of Obote, Amin publicly stated that there would be a significant overhaul of the Ugandan political system. This was highlighted by the list of eighteen grievances, which were used as a justification the January coup. The list included the breakdown of law and order, neglect of the armed forces in favour of the GSU and ethnic manipulation of the army and country as a whole.[160] The list of grievances seems somewhat ironic given that Amin was heavily involved in the ethnic manipulation of the armed forces before 1971, and also suggest continuity in the policies of Obote and Amin. After the coup Amin had to largely work within the system he had inherited, and perpetuated ‘the importance of the ethnic factor over the whole spectrum of development.’[161] Writing in 1973 Garth Glentworth and Ian Hancock noted that ‘Amin represents not an aberration within Uganda’s recent history but an extension of existing tendencies of Uganda politics.’[162] There was an evident perpetuation between Obote and Amin, but there were also a number of changes implemented by Amin that warrant mention.

Announced an initiated in 1972, local political organisations were reorganised, meaning election to local positions had to be sought through the ballot box instead of being inherited. Furthermore, ten new regions were established that cut across Uganda’s main ethnic groups, in order to ‘break with the inherited ethnic-group structure.’[163] In August 1973 Amin attempted to address a long-standing problem by declaring that Swahili would become the official language in Uganda. This provided opportunities for people who were previously unable to exert themselves on the political level because of linguistic barriers, and because no group had a monopoly of the language, it ‘represented an attempt at ethnic equalisation.’[164] The adoption of Swahili as the national language however proved to be ‘one of the very few cultural gains brought about by Amin’s rule.’[165] Before the coup in 1971 Amin had developed an amiable relationship with Buganda, which he attempted to sustain during the early 1970s. In February 1971, the State of Emergency that had been in place since 1966 was lifted, followed by the announcement that the body of Edward Mutesa II would be returned to Uganda for a state funeral, which Amin was keen to stress that the ceremony was ‘a gesture of national reconciliation.’[166] Furthermore, although publicly opposing the return of the kingdoms, Amin allowed the Baganda to openly campaign for the restoration of the Kabakaship. It has however been observed that Amin’s stance was ‘a reflection of the regime’s political, military and economic weakness in its first year’, as opposed to Amin being overtly conciliatory.[167] These examples indicate that Amin did instigate a variety of changes upon his assumption of power, but as noted there was also distinct continuity with the Obote regime. Shortly after the coup Amin announced that an airport, giant hotel and university were to be built in his home district West Nile, which confirmed the ‘continuation of the already familiar pattern of ethnic favouritism.’[168]

Ethnic manipulation of the military transcended the change of President in 1971, and was realised in a more drastic and brutal fashion under Amin. During the Amin regime ‘life was at its cheapest’, and ‘the whole ethos of Amin’s army threatened the unarmed people of Uganda.’[169] Military force became ‘the medium and very foundation of Uganda politics’, which was consummated with a rapid growth in military expenditure.[170] In the fiscal year 1971/72 military spending accounted for 25 per cent of the total state budget, contributing in part to a sense of growing impunity within the army. The military had command of significant assets, and were able ‘to commandeer whatever took their fancy.’[171] Amin brought the army ‘under his personal control by changing its ethnic composition and increasing its responsibilities’ on a nationwide scale.[172] After the coup 22 army officers were promoted, of which 13 were from northwest Uganda, and the Special Force and GSU, filled will pro-Obote Langi were liquidated.[173] Many Langi and Acholi officers were also specifically targeted, creating a ‘holocaust within the armed forces.’[174] On June 24 th 1971 150 officers and men, most of whom were Acholi were killed in ‘a violent tribal clash.’[175] After Amin’s coup, a significant portion of the Langi and Acholi in the army fled to Tanzania with Obote, where they established training camps and engaged in various cross-border guerrilla attacks. The threat that this produced resulted in a variety of ‘strongly ethnic repercussions inside Uganda’, and the targeting of Langi and Acholi citizens.[176] Langi and Acholi girls were targeted and raped by soldiers, and from the early 1970s onwards ‘periodic terror’ became ‘an aspect of the life of every Langi and every Acholi.’[177] Ethnicity was evidently still incredibly divisive during the Amin regime, with the ethnic affiliates of Obote from Langi and Acholi being specifically targeted. There was also another ethnic group that were targeted by Amin that have thus far gone unmentioned in this essay. This group were consistently discriminated against during the colonial period, then under Obote and finally under Amin, before being expelled from Uganda in 1972.

On August 4 th 1972, Idi Amin announced the mass expulsion of Asians from Uganda, which was to be completed within three months. It was the beginning of ‘the final chapter in the story of the Indian presence in Uganda’, and represents perhaps the most extreme example of ethnic conflict and division within the time period that has been examined.[178] The announcement of the expulsion was preceded by the “cattle count” in October 1971 whereby Indians were forced visit special camps to be counted, followed by Amin’s famous Indian conference, held on 7 th -8 th of December 1971. During the conference Amin ‘detailed numerous charges against the Indian community, without distinguishing between citizen and non- citizen Indians of Uganda.’[179] Amin claimed he had been told by God in a dream to expel the Asian population from Uganda, which resulted in the expulsion of around 80,000 Ugandan Asians that held British passports.[180]

Amin’s expulsion of Ugandan Asians was part of his plan for ‘an all-black Uganda’, which gained considerable support throughout Uganda and in other African nations.[181] Amin publicly declared that the expulsion of Uganda’s Asian community would benefit the African population economically, and that the supposed exploitation of Asian businessmen would come to an end. The promise that the economic balance of power would swing decisively in the favour of the African community resulted in considerable support for the expulsion, that would rid the country of a largely resented ethnic minority. Mahmood Mamdani observes that the supposed ‘moment of glory of the Amin regime turned into a tragedy’, that went on to haunt Uganda for a considerable period of time.[182] The expulsion has been described as ‘economically unjust, sociologically illiterate and historically unsound’, and also fundamentally racist in conception.[183] The British Government publicly documented the racial orientation of the expulsion, highlighted by a telegram sent from R. W. Whitney of the British East African Department to the headquarters of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa. The telegram states that ‘the President’s decision to expel non-citizen Asians was a blatant act of racial discrimination’ and that ‘these people had nothing in common except the fact that they were of Asian ethnic origin.’[184] This view is supported by Vishnu Sharma and F. Woolridge who also proclaim that ‘the expulsion of the Uganda Asians was an act of racial discrimination.’[185] Although it was Amin who expelled the Asian population from Uganda, anti-Asian prejudice was already well established in Uganda, and had its origins in the colonial policies of the British.

