Uganda History - History

Uganda History - History

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The British came to Uganda in the mid-1800s, though the region had been home to a number of kingdoms long before Europeans arrived. By 1890, the region was under the control of the British East Africa Company and a mere four years later, A British protectorate was declared. British settlers, who developed the agricultural possibilities of the country, prospered. By the 1950s, Britain was preparing the region for eventual independence, setting up a parliamentary government that seated both blacks and whites. Under the leadership of Milton Obote, the Uganda People's Congress became the most important political entity. In 1962, the country became independent within the British Commonwealth with Obote as president. In 1967, the country was declared independent. Four years later, Obote was ousted by Idi Amin Dada, the commander of Uganda's military. He became an absolute ruler, expelled Uganda's large Asian (Indian and Pakistani) population, and declared himself president-for-life. The degree of violence and repression under Idi Amin was unprecedented at the time. During his eight-year rule, Amin may have been responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 of his countrymen. The economy and the nation's infrastructure was left a shambles with even the country's Makerere University fallen into ruin. Amin invaded Tanzania in 1978, which counterattacked in 1979, capturing the capital Kampala. Amin was forced into exile. A brief return by Milton Obote ended in his being exiled as well. Though the country has been plagued by intermittent clashes between rival groups, the government has made significant progress over the last decade-and-a-half in restoring stability and order to the country. Its economy is reportedly one of the fastest growing on the continent.


Languages: English (official national language, taught in grade schools, used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, preferred for native language publications in the capital and may be taught in school), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili, Arabic

Ethnicity/race: Baganda 16.9%, Banyakole 9.5%, Basoga 8.4%, Bakiga 6.9%, Iteso 6.4%, Langi 6.1%, Acholi 4.7%, Bagisu 4.6%, Lugbara 4.2%, Bunyoro 2.7%, other 29.6% (2002 census)

Religions: Roman Catholic 41.9%, Protestant 42% (Anglican 35.9%, Pentecostal 4.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.5%), Muslim 12.1%, other 3.1%, none 0.9% (2002 census)

Literacy rate: 73.2% (2010 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $54.37 billion per capita $1,500. Real growth rate: 5.6%. Inflation: 6.2%. Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 27.94% (2011). Agriculture: coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, cassava (manioc, tapioca), potatoes, corn, millet, pulses, cut flowers beef, goat meat, milk, poultry. Labor force: 17.4 million (2013 est.) agriculture 82%, industry 5%, services 13% (2011 est.). Industries: sugar, brewing, tobacco, cotton textiles cement, steel production. Natural resources: copper, cobalt, hydropower, limestone, salt, arable land, gold. Exports: $3.156 billion (2013 est.): coffee, fish and fish products, tea, cotton, flowers, horticultural products gold. Imports: $4.858 billion (2013 est.): capital equipment, vehicles, petroleum, medical supplies cereals. Major trading partners: Kenya, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, UAE, Netherlands, Germany, China, India, South Africa, Japan, Italy (2012).

Member of the Commonwealth of Nations

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 315,000 (2012) mobile cellular: 16.355 million (2012). Broadcast media: public broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), operates radio and television networks Uganda first began licensing privately-owned stations in the 1990s by 2007 there were nearly 150 radio and 35 TV stations, mostly based in and around Kampala transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available in Kampala (2007). Internet Service Providers (ISPs):32,683 (2012). Internet users: 3.2 million (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 1,244 km (2008). Highways: total: 20,000 km paved: 3,264 km unpaved: 16,736 km (2011). Waterways: there are no long navigable stretches of river in Uganda parts of the Albert Nile that flow out of Lake Albert in the northwestern part of the country are navigable several lakes including Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga have substantial traffic Lake Albert is navigable along a 200-km stretch from its northern tip to its southern shores (2011). Ports and harbors: Entebbe, Jinja, Port Bell. Airports: 47 (2013).

International disputes: Uganda is subject to armed fighting among hostile ethnic groups, rebels, armed gangs, militias, and various government forces that extend across its borders Uganda hosts 209,860 Sudanese, 27,560 Congolese, and 19,710 Rwandan refugees, while Ugandan refugees as well as members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) seek shelter in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Garamba National Park LRA forces have also attacked Kenyan villages across the border.

Brief Political History of Uganda

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.

NRA liberation struggle

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.

Uganda History - History

In the second half of the 15th century, the Nilotic-speaking Luo left their homeland on the plains of southern Sudan, and migrated southwards along the Nile into what is now Uganda. There they splintered into three groups. The first of these remained at Pubungu (probably near modern-day Pakwach) the second occupied the region of Uganda that lies west of the Nile and the third continued southwards into the heart of Bunyoro-Kitara. The arrival of the Luo coincided with the emergence of several other kingdoms in the south and east of Bunyoro. These include Buganda and Ankole in modern-day Uganda (and Rwanda and Burundi) and the Karagwe kingdom in what is now northwest Tanzania. These kingdoms share a common Bacwezi heritage. Bunyoro was the largest and most influential of these kingdoms until the end of the 17th century. It had a diversified economy, a loose political structure, and a dominant trade position due to its exclusive control of the region's salt mines. Prior to 1650, Buganda had been a small kingdom ruled by a kabaka. Of similar size to Buganda, the kingdom of Mpororo founded circa 1650, covered much of the Kigezi region of Uganda and what is now northern Rwanda. In the period between 1650-1850, the kingdom of the Bunyoro shrank to a fraction of its former size, giving regional dominance to Buganda. The most fertile of the Ugandan kingdoms, Buganda stretched by the mid-19th century from the Nile almost as far as Mubende and over the entire Lake Victoria region as far south as the Kagera River.

Colonial History

British colonization of Uganda began around 1860. In 1888 Britain assigned political and economic power over the region to the British East Africa Company by royal charter. The Company's control over the area was consolidated in 1891 when a treaty was signed with the Buganda, then the area's principal kingdom. In 1894 the British government assumed power, declaring Baganda a protectorate. This protectorate was expanded in 1896 to include areas of the Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and Bugosa. Colonial rule altered local economic systems dramatically, partly because Britain's principal concern was financial. The British commissioner of Uganda in 1900, Sir Harry H. Johnston, had orders to establish an efficient administration and to levy taxes as quickly as possible. Johnston approached the chiefs in Buganda with offers of employment in the colonial administration in exchange for their collaboration. The main concerns of the chiefs, whom Johnston later characterized in demeaning terms, lay in preserving Buganda as a self-governing entity, continuing the royal line of kabakas, and securing private land tenure for themselves and their supporters. After hard bargaining, the chiefs ended up with all their demands satisfied, including half of all the land in Buganda. The remaining half, which was ceded to the British as "Crown Land," was later found to be covered largely by swamp and brush. Nonetheless, Johnston imposed a tax on huts and guns, designated the chiefs as principal tax collectors, and generally fomented the continued alliance of British and Baganda interests. The British signed much less generous treaties with other kingdoms in the region (with Toro in 1900, Ankole in 1901, and Bunyoro in 1933), which did not permit large-scale private land tenure. Smaller chiefdoms, that of Busoga for example, were simply ignored. The Baganda immediately offered their services to the British as administrators over their recently conquered neighbors, an offer which was attractive to an economically minded colonial administration. Baganda agents served as local tax collectors and labor organizers in areas such as Kigezi, Mbale, and Bunyoro. Wherever they went, the Baganda insisted on the dominance of their language, Luganda. They planted bananas which they considered the only food worth eating. They regarded their own traditional dress--long cotton gowns called kanzus--as the sole civilized apparel all other clothing was considered barbaric. They also encouraged mission work and attempted to convert locals to Baganda interpretations of Christianity or Islam.

The people of Bunyoro, who had fought both the Baganda and the British, were particularly aggrieved by this new domination. A substantial section of their land had been annexed to Buganda as "lost counties." They resented having to obey orders by "arrogant" Baganda administrators, having to pay taxes, and furnishing unpaid labor. In 1907 the Banyoro rose in a rebellion called nyangire, or "refusing," which led to the withdrawal of Baganda subimperial agents.

Meanwhile, in 1901, the completion of the Uganda Railroad from the coast at Mombasa to the Lake Victoria port of Kisumu led colonial authorities to promote the growth of cash crops to help pay the railroad's operating costs. The railroad also led to the 1902 decision to transfer the eastern section of the Uganda Protectorate to the Kenya Colony, then called the East African Protectorate, in order to keep the entire railroad line under a single local colonial administration. When costs overran initial estimates in Kenya, the British justified its expense and paid its operating costs by introducing large-scale European settlement in a vast tract of land that came to be known as the "white highlands," which soon became a center of cash-crop agriculture. Buganda, with its strategic lakeside location, immediately reaped the benefits of cotton cultivation. The advantages of this crop were quickly recognized by the Baganda chiefs, who had recently acquired freehold estates. Income generated by cotton sales made the Buganda kingdom prosperous, compared with the rest of colonial Uganda. By the beginning of World War I, cotton was being grown in the eastern regions of Busoga, Lango, and Teso. Many Baganda spent their new earnings on imported clothing, bicycles, metal roofing, and even automobiles. They also invested in their children's education. Christian missions emphasized literacy skills, and African converts quickly learned to read and write. By 1911 two popular monthly journals, Ebifa (News) and Munno (Your Friend) were being published in Luganda. Supported by African funds, new schools in Baganda were soon graduating classes at Mengo High School, St. Mary's Kisubi, Namilyango, Gayaza, and King's College Budo--all in Buganda. The chief minister of the Buganda kingdom, Sir Apolo Kagwa, personally awarded a bicycle to the top graduate at King's College Budo, together with the promise of a government job.

