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History of Uganda

The history of Uganda comprises the history of the territorial lands of present-day Uganda in East Africa and the peoples inhabiting therein.

Pre-colonial times

Uganda Protectorate (1894-1962)

The independent Uganda (1962-71)

Britain granted independence to Uganda in 1962, and the first elections were held on 1 March 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first chief minister. Uganda became a republic the following year, maintaining its Commonwealth membership.

In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political maneuvering climaxed in February 1966, when Milton Obote, the Prime Minister, suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, removing the positions of president and vice president. In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms.

Uganda under Idi Amin (1971–79)

After a military coup on 25 January 1971, Obote was deposed from power and the dictator Idi Amin seized control of the country. Amin ruled Uganda with the military for the next eight years[1] and carried out mass killings within the country to maintain his rule. An estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives at the hands of his regime, many of them in the north, which he associated with Obote's loyalists.[2] Aside from his brutalities, he forcibly removed the entrepreneurial Indian minority from Uganda, which left the country's economy in ruins.[3] Amin's atrocities were graphically recounted in the 1977 book, A State of Blood, written by one of his former ministers after he fled the country, Henry Kyemba.

In 1972, the so-called "Africanization" of Uganda forced 580,000 Asian Indians with British passports to leave Uganda. Approximately 7,000 were invited to settle in Canada; however, only a limited number accepted the offer, and the 2006 census reported 3,300 people of Ugandan origin in Canada.

Amin's eight-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. The Acholi and Langi ethnic groups were particular objects of Amin's political persecution because they had supported Obote and made up a large part of the army. In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that more than 100,000 Ugandans had been murdered during Amin's reign of terror. Some authorities placed the figure as high as 300,000 — a statistic cited at the end of the 2006 movie The Last King of Scotland, which chronicled part of Amin's dictatorship.

A border altercation involving Ugandan exiles who had a camp close to the Ugandan border of Mutukula resulted in an attack by the Uganda army into Tanzania. In October 1978, the Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion by Amin's troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian army, backed by Ugandan exiles, waged a war of liberation against Amin's troops and the Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On 11 April 1979, Kampala was captured and Amin fled with his remaining forces to Libya.

Amin's reign ended after the Uganda-Tanzania War in 1979, in which Tanzanian forces aided by Ugandan exiles invaded Uganda. This led to the return of Obote, who was deposed again in 1985 by General Tito Okello. Okello ruled for six months until he was deposed. This occurred after the so-called "bush war" by the National Resistance Army (NRA) operating under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni, and various rebel groups, including the Federal Democratic Movement of Andrew Kayiira, and another belonging to John Nkwaanga. During the Bush War the army carried out mass killings of non-combatants.[4]

Uganda since 1979

After Amin's removal, the Uganda National Liberation Front formed an interim government with Yusuf Lule as president and Jeremiah Lucas Opira as the Secretary General of the UNLF. This government adopted a ministerial system of administration and created a quasi-parliamentary organ known as the National Consultative Commission (NCC). The NCC and the Lule cabinet reflected widely differing political views. In June 1979, following a dispute over the extent of presidential powers, the NCC replaced Lule with Godfrey Binaisa.

In a continuing dispute over the powers of the interim presidency, Binaisa was removed in May 1980. Thereafter, Uganda was ruled by a military commission chaired by Paulo Muwanga. The December 1980 elections returned the UPC to power under the leadership of President Milton Obote, with Muwanga serving as vice president. Under Obote, the security forces had one of the world's worst human rights records. In their efforts to stamp out an insurgency led by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA), they laid waste to a substantial section of the country, especially in the Luwero area north of Kampala.

Obote ruled until 27 July 1985, when an army brigade, composed mostly of ethnic Acholi troops and commanded by Lt. Gen. Bazilio Olara-Okello, took Kampala and proclaimed a military government. Obote fled to exile in Zambia. The new regime, headed by former defense force commander Gen. Tito Okello (no relation to Lt. Gen. Olara-Okello), opened negotiations with Museveni's insurgent forces and pledged to improve respect for human rights, end tribal rivalry, and conduct free and fair elections. In the meantime, massive human rights violations continued as the Okello government carried out a brutal counterinsurgency in an attempt to destroy the NRA's support.