In order to explain why resentment developed towards the Asian community in Uganda, ‘one must look at the structure and nature of the colonial system for an explanation.’[186] Once Uganda had become a British protectorate, the country and its neighbours became the ‘America of the Hindu’, resulting in considerable levels of immigration from Asia. Under British rule a ‘three tier society was created along racial lines’, with Europeans at the top, Asians in the middle and Africans at the bottom.[187] Such institutionalized separation ‘fed the fire of misunderstanding between the races’ and also reinforced the ‘insular attitude and behaviour’ of the Asian community.[188] Black African views of the Asians ‘arose largely out of the social, political and economic dynamics’ that were generated within the stated societal structure.[189] Substantial incomes were largely concentrated in the hands of non-Africans, resulting in a wide imbalance of wealth and power within Uganda, and resentment towards the Asian community from the lower echelons of society. Furthermore, African hostility towards Asians ‘had a sharper edge’ than it did towards Europeans, because Europeans were mainly technical experts, whereas Asians competed within the commercial sector.[190] Despite relative economic success in Uganda, it still appears that ‘the Asians were the victims of the colonial hierarchical situation, and not its perpetrators.’[191] Just like the elevated position of the Baganda, racial friction between the Asian and black African population was largely generated by the societal structure imposed by the British before Uganda gained independence, which made ‘the expulsion of Asians from Uganda…inevitable.’[192]

Before the expulsion occurred, anti-Asian prejudice was well established in Uganda. Bahadur Tejani, who was expelled in 1972, observes that ‘long before Idi Amin Dada boxed his way through the command post we brown Ugandans had been used to being ordered around’ and ‘treated as outcasts.’[193] One of the first major examples of anti-Asian prejudice came in the form of the Bugandan boycott of non-African shops, that took place from 1959-60. The boycott was pro-Buganda and pro-Kabaka, but was also inspired by ‘the widespread dislike of Asian traders throughout Uganda.’[194] D.A Low claims ‘there can be no doubt of the deep animosity of Africans towards the Asian minority in Uganda because of their alleged exploitations of Africans’, manifested in part by Asian commercial practice. The boycott ‘gave an outlet for accumulated political and social frustrations’, which were realised through the prominence of ‘xenophobic, violent and criminal’ actions taken against Asian traders.[195] The boycott is a clear example of deep-seated anti-Asian prejudice in Uganda, as Asian traders ‘were from the outset the primary target’ of the boycott.[196] As a result of the boycott, many Asian traders were expelled from the Bugandan countryside, which ‘stood as a reminder of what a determined campaign against them could effect.’[197]

There is also evidence of anti-Asian prejudice during the Obote regime, which came to the fore towards the end of the 1960s. During a conference of commonwealth leaders in London on 5 th January 1969, Obote stated that ‘it was ultimately wrong that a vital aspect of the economy should be controlled by foreigners’, and that around 40,000 Asians who held British passports would have to leave Uganda.[198] The situation became far more pressing in 1970 with the adoption of a new Immigration Act, which meant that all non-Ugandan Asians were required to possess an entry permit if they wished to remain in the country. In addition, following on from his declarations in London in 1969, in early 1970 Obote ‘resolved that all Asians holding British passports should leave Uganda’.[199] Given the steps that Obote took it is somewhat unsurprising that Amin decided to expel Uganda’s Asian population in 1972. The expulsion took place after the progressive escalation of anti-Asian legislation, and was supported by largely anti-Asian black majority. All that remained was for Amin to justify the expulsion personally.

By the summer of 1972, there ‘can be no doubt about the dire straits to which the country had been reduced.’ The economic and budgetary position was serious, there were food shortages and the banking sector was in trouble.[200] In the face of such severe problems, Amin realised that ‘draconian measures taken…against the Asians would win him popularity.’[201] Indeed, ‘Amin’s attack on the Asian community seems to have been designed, as much as anything, for populist purposes.’[202] Amin’s announcement also coincided with ‘the most extensive re- organisation of local government Uganda had ever seen.’[203] The establishment of new provinces and the carving up of ethnic groups was potentially inflammatory, and therefore the expulsion of the Asian community acted as a counterbalance as it was a cause most black Ugandans supported. Amin did not publicly justify the expulsion in populist terms, but instead advanced the idea that the expulsion would benefit Uganda economically.

In December 1971, during a declaration at the Indian conference, Amin listed various examples of ‘commercial malpractice’ committed by the Asian community in Uganda. The list included the undervaluing of exports and overvaluing of imports, the smuggling of commodities, the subjection of Africans to inflated rents and the lack of African employees in Asian owned businesses.[204] The whole Asian community ‘were accused of economic crimes, of the exploitation of Africans, and of occupying too prominent a position in the Ugandan economy.’[205] Amin was ‘quite eloquent in defending the expulsion and economic war in terms of economic nationalism’ and pledged to transfer economic control into the hands of Ugandans.[206] This economic angle proved rather popular, because the Asian position in the economy was a particular source of animosity. Economic factors were not the only justification for expulsion, and the argument was put forward that the secular nature and exclusivity of the Asian community also justified expulsion.

The sexual exclusivity and ‘the barrier which the Asians of Uganda had erected against intermarriage with Africans was an important aspect of their tragic fate under General Idi Amin.’[207] The issue of non-integration was viewed as the ‘most painful question’ for the Asian community, especially given that only six known marriages had taken place between Asian woman and African men.[208] Amin castigated the Asian community for their unwillingness to integrate, and before the expulsion was announced, declared that the Asian community had to make a greater effort to assimilate themselves into Ugandan society. This however proved fruitless, because the economic role of the Asians within Ugandan society ‘predicated on their political and social isolation.’[209] Historically speaking, Ugandan Asians were ‘a transplanted, immigrant community which differed physically from the black population’, creating a barrier that proved to be insurmountable. It has been observed that many Ugandan Asians ‘kept their man (heart) in India and dhan (wealth) in Britain, whilst still managing to retain their tan (body) in East Africa.’[210] For many Ugandans Amin provided sufficient evidence to warrant expulsion, playing on widespread grievances about the economic practices and social exclusivity of the Asian community. Writing in 1975 Dent Ocaya-Lakidi observed that ‘if only the Asians were more open, more integrated with the rest, if only they intermarried more, all might have been well.’[211]

The economic turnaround that had been promised by Amin failed to materialise after the expulsion in 1972. Amin failed to live up to the guarantees he given the public, and instead of the country benefiting economically, the assets left by the fleeing Asian population were squandered and distributed amongst high ranking individuals in the Amin regime. Furthermore, the Africans that filled the positions left vacant by the Asian exodus ‘were inexperienced and the economy declined still further under their management.’[212] All property owned by the expelled Asians was nationalised by the state and managed by the Properties Custodian Board. This however did not result in a fair distribution of the seized assets, with the army adopting a larger role in ‘distributing the spoils of the economic war’.[213] In a telegram from the British High Commission in Kampala to the Foreign Commonwealth Office, sent on 22 nd January 1973, it is noted that ‘no real attempt has been made by the Ugandan authorities to put official valuation on the enterprises owned by former Asian residents…transferred to Ugandan Africans.’[214] It is apparent that the expulsion of Uganda’s Asian community was not economically beneficial like Amin promised, and that after 1972 the reckless greed of the government meant that the economic assets that been left behind were squandered.

After Amin’s seizure of power in 1971 a series of ‘atrocious and bizarre events…occurred in Uganda’, which culminated in the expulsion of around 80,000 non-citizen Asians in 1972.[215] The expulsion received widespread international coverage, and generated a variety of both positive and negative reactions. It also created a significant refugee crisis, and resulted in the resettlement of 80,000 Ugandan Asians in various locations across the world. The presence of the Asian community in Uganda was clearly divisive, and for a long had generated resentment from black Ugandans. Such resentment had its roots in the societal structure imposed by the British, which placed black citizens at the bottom of the social ladder. The expulsion had economic and social dimensions, but was primarily a ‘rejection of alien elements, such as Asians.’[216] In the quest for an all black Uganda, Amin believed he ‘had won ‘a famous victory over the Asians’, but instead the results of the expulsion were almost universally negative.[217]

It is abundantly clear that during the time period studied, ethnicity was an incredibly divisive force in Ugandan politics. Although the ethnic conflicts that took place between the 1950s and 1970s took a variety of forms, there is a clear continuity of theme. Although the scope of this essay does not extend far beyond the expulsion of Ugandan Asians in 1972, it is clear that the ethnic divisions in Uganda would have continued long after this date. Ethnic divisions do not simply disappear overnight, which would warrant further exploration of ethnic divisions in Uganda after 1972 at a later date. During the time period that has been examined over the course of this work itself, ethnicity manifested itself in overtly negative terms, and was usually a source of contention instead of unification. Both before and after independence friction between different ethnic groups in Uganda was detrimental to the process of national unification, and on a number of occasions ethnic identity became ‘a weapon in the political struggle’, which was used to mobilise the members of one ethnic group against another.[218]

When Uganda gained independence in 1962 it is unsurprising that the country was divided along ethnic lines, as the Protectorate Government had pursued the policy of ethnic separation for a considerable period of time. The country was essentially an amalgamation of different ethnic entities, which created a much stronger sense of local identity, rather than national consciousness. During the 1950s, the omnipresence of the Baganda was a key issue, as politicians from outside the kingdom were adamant that the post-colonial state would not be dominated by Buganda.