Unlike Tanganyika, which was economically devastated during the prolonged campaign between Britain and Germany in the East Africa during World War I, Uganda prospered from sales of agricultural products to feed the European troops. Having suffered population declines in the era of conquest as well as losses due to disease (particularly the devastating sleeping sickness epidemic of 1900-1906), Uganda's population was once again increasing. Even the depression of the 1930s seemed to affect Ugandan cash crop farmers less severely than it did the white settlers in Kenya. Ugandans simply grew their own food until rising prices made exporting their crops attractive again.

Two issues continued to cause grievance through the 1930s and 1940s. The colonial government strictly regulated trade in cash crops, setting prices, and giving Asians, considered more efficient by the British, the role of intermediaries. The British and Asians combined to repel African attempts to break into cotton ginning. Asian-owned sugar plantations were frequently worked by migrants from peripheral areas of Uganda and even from outside Uganda.

The Struggle for Independence

In 1949 the Baganda rioted, burning down the houses of pro-government chiefs. The rioters had three demands: the right to bypass government price controls on the export sales of cotton, the removal of the Asian monopoly over cotton ginning, and the right to representation in local government in place of the chiefs appointed by the British. They also criticized the young kabaka, Frederick Walugembe Mutesa II (also known as Kabaka Freddie), for his neglect of the needs of his people. The British governor, Sir John Hall, rejected the suggested reforms on the grounds that the riots were allegedly the work of communist-inspired agitators.

In 1947 the Uganda African Farmers Union was formed, but later it was banned by the British authorities. Musazi's Uganda National Congress replaced the Farmers Union in 1952. Because the Congress never developed into an organized political party, it stagnated and expired just two years after its inception. Meanwhile, the British began to prepare for Uganda's inevitable independence. Britain's long-standing attitudes toward colonial power had been severely challenged by its postwar withdrawal from India, by emergent nationalist movements in West Africa, and by the emergence of a more liberal philosophy in the Colonial Office that looked more favorably on future self-rule. The impact of these changes were soon felt in Uganda. In 1952 an energetic reformist governor, Sir Andrew Cohen (formerly undersecretary for African affairs in the Colonial

Office) took over Uganda's administration. Cohen set about preparing Uganda for economic and political independence. He removed restrictions on African cotton ginning, rescinded price controls on African-grown coffee, encouraged cooperatives, and established the Uganda Development Corporation to promote and finance new projects. Politically, he reorganized Uganda's Legislative Council, which had heavily favored the European community, and included African representatives elected from districts throughout Uganda. This system came to be a prototype for the future parliament.

The prospect of elections caused a proliferation of political parties that alarmed the old-guard leaders within Uganda's kingdoms when they realized that power would be redelegated away from local control to national rule. Opposition to Governor Cohen's reforms was further inspired by a speech by the secretary of state speech in London in 1953 that considered the possibility of a federation between the three East African territories of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika, on similar lies to the federation established in central Africa.

The British announced that elections for "responsible government" would be held in March 1961 as a precursor to formal independence. Those who won the election would gain valuable experience in office, preparing them for the responsibility of independent governance. Buganda leaders urged a boycott of the election on the grounds that the British had ignored their attempts to secure promises of future autonomy. Consequently, when voters went to the polls throughout Uganda to elect eighty-two National Assembly members, Buganda voters were largely unrepresented. Only Roman Catholic supporters of the DP braved severe public pressure to vote in the election, capturing twenty of Buganda's twenty-one allotted seats. This gave the DP a majority of seats, in spite of the fact that they had only 416,000 votes nationwide compared with 495,000 for the UPC. Benedicto Kiwanuka was elected as the new chief minister of Uganda.

Caught unprepared by these results, Baganda separatists, who had formed a political party called Kabaka Yekka (KY--The King Only), reconsidered their election boycott. They quickly welcomed the recommendations included in a British proposal for a future federal government in which the Buganda would enjoy a measure of internal autonomy if it participated fully in the national government. For its part, the UPC was equally anxious to eject its DP rivals from the government before they became entrenched. Obote reached an understanding with Kabaka Freddie and the KY, accepting Buganda's special federal relationship in return for a strategic alliance that could defeat the DP. The kabaka was promised the largely ceremonial position of Uganda's head of state, which the Baganda considered of great symbolic importance.This marriage of convenience between the UPC and the KY made inevitable the defeat of the DP interim administration. In the aftermath of the April 1962 election leading up to independence, Uganda's national parliament consisted of forty-three UPC delegates, twenty-four KY delegates, and twenty-four DP delegates. The new UPC-KY coalition led Uganda into independence in October 1962, with Obote as prime minister and the kabaka as head of state. [1]

The Post-Independence Era

The Obote regime: Under the compromise constitution of October 1961, which had been framed primarily to meet Buganda's political demands, Uganda became independent neither as a federation nor a unitary state. Neither was the country a monarchy nor a republic. It was described at the time as "the sovereign state of Uganda". The relationship between Buganda and the central government remained a crucial political problem, since the people of the three western kingdoms resented the special status accorded to Baganda and were to demonstrate their dissatisfaction by voting for DP in 1962.

In April 1966, Obote suspended the constitution and declared himself Executive President. The Buganda declared Obote's actions null and void, passing a resolution demanding the withdrawal of the central government from Buganda soil by March 30 1966. On May 24 government troops stormed the Kabaka's palace, seizing it after a day's fighting. Mutesa consequently fled to Britain, where he died three years later. To consolidate his power, Obote introduced a republican constitution that abolished the four kingdoms and made Uganda a unitary state. In 1969 he introduced "the Common Man's Charter," which was designed to transform Uganda into a socialist state. Opponents of these measures believed that Obote was trying to turn Uganda into a communist state.

On January 25, 1971, when Obote was attending the Commonwealth Conference in Singapore, Major-General Idi Amin seized power with considerable internal and external support. Immediately after the coup, Amin adopted a strong pro-Western stance. He declared that Israel and Britain were favored allies. Within two years, Amin had imposed one of the severest dictatorships in Africa. Throughout 1971 he systematically eliminated soldiers suspected of remaining loyal to Obote. After an abortive invasion of Uganda by Obote's supporters in September 1972, Amin began to murder civilians in large numbers. In January 1973 the regime was forced to admit that 86 prominent citizens had mysteriously disappeared, including Chief of Justice Kiwanuka, the

Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University, and the Governor of the Bank of Uganda. Many other disappearances were to follow in coming years. After several years of terror and killings, the death toll had risen as high as 300,000, according to Amnesty International estimates. In 1972 relations between Uganda and the Western powers began to deteriorate. The United States closed its embassy in Kampala in protest against the death of two Americans at the hands of Amin's soldiers. Amin expelled Israeli nationals from Uganda in 1972 and adopted a strong pro-Palestinian stance. In August 1972 Amin announced that alien Asians would be expelled from the country. Uganda turned to the Soviet Union and Arab states for military and financial support.

Early in 1978 Amin endorsed the mass slaughter of Acholis and Langis. Human rights violations soon led the US government to ban trade with Uganda. On October 31, 1978 Amin's forces crossed the border with Tanzania and occupied the Kagera area. Tanzania retaliated, seeking to punish Amin severely. Under pressure from President Nyerere, a meeting was convened in March 1979 at Moshi in Tanzania this meeting resulted in the formation of a coalition of 18 Ugandan groups of various ethnic, ideological and political alignments, which came to be called the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). On January 22, 1979 the joint liberation forces crossed the border. Libya subsequently sent 1,500 troops to support the Amin regime but proved unable to stop the liberation forces. The UNLF and Tanzanian forces occupied Entebbe early in April 1979. As they advanced on Kampala, Amin's soldiers and the Libyans fled for other parts of the country. On April 11 1979 the UNLF entered Kampala. Amin fled to Libya and later to Saudi Arabia. Professor Lule arrived in Kampala on April 13 1979 to be sworn in as head of state of a provisional government. The 30-representative National Consultative Council (NCC) of the UNLF became the interim legislature, pending general elections to be held within two years. On June 2, 1979 President Lule stepped down and Godfrey Binaisa was elected as the new President. President Binaisa sought to achieve political stability, broadening the political base of the government by enlarging the NCC to 91 members. Each of Uganda's 31 districts was to nominate three representatives whose credentials would be examined by the NCC. This measure resulted in the inclusion of the Uganda Liberation Group and the Ugandan National Union, both of which had been operating underground during Amin's rule.[2] Binaisa enjoyed a relatively short term in office since he was removed by the Ugandan army in May 1980. A military commission was established under the leadership of P. MuWanaga, a strong supporter of former President Obete.