Acholiland in the north.

Negotiations between the Okello government and the NRA were conducted in Nairobi in the fall of 1985, with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi seeking a cease-fire and a coalition government in Uganda. Although agreeing in late 1985 to a cease-fire, the NRA continued fighting, and seized Kampala and the country in late January 1986, forcing Okello's forces to flee north into Sudan. Museveni's forces organized a government with Museveni as president.

Since assuming power, the government dominated by the political grouping created by Museveni and his followers, the National Resistance Movement (NRM or the "Movement"), has largely put an end to the human rights abuses of earlier governments, initiated substantial political liberalization and general press freedom, and instituted broad economic reforms after consultation with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and donor governments.

In northern areas such as Acholiland, there has been armed resistance against the government since 1986. Acholi-based rebel groups included the Uganda People's Democratic Army and the Holy Spirit Movement. The only remaining rebel group is the Lord's Resistance Army headed by Joseph Kony, which has carried out widespread abduction of children to serve as soldiers or sex slaves.

In 1996, Uganda was a key supporter of the overthrow of Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko in the First Congo War in favor of rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila.


Between 1998 and 2003, the Ugandan army was involved in the Second Congo War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Uganda continues to support rebel groups there such as the Movement for the Liberation of Congo and some factions of the Rally for Congolese Democracy.

August 2005, Parliament voted to change the constitution to lift presidential term limits, allowing Museveni to run for a third term if he wished to do so. In a referendum in July 2005, 92.5 percent of voters supported the restoration of multiparty politics, thereby scrapping the no-party or "movement" system. Kizza Besigye, Museveni's political rival, returned from exile in October 2005 and was a presidential candidate during the 2006 elections. In the same month, Obote died in South Africa. Museveni won the February 2006 presidential election.

In 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was proposed and under consideration.[5] It was proposed on 13 October 2009 by Member of Parliament David Bahati and, had it been enacted, would have broadened the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda; introduced the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, are HIV-positive, or engage in sexual acts with those under 18;[6] introduced extradition for those engaging in same-sex sexual relations outside Uganda; and, penalized individuals, companies, media organizations, or non-governmental organizations who supporteded LGBT rights.[citation needed]

On 13 September 2014, the Ugandan security and intelligence services, with the assistance of the United States, identified and foiled a major Al-Shabaab terrorist attack in Kampala, the capital city. They recovered suicide vests, improvised explosive devices, and small arms, and they arrested 19 people who were suspected to have had links to Al-Shabaab.[7][8][9] This attack could have been as substantial as the attack in Nairobi from the previous year at Westgate Mall.[10] Instead, it was a failure for Al-Shabaab.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "A Country Study: Uganda", Library of Congress Country Studies
  2. ^ Keatley, Patrick (18 August 2003). "Obituary: Idi Amin". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  3. ^ "UK Indians taking care of business", The Age (8 March 2006). Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  4. ^ Henry Wasswa, “Uganda's first prime minister, and two-time president, dead at 80,” Associated Press, 10 October 2005
  5. ^ BBC News: Uganda MP urges death for gay sex
  6. ^ Geen, Jessica (15 October 2009). "Ugandan MP proposes that gays should be executed". Pink News. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  7. ^ a b Bariyo, Nicholas (15 September 2014). "Uganda Forces Discover Suicide Vests, Explosives at Suspected Terrorist Cell". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  8. ^ "UGANDAN POLICE SEIZE EXPLOSIVES, SUICIDE VESTS FROM SUSPECTED AL SHABAAB CELL". Reuters. 14 September 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2017 – via Newsweek.
  9. ^ "Uganda seizes explosives, suicide vests from suspected terrorist cell in capital of Kampala". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 September 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  10. ^ [1] Archived 2016-04-22 at the Wayback Machine


Further reading