During the tenure of the Protectorate Government, Buganda was treated much more favourably than other parts of Uganda. This resulted in the accelerated development of Buganda, which generated considerable hostility across Uganda. The policies of the British were largely responsible for the ethnic division of the country before independence, and even though Sir Andrew Cohen attempted to reform of this situation during the 1950s, only so much could be done. The formation of political parties in Uganda during the late 1950s reflected the split between Buganda and the rest of the country, namely through the formation of the UPC and the KY. The UPC was formed as a ‘non-Ganda’ party and sought to combat the power and hegemony of Buganda. For the Baganda ‘tribal institutions were the most viable from of political organization’, which was realised through the pro-monarchy, isolationist platform of the KY.[219] There was a clear ethnic division in the support base of the KY and UPC, yet it was a coalition between these two parties that brought Uganda to independence. This seemingly unthinkable partnership was short lived however, as after 1962 Milton Obote vehemently sought the marginalisation and eventual destruction of Buganda.

Uganda attained independence with an ‘absence of any genuine feeling of nationhood among the people.’[220] Milton Obote publicly stated that he sought to stimulate the process national unification, but this was at the expense of the Baganda, who Obote saw as an obstacle to a united Uganda. It seems that Obote had considerable support for the subjugation of Buganda, which began in earnest in 1964 with the loss of ‘lost counties’ referendum. This episode was extremely embarrassing for Buganda, and struck directly at the power of the Kabaka. The destruction of Buganda was realised in 1966, after Buganda tried to secede from the rest of the country. In response Obote attacked the Kabaka’s palace at Mengo, which decimated the Bugandan kingdom once and for all. Obote consistently espoused the need for unification and synergy within Uganda after 1962, whilst simultaneously seeking the destruction of Bugandan power and authority. This process appears to have been counterproductive, as the war Obote waged in the name of unification did not include the Baganda, and therefore national unity could not be achieved without the Uganda’s most populous group.

Obote’s calls for national unification and departure from ethnic politics seem particularly shallow when the northern bias of the post-1962 state is considered. Obote merely replaced the Baganda as the dominant force in Uganda by placing power in the hands of those from the north of the country. Obote did not only show bias towards northern politicians, but also manipulated the military along ethnic lines. After the ‘battle of Mengo’ in 1966 the armed forces assumed an increasingly pivotal role in Ugandan politics, which Obote ensured were dominated by those from northern Uganda, particularly Lango and Acholi. If this was not divisive enough, another split emerged during the late 1960s between Obote and Idi Amin, who both galvanised ethic support bases within the military and security services. Obote established the Special Force and GSU, whilst Amin increased the representation of the West Nile group within the army and recruited a large number of Sudanic-speakers. This ethnic polarisation within the army ultimately lead to the Amin’s seizure of power in 1971, highlighting how divisive a force ethnicity was within Ugandan politics.

The pervasive force of ethnicity did not dissipate with a change of President, and under Amin there are numerous examples of how ethnicity factors were manipulated. Upon Amin’s assumption of power a wave of violence swept through the military, with Langi and Acholi officers being specifically targeted for their loyalty to Obote before 1971. Under Amin Langi and Acholi citizens were also targeted, as they were thought to pose a threat to the authority of the state. Amin’s defining ethnic battle came in August 1972, when it was announced that all non-citizen Asians would have to leave Uganda within three months. The expulsion was primarily the rejection of an ethnic minority, and was considered by many outside of Uganda to be an act of flagrant racial discrimination. Inside Uganda the expulsion was justified with a variety of economic and social reasoning, and was met with very little resistance from the black population. Resentment of the Asian community was long standing, and the view of Asians as exploiters widespread. The expulsion of 1972 is seemingly the most extreme example of ethnic division that took place before or after independence, as it resulted in the forced migration of around 80,000 people and the reckless plunder of the economic assets of an entire community.

Although ethnic divisions were substantiated in a number of different forms during the time period examined in this essay, ethnicity was a persistent and divisive force in Ugandan politics, both before and after independence. There appears to have been a consistent dissatisfaction with the balance of power between ethnic groups, which usually resulted in conflict or confrontation. Before independence the UPC acted as a vehicle to rally opposition to Bugandan hegemony, and after 1962 Obote continued to attack the power of the Baganda in order to try and stimulate the process of national unification. During the late 1960s contention for control of the state resulted in acute ethnic conflict within the armed forces, and under Amin the idea was put forward that the expulsion of Asian community would redress the balance of power in favour of the African majority. During the period investigated ethnic conflict within Uganda was pervasive and unrelenting, and was detrimental to the nation as a whole because one ethnic group always lost out. Ethnicity was unquestionably divisive both before and after independence, and undermined the very stability of the Uganda itself.

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[1] Phares Mutibwa, Uganda Since Independence: A Story of Unfulfilled Hopes (London: Hurst, 1992) p.24.

[2] David E. Apter, The Political Kingdom in Uganda: A Study in Bureaucratic Nationalism (London: Frank Cass, 1997) p.397.

[3] Sir Andrew Cohen, ‘Uganda’s Progress and Problems’, African Affairs, 56 (1957), 111-122 (p.119).

[4] Geoffrey Engholm, ‘Political Parties and Uganda’s Independence’, Transition, 3 (1962), 15-17( p.15).

[5] Constitutional Committee, ‘Report of the Constitutional Committee 1959’, http://www.wdl.org/en/item/4058/pages.html#volume/1/page/44 (accessed 26th March 2011)

[6] Jan Jelmert Jorgensen, Uganda: A Modern History (London: Croom Helm, 1981) p.227.

[7] Chris Lowe, ‘Talking about “Tribe”: Moving from Stereotypes to Analysis’, http://www.africaaction.org/talking-about-tribe.html (accessed 26th March 2011)

[8] Bruce Berman, ‘Ethnicity, Patronage and the African State: The Politics of Uncivil Nationalism’, African Affairs, 97 (1998), 305-341 (p.305).

[9] Lowe, (accessed 26th March 2011)

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[13] Dan Mudoola, Religion, Ethnicity and Politics in Uganda (Fountain Publishers: Kampala, 1996) p.92.

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[16] Garth Glentworth & Ian Hancock, ‘Obote and Amin: Change and Continuity in Modern Uganda Politics’, African Affairs, 72 (1973), 237-255 (p.240).

[18] Hugh Dinwiddy, ‘The Search for Unity in Uganda: Early Days to 1966’, African Affairs, 80 (1981), 501-18 (p.514).

[20] R.C Pratt, ‘Nationalism in Uganda’, Political Studies, 9 (1961), 157-178 (p.158).