The military commission organized elections for December 1980. By this time Obote had returned to Uganda to lead the UPC. His party's main opposition came from the reborn DP and from the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), led by the young radical Yowri Museveni. The UPC won a majority of twenty seats in the new National Assembly, and Obote resumed the presidency. Moreover, he simultaneously held the posts of Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign affairs.MuWanga was made vice president and Minister of Defense. Though the DP and the UPM complained of electoral fraud, Obote had made an unprecedented political comeback to win thee election and the support of the army. Obote's comeback did not, however, bring an end to Uganda's problems. Under Obote, as under Amin, detentions, torture, and killings betrayed an essentially unstable and violent political situation.

Claiming that Obote had rigged the elections, Museveni proclaimed a guerrilla war of resistance with the goal of overthrowing him by force. Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) gained support in Buganda. This army brought an end to the second Obote presidency in August 1985. One ethnic leader, General Tito Okello, used the support of his fellow Acholi, the dominant ethnic group in the army, to force Obote into exile. In January 1986 the NRA defeated Okello's forces and drove him from Kampala. The NRA thereupon established a new government with Mueseveni as president. Although Museveni put national reconciliation at the top of his government's priorities, various groups opposed his takeover, in some cases forcefully. Thus the government was engaged in various types of military and security operations against dissident groups from 1987 through 1991. Museveni maintained that the nation needed time to recover from dictatorship and war before democratic elections could be held. [3]

While awaiting a new constitution, the government in 1993 restored the indigenous monarchies abolished by the 1967 Republican Constitution. President Museveni also put in place some measures of restitution to Asian victims of Amin's rule.

On May 4, 1993 the government announced restrictions on the activities of all political parties. A new prime minister, Kintu Musoke, was appointed on November 18, 1994. The following month the government announced that the Constituent Assembly would continue working on the new Constitution until May, which was to be promulgated in June. New voter registration would be carried out in the first month of 1995 civic education programs would be carried out from September to November and nominations would open in October for a new parliament, who would be elected by December 1995. On March 29, 1995 it debated a motion calling for a Federal system, before finally rejecting it.

On June 21 1995 the Constituent Assembly voted 199 to 68 in favor of continuing the current party system. This decision, though opposed by many Ugandans, was incorporated into the new constitution, with the proviso that there would be a referendum on the Constitution in 1999. Until then, parties could legally exist and sponsor candidates for elections, but they could not hold rallies or campaign as parties. Elections were scheduled for April or May 1996. The presidential elections took place as planned, with Paul Ssemogerere running as the main candidate opposing President Museveni. Museveni was elected with a comfortable majority, winning 74.2% of the six million votes cast [4].

[1] Source: Briggs, Philip, 1996. Guide to Uganda, Globe Pequot Press: Old Saybrook, CT, pp.13-20.

[2] Uwechue, Raph (ed.) 1996. Africa Today, Third Edition, Africa Books Limited, pp.1554-1557.

[3] Maxon, Robert M. (ed.), 1994. East Africa, An Introductory History, West Virginia University Press: Morgantown, pp. 262-267

[4] Uwechue, Raph (ed.) 1996. Africa Today, Third Edition, Africa Books Limited, pp. 1562-1565

History of Uganda

Uganda before Independence
The Arab traders arrived in Uganda in the 1840s in search of slaves and ivory. The Arab traders were followed by two British explorers Speke and Stanley in 1862 and 1875 respectively. The explorers were impressed with the administrative structures at the time of the kingdoms of Buganda , Ankole, Toro and Bunyoro. The existence of the kingdoms with good governance strucutures had a lot of influence on the British in making Uganda a British protectorate in 1894 . The British exercised indirect rule in Uganda through giving the traditional kingdoms a considerable degree of autonomy.

Independence of Uganda
Uganda attained its independence from Britain on 9th October 1962. , Dr. Milton Apollo Obote, the leader of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), was elected the first Prime Minister of Uganda. In November 1963 , Kabaka Mutesa 1 was elected a ceremonial President of Uganda. under a political alliance of UPC and Kabaka Yekka(KY).

1966 Political crisis
In 1964 Prime Minister Milton Obote championed a bill in Parliament providing for a referendum in the counties of Buyaga, Bugangaizi and Buwekula then counties of Buganda which were claimed by the kingdom of Bunyoro. The referendum culminated in two of the counties of Buyaga and Bugangazi opting to secede from Buganda and reverting to Bunyoro Kingdom. As Kabaka of Buganda and President of Uganda, Sir Edward Mutesa II, was placed in an awkward position of signing the two acts pertaining to the “lost counties”. It was upon accusations of dereliction of duty by the President among other reasons, that Milton Obote on 22nd February 1966 suspended 1962 Constitution and took over all powers of State.

The 1966 Crisis.
On 15 April 1966 with the Parliament surrounded by troops, Milon 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 Milton Obote.Milton Obote declared Uganda a republic.

The Kabaka and his kingdom establishment at Mengo refused to recognize the supremacy of the pigeonhole constitution, insisting on the 1962 consitution. On 24th May 1966 the Uganda army under the command of General Idi Amin but on the orders of Obote stormed the Kabaka’s Palace. . The Kabaka managed to escape and went to exile in Britain where he later died from.

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

Idi Amin’s period
On 25 January 1971 , Idi Amin led a disgruntled section of the army to overthrew Milton Obote. This marked the beginning of an era of terror and the dark period which lasted 8 long years until 1979. . During Idi Amin’s rule .all Asians who controlled the business sector were expelled from Uganda and their business taken over by Ugandans. The explusion of the Indians and the fiscal mismanagement and insecurity that followed led to the collapse of the economy.
An estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives through indiscriminate extra judicial killings during Idi Amin’s regime.

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

The first UNLF government led by Prof. Yusuf Lule as President .President Lule lasted 68 days. Prof Lule was followed by President Godfrey Binaisa and then Paulo Muwanga who chaired the ruling Military Commission took over from President Binaisa.

1980 Elections
The Military Commission led by Paulo Muwanga organised the December 1980 general elections. The elections were marred by multiple irregularities and generally considered rigged.Despite the many irreleguarlities , UPC was declared the winner of the elections and Milton Obote became President of Uganda for the second time.

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 people’s 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.

Liberation struggle against bad rule
On 6 February 1981, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, then Vice Chairman of the Military Commission and President of the Uganda Patriotic Movement in protest against the marred elections of 1980 launched a liberation struggle.with only 26 compatriots organized under the banner of the National Resistance Army (NRA).

Okellos Junta
On July 26th 1985 as NRA was advancing towards Kampala , some elements within the army ousted Milton Obote in a bid to find better negotiating ground with the NRA. The Military Junta of Generals Bazilio and Tito Okello replaced Obote II’s government.

By February 26th 1986 the “Okellos Junta” was forced out of Uganda and immediately after the entire country was liberated.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Era
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was sworn in as the President of the Republic of Uganda on 26th January 1986. The hard task of rebuilding the entire country and its human fabric began from scratch. The period of sustained development and renewal began.

1995 Constitution
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. An election 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.

In 1996 the general elections were held 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

2005 National referendum
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. NRM under the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni again won the elections of 2011.

Focus of NRM government
The NRM government has focused on restructuring the economy through pro-market reforms and increasing the legitimacy of government institutions through political liberalization.

The government is now faced with the challenges arising from high costs of living, corruption in government departments and some incompetent government officials and the succession debate.

Uganda — History and Culture

Most Ugandans have Bunyoro, Bantu and Buganda lineage, as these were the dominating kingdoms in what is now known as Uganda until it became a protectorate of the British Empire in 1894. As a result of the different ancestry in the country the culture is quite diverse, with noticeable changes within each region.


The history if Uganda dates back over 50,000 years when it was actually several similar kingdoms. Ugandans were foragers until the Bantu people migrated here and brought more developed skills. At the same time, the Bunyoro Kingdom took over the northern portion of what is now western Uganda, while the Buganda dominated central Uganda. Arab traders started to arrive in the 1830s, followed by British explorers who arrived in the 1860s looking for the source of the Nile River. In the late 1870s Protestant and Catholic Missionaries entered and this can be seen today in Kigungu near Entebbe, and in 1894 it became the British Protectorate of Uganda.

At first, it was only the Buganda kingdom that was under British protection, but this soon expanded to become what is now known as Uganda. As the British took over other kingdoms the Buganda people helped them with administrative services such as collecting tax from the other tribes. While doing this the Buganda people also insisted that everyone adapt to the Luganda language and change their clothes to match their own long cotton gowns, known as the kanzu. At the beginning of the 19th century the sleepy sickness (African trypanosomiasis) killed around two-thirds of the population, though in the 1930s and ‘40s numbers starting growing again.

In 1962 Uganda gained independence from Britain and became a Commonwealth nation, and Milton Obote became the first Prime Minister of Uganda. For the first few years that Obote was in power there were many problems between his party the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and the Buganda leaders, which led to the 1966 Battle of Mengo Hill, in which Obote took over the powers of the Buganda kabaka (king), thus becoming Uganda’s first President. The country was then divided into four districts and ruled under martial law.

In 1971 Obote’s government was overthrown by a military coup led by Idi Amin Dada. Over the next six years the country was under his dictatorship, which resulted in the deaths of around 300,000 people, and there was a massive decline in the economy. Amin’s main targets were the Acholi and Langi ethnic groups, as they had supported Obote and were a large part of his army. In 1972 Amin secured both financial and military aid from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and became anti-Israel. This later gave the Palestinians that hijacked Air France Flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris a protected base to state their demands. Amin started to rediscover his Islamic heritage and built the Gaddafi National Mosque on Kampala Hill. During his reign, many Ugandans camped near the Tanzania border, which in 1979 triggered the Uganda-Tanzania War. The Tanzanian Army and exiled Ugandans conquered Amin’s troops and Libyan soldiers and took over Kampala. Amin fled to Libya.

In late 1980 elections brought Obote back into power and Muwanga served as vice-president. Shortly after the Ugandan Bush War (Ugandan civil war) broke out between the government and the National Resistance Army, which was led by Yoweri Museveni. Some of the worst human rights action in the world took place during this five-year war, and some of Obote’s own troops took extreme actions on civilians to eliminate support for Museveni. This affected nearly 750,000 people who were moved to refugee camps under military control. In 1985 some members of Obote’s army that were commanded by Olara-Okello conducted a coup d’état and seized power from Obote, who died while trying to flee. In 1986 a cease-fire was agreed upon and Museveni became president, where he remains today. President Museveni resides at the State House in Entebbe. Since his becoming president the government has been accused of numerous crimes against humanity, including mass murder in the north and child slavery.


Despite Uganda’s long history the people have still managed to keep hold of their many unique cultures, with the Bantu-speaking people influencing most of the country’s culture. In the north the Lango and the Acholi tribes are prominent, while in the east the Iteso and Karamojong tribes can be seen. The rainforests in western Uganda are still inhabited by the Pygmies. The traditional kanzu that the Buganda people introduced to Uganda is still the national dress for men, while women are clad in gomesi, which are colorful floor-length dresses tied with a sash.

The Buganda have also taken over the music scene in Uganda, although all tribes have their own indigenous music. Buganda music is predominantly drums and other percussion instruments and is usually accompanied by some complex dances. The eastern Bagosa tribe plays instruments similar to xylophones, while the Acholi and the Langi tribes in the north play a thumb piano. In the west the percussion music of the Banyankore is most dominant, and more graceful than that of the Buganda. Music and dance can be seen in different areas of the country, and traditional music and dance shows can be witnessed in all regions, although it is easiest to find them in Kampala.

A History of Christianity in Uganda

Christianity came late to Uganda compared with many other parts of Africa. Missionaries first arrived at the court of Kabaka Muteesa in 1877, almost a century after the missionary impetus from Europe had begun. And yet within 25 years Uganda had become one of the most successful mission fields in the whole of Africa. What were the causes of this phenomenal success?

Any discussion of Christianity in Uganda–the creation of colonialism at the end of the 19th Century–must begin with Buganda–the ancient independent kingdom on the northern shores of the lake which the Baganda call Nalubaale (the home of the balubaale gods) and which the British christened “Victoria.” Over the centuries Buganda had evolved a complex system of government under a Kabaka (king), a system unusual for its high degree of centralization and internal cohesiveness. Another feature of Kiganda society, of importance in explaining the eventual success of Christianity, was its remarkable adaptability and receptivity to change.

In 1856 Kabaka Muteesa inherited a kingdom which was already the strongest in the region. During his long reign of 28 years he consolidated and enhanced that power. A major part of Muteesa’s strategy as rubber was to open up Buganda to the outside world. Swahili and Arab traders from Zanzibar were encouraged to trade their cotton cloth, guns and luxury items for ivory and slaves. But outside influences did not stop at trade Islam was soon exerting a profound religious and cultural influence on Buganda. By the time Christianity arrived, the impact of Islam had already been felt for a generation.

The Impact of Islam [2]

In the 19th Century two “world” religions–Islam and Christianity–were both making significant advances in Africa. Often they were in serious competition and this indeed was the case in Buganda. But this should not disguise the fact that both Islam and Christianity were in many ways complementary. Both were called “dini” in contradistinction to the traditional African religious heritage. Both offered a “worldview,” a universal explanation of life with all its opportunities and problems. Such systems seemed increasingly relevant to societies, like Buganda, which were being drawn into a larger world. In this sense, Buganda, Islam, despite its rivalry, prepared the way for Christianity in a number of ways. In fact, Christianity arrived al strategic time–when Islam had awakened among Baganda certain needs and aspirations, but before Islam had become 50 entrenched in society that Christianity failed to find a foothold. Islam had, for example, created a thirst for literacy, especially among the young pages (bagalagala) at court. Christianity was able to build on this interest, and with its printing presses and distribution of cheap books in the vernacular or Swahili, was able to satisfy that interest to a much greater extent than Islam was able to do.

But Islam had prepared the way in other ways. The idea of a holy book, of a holy day, of a God above all gods who was interested in the affairs of this life and in the moral life of the individual, the expectation of the resurrection of the body and of a judgment after death–these were concepts pioneered by Islam which received further emphasis from the Christian missionaries.

But how far did the Baganda already acknowledge such a supreme Gad? Certainly neither Islam nor Christianity needed to import a foreign name in order to proclaim their God. The Baganda already knew of Katonda, the Creator. But the status of this Katonda has been the subject of controversy within the religious historiography of Buganda. Was Katonda just one, very insignificant lubaale? Or had he always been regarded as superior to the balubaale, high above Mukasa and Kibuuka and Muwanga, but remote from the life of the nation and of the individual, and therefore not the focus of a strong cult? Whatever the answer to these questions, it is certain that Islam gave a new prominence to Katonda, and that Christianity built on this growing significance.

Thus, in a society already open to new ideas, responsive to the technological, cultural and religious influence of the outside world, first Islam and then Christianity made an impact on Buganda in the second half of the 19th Century. But if the Buganda were so receptive to the message of a “world-religion,” why did they not simply remain with Islam? How could Christianity not only mount an effective challenge to Islam but eventually become the dominant dini of Buganda, forcing Islam into the position of a small (but tenacious) minority?

Answers to this question lie, not in any supposed superiority of Christianity over Islam, but in the volatile political situation of these years.

Muteesa’s disillusionment with Islam

For ten years from 1867 to 1876, Muteesa strongly patronized Islam. He learnt some Arabic, attended and even led prayers in a mosque built at the lubiiri (court), and ordered the observation of the Ramadhan fast. Muteesa had a genuine intellectual curiosity in the teachings of Islam. One should not discount such interest. But inevitably as a ruler his concern was largely with matters of state. He saw Islam as a religion which, under his patronage, could enhance his own power. The powerful balubaale cults were not always so amenable to royal control. But by 1876 this basis for the encouragement of Islam was being undermined by the forces of Muslim Egypt, striving to incorporate the head-waters of the Nile (including Buganda) into an Egyptian Empire. The visit of Egyptians to Buganda in 1876 precipitated a crisis in Muteesa’s relations with Islam. They criticized the Qibla (direction) of the court mosque and the fact that the uncircumcised king should lead the Friday prayers. They also encouraged Buganda Muslims strictly to observe Islamic food laws and to refuse to eat meat slaughtered by the Kababa’s butchers. The subsequent defiance of a number of young bagalagala (pages) led to the execution of some 100 Muslims at Namugongo, one of the traditional execution sites of Buganda. For Muteesa it was not simply a matter of insubordination, serious as that was, but a confirmation of fears that Islam was becoming a politically subversive creed.

It was about this time that Henry Morton Stanley visited Muteesa. For the Kabaka the advent of the Muzungu (European) was a welcome opportunity to counteract the Egyptian threat, as well as to get in contact with the actual source of the technological innovations which the Muslims had introduced but did not originate.