[21] M.S.M Kiwanuka, ‘Nationality and Nationalism in Africa: The Uganda Case’, The Canadian Journal of African Affairs, 4 (1970), 229-247 (p. 231).

[25] Ali A. Mazrui, ‘Privilege and Protest as Integrative Factors: The Case of Buganda’s Status in Uganda’, in Protest and Black Power in Africa, ed. by Robert I. Rotberg and Ali M. Mazrui (New York: OUP, 1970) p.1074


African Adventure Travellers

Upon the arrival of john Harington speak to Uganda in 1864, Uganda was formally operating under a by then described as a federal monarchy, different regions where under the leadership of kings and chiefs. It was difficult to tell what and where the boundaries of this African pearl due to various regions and tribes in the country, every region has its own language and culture.

John Speak and H.M Stanley found a hard moment to describe this great nation not until the arrival of the church missionaries in 1877 and 1879 who went deep to know and describe this nation its people and culture.

It was as a result of this that (missionaries) that various regions and areas where annexed to form one united Uganda in 1894 during the reign of King Mwanga and Kabalega of Bunyoro whom which the British based on to form Uganda hence making it a British protectorate.

Later on, these two kings where exiled into the Sychcells Island on the Indian Ocean for defying the British rule and orders.

The British chose to deal with Buganda alone by providing all the necessary protection they used Buganda to persuade other regions to join the protectorate. In 1900 an agreement was signed between the British and the by then a young Kabaka who was only one year. This agreement stayed firm until 9 th October 1962 when Uganda gained her independence from the British, the union jack was lowered and the Uganda flag was raised.

Buganda’s Mutesa II was elected the first president of Uganda working closely with his prime minister Dr. Apollo Milton Obote until 25 th May 1966 when all this came to an end leading to mass killings of over one million Ugandans.

Obote abrogated the independence constitution where he abolished most things including all traditional leaderships such as kings and chiefdoms. And later promoted himself executive political president of Uganda a post he held until 26 th January 1971 when field marshal Idi Amin Dada took over power from him.

Until now the world still remember the seven years atrocities of Dictator Idi Amin Dada. Many Ugandans fled the country including now current president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the struggle to save Uganda started.

Yoweri Museveni and colleagues led the struggle from Tanzania and in 1979 Amin was defeated. Several presidents came along leading short term, and these included Prof. Yusufu Lule, QC Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, Paul Muwanga, Obote in another phase and Tito Okello Lutwa, who had taken over power from his boss Dr. Apollo Milton Obote.

The past presidents of Uganda

  • President Sir Edward Luwangula Walugembe Muteesa II: 09 Oct 1963 – 02 Mar 1966
  • President Apollo Milton Obote: 15 Apr 1966 – 25 Jan 1971
  • President Idi Amin Dada (Field Marshall): 25 Jan 1971 – 11 Apr 1979
  • President Yusuf Kironde Lule: 13 Apr 1979 – 20 Jun 1979
  • President Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa: 20 Jun 1979 – 12 May 1980
  • President Apollo Milton Obote: 17 Dec 1980 – 27 Jul 1985
  • President Tito Okello Lutwa (General): 29 Jul 1985 – 26 Jan 1986

As a result of Obote rigging the 1980 presidential elections, Museveni decided to enter bush to fight Obotes bad leadership. He liberated the country in 1986. Many Ugandans received president Museveni’s victory.

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni – Currently the president of Uganda from 26 Jan 1986 to date

Among his ten point programs which took him to fight were democracy and rule of law. He organised the first ever presidential elections in 1996 and he was declared winner, until then to date Museveni has been winning with higher percentages of votes from 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, and now 2016. On that note therefore he is Uganda’s most serving president.


Uganda's Political History

Uganda gained her independence on October 9th 1962. Since 1894 she was a British protectorate that was put together from some very organized kingdoms and chieftaincies that inhabited the lake regions of central Africa. At independence, Dr. Milton Apollo Obote, also leader of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) became the first Prime Minister and head of the government.

The Republican leaning UPC came into power through an "unholy" alliance with a pro-mornarchy party called the Kabaka Yekka (KY), which had a stated aim of protecting the institution and power of the kingdom of Buganda. The UPC had earlier on, one year before independence, lost the first ever general election to the Democratic Party(DP) and now needed the strategic partnership of allies to avoid another defeat.

In November 1963, Kabaka Mutesa II King of Buganda was elected ceremonial President of Uganda thus seemingly sealing the political alliance of UPC and KY. However, this marriage of political convenience was short lived since both Obote and Mutesa and their following had differing agendas.

In 1964, Obote championed a bill in Parliament providing for a referendum on the belonging of the counties of Buyaga, Bugangaizi and Buwekula then of Buganda but claimed by the neigbouring kingdom of Bunyoro. This culminated in two of the counties opting to secede from Buganda and revert back to the Bunyoro Kingdom. As Kabaka of Buganda and President of Uganda, Sir Edward Mutesa II, was placed in an invidious position of signing the two acts pertaining to the "lost counties". It was upon accusations of dereliction of duty by the President, not to mention other fabricated reasons, that Obote suspended the 1962 constitution on 22nd February 1966 and took over all powers of State, thus giving rise to what came to be known as the 1966 Crisis.

On 15 April 1966, in a Parliament surrounded by troops, Obote introduced without notice a new constitution to be voted upon that very day. It was passed without debate and the Prime Minister informed Members of Parliament (MPs) that they would find their copies in their pigeonholes. This constitution came to be known as the Pigeonhole Constitution. Amongst other things, the federal constitutional status of kingdoms was abolished and the office of Prime Minister merged with that of the President and all executive powers became vested in Obote. Uganda was declared a Republic.

The Kabaka and his kingdom establishment at Mengo refused to recognize the supremacy of the pigeonhole constitution, insisting on the 1962 version. This culminated in the 24th May 1966 storming of Kabaka's palace by the Uganda army under the command of General Idi Amin but on the orders of Obote. Although the Kabaka managed to escape, he was exiled in Britain where he later died.

In 1967 Obote abolished all monarchs. Parliament became the constituent assembly and later all political parties were outlawed, except UPC. In a move to the left, Uganda became a one-party-state.

It was against this background that Idi Amin led a disgruntled section of the army to overthrow Obote on 25th January 1971. This coup was met with great jubilation but was to begin an era of terror and enormous tribulation for the people of Uganda. This dark period would last 8 long years. It was also during this period that all Asians, mainly Indians, were expelled from Uganda.
As a result the economy of Uganda suffered tremendously. The fiscal mismanagement and insecurity that followed dint help the situation.

An estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives through indiscriminate extra judicial killings during Idi Amin's regime.

The Fall of Idi Amin, the UNLF and Obote II

In April 1979, a combined force of Ugandan exiles, under the umbrella of Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLF), and the Tanzania Peoples Defense Force (TPDF) overthrew Amin's regime.

The UNLF was created through the patronage of President Nyerere of Tanzania at the Moshi Conference. It brought together a disparate group of Ugandan organizations and individuals with a common goal of ousting the Amin regime. The first UNLF government was led by Prof. Yusuf Lule as President and though well liked only lasted 68 days.

President Lule was followed by President Godfrey Binaisa, and then Paulo Muwanga whoc chaired the ruling Military Commission which organised the December 1980 general elections. UPC was declared winner of those elections though they were marred by multiple irregularities and generally considered rigged. For a second time, Obote became President of Uganda.

During Obote's second tenure as president, Ugandans went through a very trying period. Insecurity, fuelled by the government's own security organs as well as an ongoing liberation struggle devastated the country. An estimated 500,000 Ugandans lost their lives in just 5 years of Obote's reign. The economy was shattered and so was the people's faith in government.

In direct protest against the marred elections of 1980, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, then Vice Chairman of the Military Commission and President of the Uganda Patriotic Movement, launched a liberation struggle. It was on February 6th, 1981 and with only 26 compatriots organized under the banner of the National Resistance Army (NRA) that the war of liberation started.

As the NRA made staggering advances towards Kampala, having already cut the country off into two different administrative zones, elements of the UNLA on July 26th 1985 ousted Obote in a bid to find better negotiating ground. The Military Junta of Generals Bazilio and Tito Okello replaced Obote II's government.

By February 26th 1986 the "Okellos Junta" had fallen and shortly after the entire country was under control of the NRA.

The NRA's struggle was unique in that, for the first time in post-colonial Africa, a home grown insurgency, with no rear bases in a neighboring country and little external support, was ultimately successful. It was essentially an uprising of oppressed Ugandan citizens.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was sworn in as the President of the Republic of Uganda. The audious task of rebuilding the entire country and its human fabric from scratch began. To enable this task, political parties were suspended and Uganda was governed by an all-inclusive Movement system. A lot was to be achieved over the next eight to ten years.

The NRA/M however continued to face the challenge of reactionary UNLA forces especially in the northern part of the country.

The Movement System of Government

In 1995, a new constitution was promulgated creating a non-party all inclusive Movement System of government. Under this system, political parties remained in abeyance. Elections to most political offices was by universal suffrage. Marginalised groups like the women, the disabled, the youth and workers were given special slots on all administrative units of Government. The military was also given representation in parliament. The aspect of keeping this system was to be reviewed by referendum every 4 years.

General elections were held in 1996 under the Movement System and Yoweri Museveni was returned as President of Uganda. By this election, he became the very first Ugandan to be directly elected to the post by universal suffrage. In 2001, he was again returned by popular mandate to the Office of President

Return to Multi Party Politics

In July 2005 a national referendum was held in which the people of Uganda resolved to return to multi-party politics. The result of the referendum in effect marked an end to the Movement System of government. On February 23rd 2006, multi-party elections were held for both the office of president and for parliament. President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) won the presidential elections and the NRM took the highest number of seats in parliament.


Geography

Uganda has an average height of 1,100 meters above sea level and is on the East African plateau. Lake Kyoga dominates the country’s center. The country is almost all within the Nile basin. The Victoria Nile drains from Lake Victoria to Lake Kyoga and then runs north into Sudan. The Turkwel River drains a small area in Uganda’s eastern edge.

The area of Lake Kyoga is a boundary between Nilotic language speakers in the north and Bantu speakers in the south. The climate is equatorial but not uniform. The southern areas are wetter. A dry season does occur in the northern parts of Uganda.

The Karamoja area in the northeast has the driest climate. In the southwest, Rwenzori receives heavy rain all year. Lake Victoria in the south prevents the area’s temperatures from varying significantly. The south is where the most important cities are located, such as the capital, Kampala, and Entebbe.


Uganda Celebrates 57th Independence Anniversary

The East African Nation of Uganda is marking its 57 th independence anniversary from British Colonial Rule.

In 1888, the British government chartered the Imperial British East Africa Company to negotiate trade agreements in Uganda and other East African countries. Two years later, in 1890, Britain and Germany signed a treaty giving Britain ‘rights’ to the region. Following the outbreak of sectarian conflicts and revolts against colonial rule, the British Government annexed Buganda and some surrounding territories to create the Uganda Protectorate in 1894.

By the middle of the 20th century, Britain had been weakened by its involvement in World war II, and with the wave of independence sweeping across Africa, many British territories in the region gained freedom and self-rule.

On October 9, 1962, Uganda gained independence from Great Britain as a parliamentary democratic monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and Milton Obote as the Prime Minister. The traditional kingdoms of Ankole, Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro received federal status and a degree of autonomy. It eventually became a republic in 1963 with King Mutesa II becoming the first president.

Called the “Pearl of Africa”, Uganda is endowed with significant natural resources, fertile land, and regular rainfall, so much so, that “it could feed the whole of Africa if it were to farm commercially.” The country has a vibrant and diverse economy valued at $27 billion, as at 2018. The landlocked country has a huge tourism potential, including beautiful landscapes such as the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls National Park, the Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for wildlife, among many others.

In celebrating the day, Uganda holds independence parades and national celebrations across the country.


Uganda’s Post-Colonial History of Dictators and a Warning for the Future

A brief account of the major Uganda’s regimes cannot possibly do justice to their impact to on the country today, but in order to understand, one must begin somewhere. However, this short piece is designed to provide an overview into the deep-seated issue of authoritarianism in Uganda.

Uganda gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962 and became a federal system made up of the old kingdoms of Ankole, Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro under the presidency of Sir Edward Muteesa II and the Prime Ministry Milton Apollo Obote. Though British rule left much to be desired, the rule of various regional leaders proved to be less than optimal. Obote was the first leader to truly take the reins of the newly unified country, preceded by Muteesa who was the king of Buganda, the largest of the regional kingdoms, after being appointed by the leaving colonizers. Obote did not set a precedent of proper rule and it only got worse. All other leaders of Uganda are often overshadowed by the “Butcher of Africa” Idi Amin, who is considered one of the worst dictators in modern memory. Currently, Yoweri Museveni has put law changes into action to prolong his presidential terms for more than his already thirty-two-year long tenure and has shown increasingly autocratic tendencies that are becoming increasingly violent and suppressive. Uganda’s people must more than ever before understand the debt their leaders owe them and must question those leaders any time they are not living up to the standards they require of them.

The Rule of Milton Apollo Obote

President Milton Apollo Obote is the first leader with truly authoritarian tendencies. Though he is often overshadowed by the brutality of Idi Amin, between 100 and 500 thousand deaths are attributed to his regime, often those perceived to be political dissidents, comparable to Amin’s 300-600 thousand deaths. Obote came into power by unseating Muteesa from the presidency and forcefully acquiring executive authority through use of the military. This reliance on the military to give his regime credentials legitimacy was Obote’s greatest downfall. Idi Amin, one of Obote’s closest military advisors, carried out a coup with the help of the British and the Israelis and under him Ugandans lived one of the most infamous decades in their history.

The Rule of Idi Amin

Although it was a short rule, Idi Amin’s regime was characterized by its brutality and lack of logical politics. Amin himself was a demagogue that appealed to the nationalist sentiments left over from the colonial period as well as taking advantage of his own charisma and ability to instill fear to keep power. As stated, his regime’s death toll is at least 300 thousand. Many of these were political executions of Obote’s men or anyone assumed to be one. Amin had all of the telltale signs of a dictatorship, ruling through violence, execution of political opponents, grand promises and grander personal claims. Amin declared himself ruler for life in the later stages of his rule and fully intended for that to be true. Fortunately, this grandeur and his nationalistic xenophobia became his downfall. Amin singlehandedly crashed the Ugandan economy by calling for the deportation, arrest or execution of all Asian immigrants who upheld a bedrock of the recently freed economy, which bred resentment in many citizens who felt the monetary toll of this policy. His final mistake culminated in his exile as he provoked the armies of Tanzania and Israel by holding Israeli citizens hostage (the infamous Operation Entebbe) and later invading Kagera Salient in Tanzania which led to military defeat and his regime’s end and the return of Milton Obote.

Milton Apollo Obote’s Brief Return to Power

Obote returned to power for a period of 5 years and fell into the same pattern of paranoia and violence that characterized his first stint of power. Beginning from a rigged election, Obote used the military once again to suppress dissidents. Obote was soon toppled once again leading to a few liminal leaders taking power briefly.