The arrival or Christian missionaries, 1877 [3]

Stanley’s famous letter to the Daily Telegraph painted a much romanticized picture of Muteesa. He represented the Kabaka as a great enlightened despot eager to hear the Gospel and speedily to propagate it throughout his kingdom. The reality was different as the missionaries were soon to discover once they reached Buganda. But the letter did produce a speedy response in Britain. The Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) hastily assembled a band of enthusiastic missionaries. The first two representatives of this group arrived at the court of Muteesa on June 30, 1877, having travelled from Zanzibar on the route pioneered by the Swahili traders. Eighteen months later, on February 17, 1879, a group of French Catholic White Fathers arrived, also by the East Coast route.

The presence of these rival versions of Christianity was immediately a matter of controversy. CMS understandably felt that this was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Protestant missionary effort. The Catholics on the other hand, and equally understandably, could point to the fact that they had been planning the evangelization of the lake region of Eastern Africa for many years and were not to be out-staged by the superficial emotions aroused in Britain by Stanley’s misleading letter. They could also point to the flimsy and insubstantial nature of the CMS presence in those early years.

The rivalry has to be understood against the background of centuries of controversy and warfare between Catholic and Protestant in Europe. ln these years (1877 -1890) the rivalry was embodied in two individuals: Alexander Mackay and Fr. Simeon Lourdel (‘Mapera’). Both were young men in their 20’s when they arrived in Buganda and neither was the head of his mission. Both were passionately prejudiced, and both delighted in the vigorous cut and thrust of theological debate or rather polemic. The confrontation was a “scandal to the Christendom” (Kiwanuka). But the spectacle was also much appreciated by those in court, who applauded the dialectical skill with which each missionary defended his version of the faith. It should also be noted that the rivalry between the two religious groups fitted well into the traditional factionalism of court life. It was to encourage competition and zeal among the Baganda converts and is one factor in the success of Christianity in Buganda. For the Christian believer this is the first of many ‘contradictions’ in the success of Christianity in Uganda: that zeal for the Gospel should be fuelled by prejudice, partisanship and polemic. Even more scandalous aspects of the rivalry emerged later, with the “wars of religion” and the cut-throat scramble for political power in the 1890s.

The first converts [4]

Both Protestant and Catholic missionaries soon attracted a lively interest, especially from the young pages at court, many of whom began to frequent the missionaries’ compounds. These basomi (readers, as they were called) – enquirers, catechumens, and from about 1881, baptized – began to form little groups of believers in different sections of the lubiri. The Protestants were especially numerous at the Gwanika (the treasury/armory), under the patronage of Chief Kulugi – a consistent friend of the Protestants, though not a Christian himself. The Catholics developed a strong following in the private quarters of the Kabaka. This was a measure of the greater favor the Catholics tended to enjoy. Both Muteesa and later Mwanga came to regard the Protestants with some suspicion. This seems to have originated from the links which CMS had with General Gordon, acting as agent for the Egyptians in Sudan. (The second group of CMS missionaries had arrived from the north). Since missionaries had been invited to Buganda expressly to counter the threat from the north, these links were detrimental to good relations with the Kabaka. Moreover the Arabs at court increasingly denounced the missionaries as agents of European imperialism. In 1882 the British actually bombarded Alexandria in Egypt and this was the prelude to a gradual takeover of Egypt. CMS missionaries protested that they had non connection with their government but they could not at times resist pointing out the might of the British Empire. ln the event the authorities were right to be suspicious – by the 1890s the CMS missionaries were openly advocating a British takeover of Uganda though this is not to say that they had been conscious agents of imperialism in the 1880s.

The Catholic withdrawal [5]

The Catholics did not fall under the same suspicion, if only because the French government had little interest in East Africa at this time. Nevertheless what favor the Catholics did enjoy was precarious. Mapera incurred the active hostility of the Muslims at court by his flamboyant and extravagant denunciations of Islam. In 1882 the White Fathers withdrew from Buganda altogether. This was a surprising decision and even now the precise reasons for their withdrawal are not altogether clear. But it seems that they were particularly concerned about the corruption of their orphans and freed slaves by homosexual practices infiltrating into their orphanage from the nearby lubiri. These orphans were, by and large, not Baganda. The practice of redeeming slaves to provide a nucleus of Christianity was still a major element of their mission strategy in Buganda and this may be a sufficient explanation of their withdrawal to the moral haven of Bukumbi, south of the lake. The withdrawal did not mean an end to Catholic activity in Buganda–the pages continued to meet and an increasing number of neophytes were taught. Responsibility for the propagation of the faith increased among Baganda Catholic converts.

Muteesa’s last years and the succession of Mwanga

By 1897 Muteesa had come to realize that a complete alliance with one of the Christian groups was neither practicable nor desirable. (The insistence of both on monogamy was a fundamental obstacle, but there were other factors.) Muteesa decided that he should identify with none of the new ‘dini’, while allowing them to stay and extracting what advantages he could from each, without letting any one group get too much power in the country. Muteesa was a consummate master at this political balancing act His successor, in the much more difficult international climate of the late ’80s, prove incapable of keeping things under control.

Mwanga succeeded his father in October 1884. He was 18 years old. Mwanga seems to have lacked strong religious convictions–he was a skeptic in an age of faith. His homosexuality alienated him from the missionaries. Like all Kabakas at the beginning of their reign, Mwanga needed to assert his authority over all elements and factions within the country, including the foreign missionaries (the White Fathers had not yet returned and so at first this meant the Protestants). This general need to assert his authority and the personal antagonisms with the three missionaries in the country (especially with Ashe) led to the death of the first three Baganda Christians on January 31, 1885. The young protestant martyrs, Makko Kakumba, Nuwa Serwanga and Yusuf Lugalama, were all members of the mission household. The missionaries were being warned against becoming a focus of political power or political discontent against the young Kabaka.

The deaths of Bishop Hannington and the Uganda martyrs [6]

Whatever may have been his personal attitudes to Christianity, Mwanga, like his father, was of necessity primarily concerned with the political implications of the new religions. By 1885 this was causing very grave anxieties. The Muslim threat from the north had receded with the Mahdist rebellion in the Sudan in 1881. But a new and greater threat to Buganda’s independence quite suddenly emerged from the East African coast with the intrusion of German imperialism early in 1885. It was fear of a European invasion which principally caused the death in Busoga on October 29, 1885 of the 37 year old Anglican Bishop, James Hannington. Hannington was either ignorant of, or chose to ignore, the precarious position of the Christian community within Buganda and the dangers, in the international climate, of approaching Buganda by the politically sensitive ‘back-door’ of Busoga. Hannington was killed on the orders of the Kabaka. His death is often blamed on a fickle and revengeful young king but this is very unfair to Mwanga, who was certainly acting on the advice of his great chiefs–including the normally friendly Kulugi. Hannington’s death, from the Kiganda point of view, was a legitimate act of state, designed to ward off a potential invasion.

Nevertheless, it was politically a mistake. Hannington had not been heading an invading army–on the way up from the coast his caravan had been ridiculed for its puny size. Hannington’s death had repercussions within Buganda. It led to further killings of Christians. Only 2 weeks later, on November 15, 1885, Joseph Mukasa BaIikuddembe was brutally killed for daring to criticize the Kabaka for the murder of the Anglican bishop. Balikuddembe became the first Catholic martyr.

In May and June 1886 a large massacre of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, took place. Many were executed at Namugongo, the traditional execution site also used for the Muslim martyrs of 1876. The immediate cause for the killings was the Kabaka’s anger at the disobedience of his Christian pages, in particular their refusal to indulge in homosexual practices. Charles Lwanga, the Catholic head of the pages in the king’s private apartments, had been particularly vigilant in protecting the Christian boys under his charge from the advances of the Kabaka and some of the chiefs.

But, in addition 10 young pages, quite a number of the victims were minor chiefs: men such as Andrew Kaggwa and Matthias Mulumba for the Catholics and Robert Munyagabyanjo, Nuwa Walukaga and Freddie Kizza for the Protestants. The youngest page, Kizito, was about 14 years some of the chiefs were in their 50s. Some of these chiefs were the victims of particular grudges by their seniors- (for example Katikkiro Mukasa, the Prime Minister), jealous that these up and coming young men would soon be ousting them from power.

Undoubtedly these Uganda martyrs (there were Bunyoro and Basoga as well as Baganda) died believing and trusting in Christ as their Savior. They sang hymns on the way to their deaths, preached to their persecutors, strongly believed in a life after death, and their courage and fortitude made a great impression on those who saw them die. But naturally, secular historians have been cautious about accepting wholesale the simple pieties of hagiography. The deaths of these Christians must be put in the context of the traditional precariousness of life at court, and the deeply ingrained habits of obedience which made Baganda generally face death philosophically if the Kabaka so wished. This would put the Christian martyrs firmly in the long tradition of the kiwendo, the ritual sacrifice of a number (kiwendo) of victims at the instigation of one of the balubaale. Conversely, it has also been argued that these Christians were rebels against the Kabaka, unwitting tools of foreign imperialism. There is some truth in all these assessments, traditional and modern, religious and secular. Historical reality is complex and does not admit of simplistic explanation. The martyrs are part of that complex reality.