President Yoweri Museveni

Following these liminal leaders, the next president of note is Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986. Museveni, like Amin came to power as a hero to the Ugandan people, promises of the people’s rights and democracy littering his rhetoric, despite being a leader of the guerilla force the National Resistance Army that forcefully put him into power completely absent of democracy. These promises of democracy seem to be even more hollow as the decades go on. One of Museveni’s first mandates was to ban political party meetings, only allowing for “meetings intended for unity along the lines set by the government.” Beginning a government in this way disqualify the title of “government” immediately, according to democratic standards. It took 10 years for Museveni to allow for presidential elections at all, and when “democracy” finally came, it was rigged for the incumbent.

Elections Rigging and Abolition of Presidential Term Limit

It is alleged and generally accepted by many Ugandans and other outside viewers that Museveni has never won a fair election. Kizza Besigye, one of Museveni’s top opponents, was jailed before the results of the 2006 election, drawing eyes from around the world as to what the future of Uganda holds. This is only the tip of the iceberg when talking about Museveni’s election meddling. There have also been two constitutional changes to ensure his ability to continue running for president. In 2005, Museveni pushed a bill through parliament that removed presidential term limits, clearing the path for him to continue his rule and in 2017 this became a “president for life” situation as the legal age limit requirement was removed, allowing Museveni to continue his rule as long as he is “elected.”

Nepotism and the Cycle of Self-Perpetuation

Even with all of this, there is little hope the state of things will change naturally considering the state of the government being cluttered with confidants and replacements that will likely continue the cycle of suppression in Uganda. Many onlookers are wary of the nepotism that is rampant in his administration, such as his wife as Minster of Education and his brother as a presidential advisor. However, the most concerning of the bunch is certainly his son, Major General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who has rocketed through the military ranks and has become a leading candidate to replace his father. As he seems to have power secured for years to come, Museveni has had no qualms with using it to benefit himself or those close to him.

Suppression of Freedom of Information and the Silencing of Dissent

One of his greatest enemies in elections and in keeping the peace of the people with his nefariousness is social media. As such, he has placed hefty taxes on anyone wishing to use social media. In what Human Rights Watch describes as “just another clumsy attempt to stamp on free speech,” Museveni continues to chip away at the freedoms that are meant to be above the will of a government. Attempting to suppress dissenters through the blocking of social media as well as a history of arresting journalists are telltale evidence of an autocratic regime. Museveni’s greatest enemy in the time to come will be an informed populace that will hold him and whoever replaces him accountable to the will of the people.

Where is Uganda heading Under Museveni?

Uganda has an unfortunate history that is completely absent of proper democratic governments and completely filled with overt breeches of human rights of the citizens the government is meant to protect. Museveni may not be as overtly violent as his predecessors, but his autocratic tendencies actions must not be ignored! His actions will become violent if left unchecked! Government officials must be held accountable in Uganda and throughout Africa for that matter, the people must have the ability to air their grievances, and presidential term limits must be a nonnegotiable as they are the most direct check on the possibility of dictatorships. President Museveni has secured power for a large part of his life and has likely secured it for years to come through his children. Ugandans must ask themselves, is it okay that these are the only people allowed any true freedom? How much longer will citizens continue living under the thumb of a ruler that is meant to serve them? Only the future knows how long the effects of this harsh time in history will last.


Uganda President History

Upon the arrival of john Harington speak to Uganda in 1864, Uganda was formally operating under a by then described as a federal monarchy, different regions where under the leadership of kings and chiefs. It was difficult to tell what and where the boundaries of this African pearl due to various regions and tribes in the country, every region has its own language, culture and John Speak and H.M Stanley found a hard moment to describe this great nation not until the arrival of the church missionaries in 1877 and 1879 who went deep to know and describe this nation.

Its people and culture It was as a result of this that (missionaries) that various regions and areas where annexed to form one united Uganda in 1894 during the reign of King Mwanga and Kabalega of Bunyoro whom which the British based on the British based on to form Uganda hence making it a British protectorate. Later on these two kings where exiled into the Sychcells Island on the Indian Ocean for defying the British rule and orders.

The British chose to deal with Buganda alone by providing all the necessary protection they used Buganda to persuade other regions to join the protectorate. In 1900.an agreement was signed between the British and the by then a young Kabaka who was only one year. This agreement stayed firm until 9th October 1962 when Uganda gained her independence from the British, the union jack was lowered and the Uganda flag was raised. Bugandas Mutesa 11 was elected the first president of Uganda working closely with his prime minister Dr.Apollo Milton Obote until 25th May 1966 when all this came to an end leading to mass killings of over 1 million Ugandans.

Obote abrogated the independence constitution where he abolished most things including all traditional leaderships such as kings and chiefdoms. And later promoted himself executive political president of Uganda a post he held until 26thJanuary 1971 when field marshal Idi Amin Dada took over power from him. Until now the world still remember the seven years atrocities of Dictator Idi Amin Dada. Many Ugandans fled the country including now current president Museveni and the struggle to save Uganda started.


Uganda’s post-independence political challenges

Greetings fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well wishers and welcome to the program. We look forward to your active participation in this interactive session.

We have been requested to spend some time discussing Uganda’s political challenges since independence. There is hunger for knowledge as Ugandans get more engaged than ever before in affairs affecting their lives.

We study history to understand what happened in the past and what lessons we have learned and how we have applied them to make life better by discarding bad practices and building on good ones. There are those who think we should move on and not look backward because we may discover things that should not be disclosed to the public. However, many Ugandans are demanding to know the history of their country as far back as possible. For this program we shall examine the circumstances surrounding the birth of Uganda as an independent state and how those circumstances have shaped the last 50 years of independent Uganda.

Uganda’s birth as an independent nation took place in a very difficult environment and many important issues were rushed through or delayed as negotiators had to meet a deadline of October 9, 1962. In this session we shall consider the period immediately before independence and up to 1970. In the next session we shall discuss political developments from 1971 to the present.

There are commentators who argue that Uganda rushed into independence and negotiators made commitments and omissions that have complicated the post independence period. We shall examine the most salient ones. But before doing that let us note that by and large British policy was to create federation of territories or keep nations intact at independence, leaving no room for secession as happened in Belgian Congo. Thus, Nigeria was retained as a federal state. Sudan – whose northern and southern parts had virtually nothing in common – was retained as one nation. And in Uganda a constitution of convenience was agreed upon largely to keep Uganda as one country. Here are the principal challenges inherited at independence.

1. The first challenge was the bitterness created by Protestants apparently with help of the Church of England that formed a coalition between Protestant-based UPC and Protestant-based KY for the sole purpose of defeating Catholic-based DP. Catholics believe that the 1962 elections were designed to rob DP of victory in the 1961 elections. This religious defeat of Catholics in 1962 reminded them of the religious defeat prior to colonization. Captain Lugard and his troops helped Protestants of the Church Missionary Society to defeat Catholics of the White Fathers Mission. During the colonial days the administration relied on Protestants to run Uganda at the expense of Catholics. Catholics had hoped to end Protestant domination by defeating them in pre-independence elections. Mengo establishment that was predominantly Protestant boycotted the 1961elections. A small percentage of voters in Buganda registered and voted for DP giving it majority in national elections. These results were accepted by the colonial authorities. Ben Kiwanuka, leader of DP, was appointed chief minister and later prime minister when Uganda attained self-government status. Catholic victory was not acceptable to the Protestant establishment in Uganda and in Britain. UPC and KY pushed for fresh elections in 1962 arguing that the 1961 elections in Buganda had been boycotted by overwhelming majority of voters and the results did not represent the will of the people of Buganda. Fresh elections were conducted in 1962 for the whole country to elect members of parliament. In the case of Buganda it was agreed that elections should be held for Lukiko that in turn would elect members of parliament. KY overwhelmingly defeated DP (UPC did not contest in Buganda). The Lukiko elected 21 members to parliament excluding DP and its leader Ben Kiwanuka. Obote became prime minister replacing Kiwanuka and UPC/KY coalition formed the first post independence government replacing DP. We shall show how the defeat of Catholic DP by Protestant UPC in the 1980 elections resulted in Catholic and DP support and participation in the destructive 1981-85 guerrilla war that paradoxically brought Museveni a Protestant rather than a Catholic to power thereby continuing pre-colonial bitterness to this day albeit suppressed under the anti-sectarian law. Catholics have been appointed to fill the post of vice president but have yet to put a Catholic in state house.

2. The desire to defeat Kiwanuka a Catholic and commoner and his party created strange bedfellows. Monarchist and conservative right wing representatives from Buganda joined hands with radical and left wing representatives from the rest of the country led by Obote, a northerner and commoner. This was a marriage of convenience that broke down in 1964 perhaps sooner than was expected.

3. The post-independence political turmoil in Sudan Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya the social revolution in Rwanda that sent many refugees and cattle into Uganda the assassination of Burundi prime minister designate by a Greek hired assassin and the post-independence political chaos in former Belgian Congo and Katanga secession caused Britain to rush Uganda independence to avoid being caught up in a difficult political situation. In December 1960, Buganda seceded from Uganda but had no enforcement mechanism to carry it out. Because of political and financial implications in accommodating Rwanda Tutsi refugees and their cattle British authorities decided that Tutsi refugees that had relatives and friends in Uganda stay with them instead of going to camps. Others were allowed to move to where they could find space. Refugees were expected to return to Rwanda when conditions improved. They chose to stay and have contributed to demographic, political, economic, ecological and social problems to this day. As we shall show in the next session the coming to power of Museveni and Tutsi-led NRM government have origins in the settlement of Tutsi refugees in Uganda.

4. An unworkable constitution was rushed through in which Buganda gained a federal status Ankole, Bunyoro and Toro semi-federal status and the rest a unitary status. Until late in the game, Britain had insisted on a unitary constitution. The Munster Commission on Relationship between Buganda and the rest of Uganda changed that position. The Commission considered many factors in and around Uganda. The political chaos in Congo influenced the final recommendation. The Commission observed that “The prospect that the country might disintegrate and suffer miseries like the Congo had suddenly become a real source of anxiety. … Against this background the hypothesis of a unitary state could no longer be taken for granted”. The Commission then recommended some form of federalism. There was a shift from complete unitarism to a combination of federalism for Buganda, semi-federalism for Ankole, Bunyoro and Toro and unitarism for the rest of the country. This fragile compromise shaped the independence constitution.

5. The imbalances in federal, semi-federal and unitary systems soon became felt and districts governed under a unitary system realized they were missing out on the benefits of power sharing under federal and semi-federal arrangements. They demanded constitutional changes to level the playing field the consequence of which was the creation of constitutional heads. It is believed that this unworkable constitution contributed to the 1966/67 political and constitutional crisis and the revolution that occurred including the overthrow of the independence constitution and abolition of kingdoms that introduced new problems the country still faces to this moment including the demand for federalism.

6. Uganda entered independence without agreeing on what to call the new nation. It was neither a monarchy nor a republic neither a federation nor a unitary state. So it was simply called “The sovereign state of Uganda”. This matter was resolved in 1967 when kingdoms were abolished and the republic of Uganda established. Under NRM government the kingdoms were restored in Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro but Uganda is still officially a republic.

7. Because the negotiators were in a hurry, they couldn’t agree on who should become the head of state. In the interim it was agreed that the Queen should continue as head of state represented by the Governor-General. In 1963, the Kabaka of Buganda was elected president and the Kyabazinga of Busoga vice president. There was discomfort as to why monarchical leaders should be elected president and vice president. This conflict may have contributed to the changes in the 1967 constitution that created the post of executive president that Obote occupied and deletion of post of vice president.

8. Before independence, Amin had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity as a soldier in Uganda King’s Rifles operating in Kenya. The Kenyan authorities wanted Amin face criminal charges. The Governor of Uganda “vetoed any criminal proceedings against him [Amin] on the grounds that he was one of the only two black officers in the Ugandan army and a prosecution would be politically undesirable just before independence” (Robert Garsony August 1997). Amin with a criminal record was let off the hook and his brutality surfaced again in independent Uganda as we shall discuss in the next session.

Then there was the hot issue of “Lost Counties” of Buyaga and Bugangaizi. The matter couldn’t be resolved before independence. Buganda was unhappy about a referendum to resolve it. The British insisted on it. In 1964 a referendum was conducted and the majority of people in the two counties chose to rejoin Bunyoro, a decision that badly dented UPC/KY relations contributing to the 1966/67 political and constitutional crisis.

There were other issues that were not resolved.

1. Batutsi/Bahororo of Ankole who had kept a low profile since their short-lived Mpororo kingdom disintegrated in mid 18 th century, sprang up during independence negotiations and demanded a separate district out of Ankole kingdom. The Ankole government rejected the idea but it was not forgotten by the losers. It is believed that one of the reasons that Museveni entered into military training was to solve this problem. Some believe that the kingdom of Ankole wasn’t restored under the NRM government to settle scores. There are stories that kingdom supporters secretly crowned their king but the government wouldn’t allow it to stand. And when you add on that Banyankole refused Museveni to lead DP into the 1980 elections and was defeated in his bid to become a member of parliament in one of Ankole constituencies you begin to understand why Ankole kingdom wasn’t restored. Some believe that if Museveni wanted it nobody would have stood in the way.

2. The Rwenzururu problem was not resolved. Bakonjo and Baamba who were incorporated into Toro kingdom at the time of colonization against their will claimed they were underdeveloped while heavily taxed. They further claimed that they were virtually excluded from the administration. In the negotiations for independence Bakonjo and Baamba demanded full recognition as equals in the kingdom. When that failed, they demanded a separate district. The Toro government arrested Bakonjo and Bamba leaders including Isaya Mukirane, Yeremiya Kawamara and Petero Mupalya and charged them with violating customary law and insulting the king. A Rwenzururu liberation movement and other groups were formed creating problems for independent Uganda. In 1972 Amin created Rwenzori district for Bakonjo and Bwaamba district for Baamba.

3. The Mbale controversy was also left unresolved. A commission of inquiry suggested altering boundaries to give the people of Bukedi direct access to Mbale, while giving nominal title to the town to Bugisu. Under the scheme, Bukedi district administration would be transferred to Tororo located within Bukedi district. These changes were not incorporated into the constitution. The matter was resolved in the 1967 constitution.

Let us briefly review political difficulties that emerged between 1962 and 1970 during Obote I regime. As we noted earlier, the UPC/KY coalition brought together strange bed fellows. There was a monarchist/conservative or capitalist group and a radical/socialist and commoner group. The post-independence conflicts between these two groups within the UPC/KY government resulted in the formation of two opposing groups: the monarchist or Ibingira group and the socialist or Obote group (Prosser Gifford and WM. Roger Louis 1982). The two groups at the central government level were extended to some districts within the UPC, splitting it into two opposing groups. In Kigezi district there was Bikangaga group and Rwamafwa group. In Ankole there was Kahigiriza group and Bananuka group. Toro and other districts split in support of the two groups, weakening the party in the process and making it difficult to agree on development programs.