The Wars of Religion 1888-1892 [7]

Whatever the original motivation of the missionaries, the traumatic events of 1885 and 1886 convinced many of them that foreign intervention might be the only long-term solution to safeguard the future of Christianity in Buganda. Meanwhile, however, events in Buganda pursued an internal logic which at first had little 10 do with external affairs. The persecution of Christians (perhaps 200 had died in all) was not part of a coherent strategy to eradicate Christianity. By 1887 Mwanga had begun to rely on the younger generation of Baganda leaders– and this meant relying on many who were converts to the new religions. Backed by official favor, the leaders of the three religious groups (Muslims, Protestants and Catholics) began to bring in large quantities of arms and to organize themselves into militarized “regiments”–the first time that Buganda had something resembling a standing army. These soldiers were nicknamed bapere and gained a great deal of notoriety for their high-handed attitudes, for rape and plunder. It is one of the ironies of the Christian history of Uganda that the witness of the martyrs (strong in faith but weak and powerless politically and militarily) should have convinced the survivors that the future of Christianity depended on securing military and political power. Moreover these regiments attracted young men, fortune seekers and adventurers, who saw membership as the new avenue to progress, and who at first had little conception of Islam or Christianity.

Mwanga at first encouraged these groups as a way of countering the older generation of chiefs. But by 1888 he began to get scared that they were becoming too powerful. His feeble attempt to get rid of the bapere provoked a coup, and in April 1888 Mwanga was overthrown by the united forces of the new religions. Mwanga fled and sought refuge with the White Fathers at Bukumbi, to the south of the lake. But the new leaders were soon quarreling among themselves. The Muslims, as the most powerful group in terms of numbers and fire power, were able to oust the Christian groups, who in October 1888 fled to Kabula, on the borders with Nkore. The Muslims proceeded to establish a Muslim state. They circumcised their Kabaka, Kalema, and called him ‘sheikh’. They envisaged a radical reordering of society along Islamic lines.

At this stage the survival of Christianity seemed to depend entirely on questions of military and political power. The Christian exiles made overtures to Mwanga to restore him as their Kabaka. They also made a tactical alliance with traditionalists fighting the Muslim regime from Kyaggwe (eastern Buganda)–since many traditionalists were alienated by the harshness of Muslim rule and its radical attempt to overturn traditional society.

By the end of 1889 the Christian forces had managed, at least temporarily, to defeat the Muslims, who retired to the borders of Bunyoro to regroup. They might well have regained control if it had not been for intrusion at this point of an external factor in the form of Captain Lugard and the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC). The Christian forces needed help to ensure that the Muslims did not get back to power. But the Catholics were unhappy that this help should be British and, therefore, Protestant. The fragile unity of the Christian factions soon gave way to bitter quarrels about the division of political office. The Catholic party was stronger in that it attracted more followers as the party of the king. Mwanga was not baptized, nor did he lead a life morally acceptable to the Catholics. But he did believe that he had more chance of retaining Buganda’s independence if he sided with the Catholics. The Protestants, conscious of this fundamental weakness, clung all the more strongly to Lugard, who at first tried to remain aloof from these conflicts. But increasingly he was drawn into supporting the only group which supported him–the Protestants. When open warfare broke out in 1892, Lugard threw in his lot decisively with the Protestants. He directed his Maxim gun against the Catholics and routed them.

The Protestants, exulting in victory, were keen to divide the spoils (i.e. political office) among themselves alone, on the basis of ‘the winner takes all’. But Lugard, the real arbiter of the situation, insisted that both Catholics and Muslims be given some small share in the political life of the country. This was how Buddu became a Catholic county, the strong base on which much of the subsequent success of Catholicism in Uganda was based. Nevertheless, the Catholics felt bitter against Lugard, the architect of their defeat. Lugard, for his part, always insisted that he was neutral as far as religion was concerned. His support for the Protestants had been purely on political grounds. It is quite conceivable that had Lugard found the Muslims in control of Buganda in 1890 he would have tried to work with them–in which case Buganda might have become a Muslim state!

The British annexation [8]

IBEAC was a private British chartered company, which the British government approved of but had no financial responsibility for. It was a way of ensuring British influence without the inconvenience of costing the British taxpayer anything: Imperialism on the cheap. But by 1892 the IBEAC was in imminent danger of bankruptcy. Bishop Tucker and the CMS conducted a vigorous campaign in Britain to ensure the ‘retention of Uganda’. Tucker enlarged on the inevitability of a renewal of the religious wars (and a Protestant defeat?) if the British government did not assume direct control. One M.P. asked ironically why the state should spend money “to prevent these very remarkable Christians from cutting each other’s throats”. But British Public opinion had been effectively mobilized and in 1894 the British government formally declared a Protectorate over Uganda’. The Protestants were well satisfied. The Catholics bowed to the inevitable. Bishop Hirth, who had been such an outspoken critic of Lugard, was transferred to German territory and it was arranged that the Mill Hill Fathers, a British-based Catholic missionary society, should start work in eastern Uganda in 1895, a sign to Ugandans that being a Catholic did not mean being anti-British.

British control was at first hesitant and problematic. In 1897 there was mutiny of the Nubian troops used by the British to subdue their Protectorate. There was also a last attempt by Kabaka Mwanga to regain his independence. Both revolts were put down, largely with the help of “loyal” Baganda. Mwanga was deposed and exiled to Seychelles. There he was baptized as a Protestant: a recognition that the forces of Christianity and imperialism had triumphed. But was his choice of baptismal name Daniel, a final act of defiance–a reference to his confinement in the lions’ den of his British captors? In 1900 the Buganda Agreement consolidated the British takeover and established the special relationship between Britain and Buganda which was to survive until 1955. The Agreement consolidated the dominant position of the Protestant oligarchy under Apollo Kaggwa, the Katikiro and one of the regents to the boy Kabaka Daudi Cwa.

A “Christian Revolution” [9]

The events of this violent period in Buganda’s history are sometimes characterized as a “Christian revolution”–by which is meant the fact that a fundamental change occurred in Buganda in which Christianity was the motivating force and the chief beneficiary. It was a revolution with several phases: a revolution of the ‘new dini’ (1888), a ‘Muslim revolution’ (1888-9), a ‘Christian counterrevolution’ (1889), a ‘Protestant seizure of power’ (1892), and finally the consolidation of the revolutionary changes by the British take-over and loss of Buganda’s sovereignty (1894/1900).

Christianity came to dominate the political arena of Buganda and Islam was relegated to an under-privileged minority. But the Christian chiefs have also been called ‘conservative modernizers’. They had a strong sense of Buganda’s history and traditions. They wanted to graft Christianity onto these traditions, to use the literacy which Christianity had brought to preserve these traditions. Kaggwa wrote a history of the Kings of Buganda in Luganda. He also wrote a history of his clan. The institutions of the Kabakaship and the clans were the two fundamental pillars of Buganda. Christianity (in its two forms) was now added as a third pillar. This meant that the balubaale cults (especially the large shrines) were displaced by Christianity. But the national gods did re-emerge in times of national crisis, such as the deportation of the Kabaka in 1953. And the basic thought patterns and practices of Kiganda religion remain strong to this day.

The Spread of Christianity in Uganda

Christianity and “sub-imperialism” [10]

The fact that Christianity, in its two rival creeds, became the religion of Buganda profoundly affected its spread to other arts of colonial Uganda. The British needed local collaboration to make their occupation of Uganda effective and cheap (financial economy was always a prime consideration for the British!) The British regarded the civilization of Buganda as superior to anything else available in Uganda and the acceptance of Christianity and literacy enhanced that superiority.

The Baganda, for their part, became enthusiastic “sub-imperialists”. They benefited from their relationship with the British. Buganda increased its territory at the expense particularly of Bunyoro, which was severely punished for Omukama Kabalega’s heroic but in the end futile resistance. Baganda–both Christian and Muslim–became chiefs (British agents) in such areas as Bunyoro and Ankole. The soldier and adventurer, Semei Kakungulu, a Protestant Muganda who had quarreled with Apollo Kaggwa, attempted to compensate for his political failure in Buganda, by carving out for himself a “kingdom” in eastern Uganda. His followers, in search of land and power, were able to find both in Bukedi and Teso.

In the wake of this “sub-imperialism,” and indeed part and parcel of it, went the missionary expansion of the Church of Baganda evangelists. They were motivated by an eagerness to spread Kiganda culture alongside Christianity, by desire for a status and prestige often unattainable within Buganda itself. But, apart from these political and social advantages, we must not discount genuine religious impulses. The Catholics appealed to the sacrifice of the Uganda martyrs as an inspiration to Uganda to offer themselves as missionaries: as living sacrifices. For the Protestants, Pilkington’s revival of 1892 emphasized a victorious Christian life of a total commitment in the power of the holy spirit.

Many of the evangelists shared the arrogance and domineering tendencies of the colonial agents. But many are remembered for their devotion 10 duty, often in difficult circumstances and with little financial reward. ln these early years, two men stand out for their qualities of devotion and saintliness: Apollo Kivebulaya and Yohanna Kitagana. Kivebulaya, a Protestant unusual for his life-long celibacy, became an evangelist to Toro in 1895, and subsequently spent his life among the Mboga people of Kongo (now Zaire). He was ordained a priest, made a canon, and died in 1933. Kitagana was a polygamist who gave up his five wives before baptism. ln 1901, when already in his 40s, he set off on a remarkable evangelistic career, pioneering Catholicism in Bunyaruguru and other parts of Ankole, in Kigezi and Bufumbira, before his death in 1939.

Christianity in Western Uganda [11]

From the 1890s the Western kingdoms of Uganda had come to terms in one way or another with British colonialism. The acceptance of Christianity was an important means of adjusting to this new situation. In Toro Christianity came as part of an attempt by Kasagama to recreate the kingdom of his father in Bunyoro as a response to military defeat and devastation in Ankole as part of the Mugabe’s aggrandizement of influence, assisted or rather, promoted–by the ambitious Enganzi, Nuwa Mbaguta. In each case it was the Protestant version of Christianity which was promoted by the local leadership.

Colonialism and Christianity meant the extension of Kiganda influence and this provoked resentment of varying degrees of intensity. In Bunyoro it produced an explosive situation and the Nyangire (“I have refused”) disturbances of 1907. This marked the beginning of the end of direct Kiganda influence. The British switched to a policy of relying on the indigenous leadership 10 implement their policies, and phased out the Baganda chiefs/agents. This also meant an end of missionary hopes of establishing Luganda as the common language of Uganda. The Anglicans, reversing their policy, embarked on a Lunyoro-Lutoro translation of the Bible and Prayer Book.

Paradoxically, although Christianity in western Uganda early threw off tutelage from Buganda, Christianity did nevertheless develop a long line first worked out in Buganda. Thus, kings and chiefs overwhelmingly became Anglican. But, just as the political defeat in Buganda had not meant the collapse of Catholic missionary efforts, so in western Uganda, the Catholics took advantage of their underprivileged status to make an appeal among the peasantry. To take the case of Toro–Kasagama’s kingdom was not as ‘traditional’ as he had made out to the British. It was the 19th Century creation of his grandfather, a dissident Munyoro prince, and lacked a strong local root. Kasagama tried to exclude Catholics altogether from his kingdom, but was prevented by the British. Despite continuing political discrimination by the Mukama’s government, Catholics made impressive progress and were to become a majority of Christians in Toro.

In Ankole, colonialism accentuated traditional divisions between the bahima pastoralists (who constituted a kind of ruling class) and the majority bairu agriculturalists. The Anglican Church became a religion of the Omugabe and the bahima, but the bahima were less than enthusiastic about practicing their religion and tended to leave education to the Bairu. It was only with the Revival movement of the 1940s and 50s that the Anglican Church really took root in the bahima communities. Meanwhile the bairu had accepted Protestantism and Catholicism in fairly equal numbers. As a rough generalization one can say that Protestant bairu tended to be in a majority in central counties of Ankole, such as Kashari and Shema Catholics predominated on the periphery, for example in Bunyaruguru.

Christianity struck deep roots in western Uganda. Today some of the most dynamic Christian communities in Uganda can be found in this region. But Christianity also played a very complex and at times divisive role, helping to aggravate old tensions and create new ones. For example, in Ankole, the Anglican Church at first reinforced the traditional division between bahima and bairu by its political alliance with the rulers. But it also created a politically-conscious Protestant educated (bairu) elite, which by the 1950s had become the most articulate critic of those traditional class distinctions. But, at the same time the Protestant-Catholic antagonism was hardening into party political division along religious lines.

Christianity in Eastern Uganda [12]

Eastern Uganda lacked the cultural cohesiveness and large-scale kingdoms of Buganda and western Uganda. In fact small-scale politics and cultural and linguistic diversity were the most obvious characteristics of the area, which included a wide variety of Bantu societies (Basoga, Bagwere, Banyole, Bamasaba) as well as Jopadhola (Luo speakers) and Iteso. The whole area beyond Busoga was called by the Baganda “Bukedi”-“the place of naked people,” expressive of a patronizing attitude to peoples who “did not know how to rule themselves.” European missionaries accepted and expanded on these prejudices and imported their own racial theories about primitive peoples on the lowest ladder of civilization. Such stereotypes tended to be reinforced by the devastating effects of famine and sleeping sickness in the early years of the 20th Century. One particularly blatant example of these negative attitudes can be seen in A.L. Kitching’s On the Backwaters of the Nile (1912), which was even more revealingly sub-titled Studies of Sorne Child Races. The book is replete with such expressions as “loathsome and disgusting,” “a rather dull race with heavy unintellectual faces,” “a reputation for expert thieving,” and “the least admirable thing about them is their language” – Kitching cannot decide whether it is “degenerate” or “undeveloped!” Kitching went on to become in 1926 the first Anglican Bishop of the diocese of the Upper Nile.

For most of the area (with the exception of Busoga), Christianity came in the aftermath of Kakungulu’s conquest. It was associated with the imposition of Kiganda culture. Luganda became the language of church and school. In Busoga an attempt to use the Lutenga dialect had to be abandoned in the face of opposition from Northern Busoga, where a markedly different form of Lusoga was spoken. For the rest, there was never any alternative to Luganda, and this applied even to the non-Bantu Iteso and Jopadhola. Defeated and fragmented there was no possibility of a “Nyangire” rebellion in the East. Eventually in the 1950s the Anglican Church in Teso did produce an Ateso Bible and Prayer Book and the Catholic Church among the Jopadhola has more recently emphasized the vernacular in worship. But, elsewhere, Luganda remains dominant.

The Protestants, in an effort to overcome or mitigate some of the resistance to accepting the Gospel, and hopeful that a “civilizing mission” would produce spiritual results, pioneered cotton production and ox-plowing in Teso, and encouraged coffee cultivation in Bugishu. Christianity remained essentially a foreign imposition for many of the people of the area. But, predictably, it was from the Protestant educated elite (products of Mwiri School near Jinja and Nabumali in Bugishu) that, in the 1920s and 30s, the first welfare societies, incipient political organizations, sprang–the Young Basoga Association, the Bugishu Welfare Association and the Young Bagwere Association.

As in other parts of Uganda, Protestants and chiefs were from the beginning in close alliance. In fact, the Roman Catholic Mill Hill Mission was known as the mission ekitalya bwami – the mission which doesn’t eat (i.e. obtain) chieftaincies. But, again as in other areas, this did not inhibit Catholic evangelistic zeal. The Mill Hill Fathers, often with more foreign personnel working in the area than the CMS, scored successes among the peasantry, and have become the majority of Christians in Teso and Bukedi (i.e. the district around Teso). Protestants predominate in Busoga and Bugishu.

Christianity in Northern Uganda [13]

In the North, Kiganda influences were minimal. The first Ugandan evangelists were Banyoro (where traditional links were strong) or Lwo who had spent time in Bunyoro – such as the Alur Sira Dongo. Christianity did not put down strong roots in the North. Rwot (chief) Awic, of the Payira clan, invited missionaries to Acoli in 1903. But Awic himself had no interest in Christianity and was skeptical of European values generally. In any case he was not the ruler of the whole of Acoli. In Lango, Odora of Aduku did actively promote Protestant Christianity. He was ambitious to be recognized as ‘Kabaka’ of Lango, something the British had no intention of doing. Lango had no traditions of chiefs of any kind and the colonial-imposed chiefs had no traditional authority. Odora’s Christianity was a matter of profound indifference to most Lango. Moreover, J.H. Driberg, one of the early Des in Lango, a “strident secularist,” insisted on a rigid separation of church and state, burning down churches built too close to the government boma. The Lango got the message that the colonial power had no interest in promoting the new religion and this reinforced their own prejudices. Thus, in both Acholi and Lango, the usual CMS strategy of using chiefs was misapplied and abortive.

But the Catholics also struggled to make an impact. The North of Uganda was assigned to the Verona Fathers, an Italian society founded by Bishop Daniel Comboni, whose centre of activity was the Sudan. But in Father J .P. Crazzolara (who spent some 60 years in Northern Uganda) they did produce a missionary with a remarkable understanding of and sympathy for Lwo people. The lack of response in the North produced a comparative neglect among the missionaries. This was understandable when the response in other parts was great and there were severe limitations on finance and personnel. But it did make the North an under-developed area in terms of missionary work, as it was in other aspects of life during the colonial period and beyond.