The struggle for political power between these two groups introduced the military into Uganda politics. Shaban Opolot the army commander sided with the Ibingira group and Idi Amin the deputy army commander with the Obote group.

Meanwhile, within UPC executive Obote and Ibingira worked together to get rid of Kakonge who was a threat to both Obote and Ibingira. As they say an enemy’s enemy is a friend. Obote and Ibingira got rid of Kakonge as Secretary General of UPC at the Gulu Party conference in 1964. Ibingira became secretary general and second only to Obote, party president.

Ibingira then got rid of radicals including Kakonge. It was this expelled group that eventually formed Uganda Patriotic Movement led by Museveni in the 1980 elections and later the NRM that captured power in 1986. We shall show in the next session how NRM created FDC by getting rid of undesirables thus not learning a lesson from the 1964 UPC Gulu conference and the consequences.

Once Kakonge the common enemy to Ibingira and Obote was gone, Ibingira and Obote turned on each other: Ibingira with support of Opolot and Obote with backing of Amin. The allegation that Amin and Obote were involved in gold and coffee scandal sparked the showdown. Amin moved faster than Opolot and Ibingira and his group was defeated and members of Ibingira group arrested including Ibingira himself and detained. It is important to note that the two groups were led by two Nilotic people: Ibingira a Nilotic Tutsi from Ankole in south Uganda and Obote a Nilotic from Lango in north Uganda. It is equally important to note that the conflict wasn’t simply north versus south. Ibingira, a southerner had supporters from east and north such as ShabanOpolot and Daudi Ocheng. Thus there wasn’t a clear North/South divide and Bantu/non-Bantu split.

These developments contributed to the political and constitutional crisis and the subsequent promulgation of the republic constitution that replaced the independence one. UPC became unpopular especially in Buganda and contributed to Amin’s coming to power in January 1971. We shall discuss Amin’s record in the next session.

Looking back we can say with a high degree of certainty that the challenges inherited at independence especially religious, Tutsi refugees and lost counties have contributed significantly to the challenges Uganda is grappling with today. We shall elaborate on these challenges in the next session.

A study of Uganda’s history is therefore important to understand what happened in the past and how it is influencing the present. We shall show that brushing problems under the rag in order to please some people or groups of people and hoping that they will disappear on their own or passing laws such as the anti-sectarian law to prevent Ugandans from discussing sectarianism and religion in Uganda politics will only postpone the date when they will resurface with a vengeance. The earlier we tackle them, the better. And that is what UDU is doing in its civic education program.


Political history in Uganda

Uganda gained its independence on October 9th, 1962. Since 1894 she was a British protectorate that was put together from some very organized kingdoms and chieftaincies that inhabited the lake regions of central Africa. At independence, Dr. Milton Apollo Obote, also the leader of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) became the first Prime Minister and head of the government.

The Republican-leaning UPC came into power through an “unholy” alliance with a pro-monarchy party called the Kabaka Yekka (KY), which had a stated aim of protecting the institution and power of the kingdom of Buganda. The UPC had earlier on, one year before independence, lost the first ever general election to the Democratic Party (DP) and now needed the strategic partnership of allies to avoid another defeat.

In 1964, Obote championed a bill in Parliament providing for a referendum on the belonging of the counties of Buyaga, Bugangaizi, and Buwekula then of Buganda but claimed by the neighboring kingdom of Bunyoro. This culminated in two of the counties opting to secede from Buganda and revert back to the Bunyoro Kingdom. As Kabaka of Buganda and President of Uganda, Sir Edward Mutesa II, was placed in an invidious position of signing the two acts pertaining to the “lost counties”. It was upon accusations of dereliction of duty by the President, not to mention other fabricated reasons, that Obote suspended the 1962 constitution on 22nd February 1966 and took over all powers of State, thus giving rise to what came to be known as the 1966 Crisis.

On 15 April 1966, in a Parliament surrounded by troops, Obote introduced without notice a new constitution to be voted upon that very day. It was passed without debate and the Prime Minister informed Members of Parliament (MPs) that they would find their copies in their pigeonholes. This constitution came to be known as the Pigeonhole Constitution. Amongst other things, the federal constitutional status of kingdoms was abolished and the office of Prime Minister merged with that of the President and all executive powers became vested in Obote. Uganda was declared a Republic.

In 1967 Obote abolished all monarchs. Parliament became the constituent assembly and later all political parties were outlawed, except UPC. In a move to the left, Uganda became a one-party state.

It was against this background that Idi Amin led a disgruntled section of the army to overthrow Obote on 25th January 1971. This coup was met with great jubilation but was to begin an era of terror and enormous tribulation for the people of Uganda. This dark period would last 8 long years. It was also during this period that all Asians, mainly Indians, were expelled from Uganda. An estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives through indiscriminate extrajudicial killings during Idi Amin’s regime.

In April 1979, a combined force of Ugandan exiles, under the umbrella of Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLF), and the Tanzania Peoples Defense Force (TPDF) overthrew Amin’s regime.

President Lule was followed by President Godfrey Binaisa, and then Paulo Muwanga who chaired the ruling Military Commission which organized the December 1980 general elections. UPC was declared the winner of those elections though they were marred by multiple irregularities and generally considered rigged. For a second time, Obote became President of Uganda.

During Obote’s second tenure as president, Ugandans went through a very trying period. Insecurity, fuelled by the government’s own security organs as well as an ongoing liberation struggle devastated the country. An estimated 500,000 Ugandans lost their lives in just 5 years of Obote’s reign. The economy was shattered and so was the people’s faith in government.

Indirect protest against the marred elections of 1980, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, then Vice Chairman of the Military Commission and President of the Uganda Patriotic Movement, launched a liberation struggle. It was on February 6th, 1981 and with only 26 compatriots organized under the banner of the National Resistance Army (NRA) that the war of liberation started.

As the NRA made staggering advances towards Kampala, having already cut the country off into two different administrative zones, elements of the UNLA on July 26th, 1985 ousted Obote in a bid to find better-negotiating ground. The Military Junta of Generals Bazilio and Tito Okello replaced Obote II’s government.

By February 26th, 1986 the “Okellos Junta” had fallen and shortly after the entire country was under control of the NRA. The NRA’s struggle was unique in that, for the first time in post-colonial Africa, a homegrown insurgency, with no rear bases in a neighboring country and little external support, was ultimately successful. It was essentially an uprising of oppressed Ugandan citizens.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was sworn in as the President of the Republic of Uganda. The arduous task of rebuilding the entire country and its human fabric from scratch began. To enable this task, political parties were suspended and Uganda was governed by an all-inclusive Movement system. A lot was to be achieved over the next eight to ten years.

In 1995, a new constitution was promulgated creating a non-party all inclusive Movement System of government. Under this system, political parties remained in abeyance. Elections to most political offices were by universal suffrage. Marginalized groups like the women, the disabled, the youth and workers were given special slots on all administrative units of Government. The military was also given representation in parliament. The aspect of keeping this system was to be reviewed by referendum every 4 years.

In July 2005 a national referendum was held in which the people of Uganda resolved to return to multi-party politics. The result of the referendum in effect marked an end to the Movement System of government. On February 23rd, 2006, multi-party elections were held for both the office of president and for parliament. President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) won the presidential elections and the NRM took the highest number of seats in parliament


Watch the video: Uganda Wins Independence 1962