One reason often given for the poor response is the disastrous choice of the word Lubanga or Rubanga as the name for God. This was an importation from Bunyoro, where Ruhanga, a traditional name for the Creator, was used for the Christian God. Crazzolara always regretted the use of this alien name. He felt that the Lwo word Jok was quite capable of carrying the Christian concept of divinity. But both CMS and the Verona authorities had come to the conclusion that Jok had too many ambiguous and positively evil associations to be used. What they did not realize at the time was that the word Lubanga also had a sinister indigenous meaning – Jok Lubanga referred to the unambiguously evil spirit responsible for tuberculosis of the spine.

In his book Men without God?, the Anglican Bishop of Northern Uganda, J .K. Russell, wonders whether this fatal misunderstanding was responsible for a “subconscious bar” to the acceptance of the missionary message of a great and loving God. It is symbolic of a general failure to engage the hearts and minds of the people of Northern Uganda. Okot p’Bitek, an Acoli brought up as a Protestant but who became as strident a secularist as Driberg, has argued that the failure to find an adequate name for the Christian God and the farcical adoption of Lubanga, shows the essentially non-religious, this-worldly character of Acoli concepts. It explains and justifies their non-acceptance of Christianity. It was a courageous refusal to be bamboozled by foreign myths. Modem Acoli Christians are more likely to accept Crazzolara’s contention that Jok can convey the concept of a Supreme Being. But now it is too late – Jok is now irremediably associated with the Devil!

The periphery of Uganda [14]

By 1914 only three areas of Uganda were practically untouched by missionary work: West Nile, Kigezi and Karamoja. ln the case of West Nile and Kigezi this was largely because they were late additions to colonial Uganda. For the Catholics, the White Fathers naturally extended their work to include Kigezi, and the Verona Fathers to include West Nile. For CMS this additional territory caused some problems, since CMS had already over-extended itself in the evangelistic thrust of the previous twenty years and could hardly spare finances or personnel to open up new mission fields. Thus Bishop Willis was willing to negotiate a special arrangement with the Africa Inland Mission, a conservative evangelical interdenominational faith mission, largely American in origin and with work in Kenya and Congo. By this agreement, AIM undertook to send mainly Anglican missionaries to West Nile and to form congregations which were part of the Native Anglican Church.

West Nile is one of the most diverse parts of Uganda, the most significant groups being the Sudanic Lugbara, Nilo-Hamitic Kakwa, and Nilotic Alur. Christianity has made a greater impact here than in other parts of Northern Uganda. Islam is also a significant force in Aringa County (a Lugbara area). Neither the Verona Fathers nor the AIM put a great emphasis on the school – the Verona Fathers felt at a disadvantage in the face of a colonial British educational system the AIM were anxious not to confuse evangelism with education and were to come into conflict with their converts over their neglect of schools in contrast to the CMS. Nevertheless a situation characteristic of other parts of Uganda did emerge in West Nile of a smaller Protestant community, often go-ahead and innovative and a larger and more tolerant Catholic society.

Kigezi was evangelized for the Anglicans by the Ruanda Mission of the CMS, financially autonomous of its parent mission and with a distinctly conservative evangelical basis. It was through the Ruanda Mission that much of the impetus for Revival in the Anglican Church in Uganda was mediated, and Kigezi has become the stronghold of the Balokole movement. Protestants and Catholics are fairly evenly divided in Kigezi, which resembles Ankole in the bitterness of its political-religious conflicts.

It is strange that West Nile and Kigezi, almost the last area of Uganda to be evangelized, have evinced such a strong and vigorous Christianity. This can not be said of the last area, Karamoja. Since 1929 the Anglican Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society (BCMS – another conservative evangelical society, which broke away from CMS in 1922) has been working patiently in Karamoja, without any dramatic results. The Verona Fathers came later, but in the last 20 years have overtaken the Protestants through their efficient and effective school work and the range of their relief work. Christianity has remained peripheral to this pastoral society.

Church and State in Colonial Uganda

Protestants and Catholics [15]

The Anglican Church was never an official established church in colonial Uganda. But it approximated to an established church, with the Bishop of Uganda standing third in order of precedence at official functions, after the Governor and the Kabaka of Buganda. The Catholics had no such political role in the colonial state, and in fact they felt it better to eschew politics altogether and to concentrate on their religious tasks. At times they could legitimately complain of discrimination, at least in the early years. But, by and large they felt reasonably content with the official British policy of religious neutrality. This allowed them to evangelize freely throughout the country, whatever the denomination of the local ruler or chief.

At times the British authorities preferred the non-political role of the Catholics to the gratuitous advice or criticism of the CMS. CMS missionaries were very conscious of the fact that they had preceded the administrators - had practically (invited) them to Uganda, in fact. Individuals thus felt free to criticize where they thought necessary - for example, the excessive use of force in “pacifying” Bunyoro in the 1890s. The British often resented such criticism. J. J. Willis, the second Bishop of Uganda (1912-34) adopted a much more conformist position than Bishop Tucker. In fact educated Baganda Anglicans regarded Willis as far too close to the government point of view for their liking.

The Church and Development: Education and Medicine [16]

One of the chief reasons for the continuing success of the missions in the colonial era was the continued attraction of literacy. The missions began in the 1890s to establish a formal system of schooling. Each village would have, next to the church, a school for elementary instruction. In the early years of this century the missions also began to establish “central” or “high” schools for more advanced learning.

At first the government was more than content to leave education to the missions. But after the First World War, the British began to take a much more active role in African education. J. H. Oldham of the International Missionary Council (based in London) played an important part in persuading the Colonial Officer not to set up a rival system to the one the missions had pioneered, but rather to use the mission network of schools, to set up an Inspectorate and offer grants-in-aid to approved mission schools. This was highly satisfactory to the missions. They were very anxious to retain the denominational character of their schools, as well as a general “Christian atmosphere,” and feared the establishment of a secular system. But they critically needed financial assistance.

CMS had pioneered high schools such as Mwiri (Busoga), Nyakasura (Toro) and Nabumali (Bugishu), and Gayaza for girls. King’s College Budo was the apex of the whole system. By the 1920s a large proportion of missionary personnel were absorbed in teaching in such schools, and government funding, once begun, became absolutely necessary if the system were to be maintained. The Catholics also cooperated with the government education policy - though always with more reservations than CMS and with a concern not to lose their independence. Kisubi for the White Fathers, and Namilyango for the Mill Hill Fathers, became important high schools on the CMS model. But the Catholics did not neglect their own seminary system, which aimed primarily at encouraging vocations to the priesthood.

Both the high school and the seminary system were unashamedly elitist after their own fashion. But the heart of the mission education system continued to be the village school, built almost entirely by local initiative and employing “vernacular teachers” whose training, pay and standard of living were all very basic. In the 1920s and 30s the missions and government made efforts to improve basic standards by evolving a system of “Normal” or teacher training institutions.

Mission education has been criticized as an agent of imperialism: for its narrow “academic” curriculum stressing British culture, history and geography at the expense of African for despising manual labor for encouraging elitist attitudes and individualism through the divorce between the high school and the mass of village schools. Missionaries were not totally unaware of these issues. There was a general revulsion in colonial and mission education circles against creating “black Englishmen” (sometimes tinged with racialist sentiment). The Phelps-Stokes Commission visited Uganda in 1924, strongly advocating a philosophy of an education “adapted to the needs of Africa.” But they failed substantially to re-orientate the academic bias of education. Agricultural and technical education was expensive and could therefore, like the high schools, be only for a privileged few. Moreover there was always the suspicion that “adapted” education meant “inferior” education, designed to prevent African advancement and keep them in their place. “We send our boys to the High School not to learn to drive bullock wagons and to look after cows, but to learn to be fitted for posts of high standing,” Said one parent. (Admittedly he was a son of Sir Apollo Kaggwa and therefore one of an elite likely to benefit directly from an elitist system.)

Medicine. If CMS set the pace in educational developments during the colonial period, the same can be said for medicine. CMS Mengo Hospital began in 1897. Sir Albert Cook and his wife Kathleen are the towering figures in the development of “scientific” medicine in Uganda, with their pioneering work on sleeping sickness and venereal diseases, the training of nurses and midwives. The Catholics excelled in the establishment of local dispensaries – one can point to the great work of the Franciscan Mother Kevin in this field.

The colonial economy. The colonial government aimed to integrate Uganda into the world-wide capitalist system. By its nature this was a system of exploitation of the labor and resources of underdeveloped societies. But Uganda at least escaped some of the worst effects of a settler or plantation economy, due to the reliance on peasant cultivation of cotton and later coffee. CMS, as the original promoter of cotton production in Uganda, closely identified itself with the basic aims of colonial economic policy, stressing its benign rather than its exploitative aspects. CMS encouraged the cultivation of cash crops and in its schools inculcated a “Protestant ethic” of discipline, punctuality and cleanliness, and individual enterprise. Within the narrow constraints of a colonial and racially stratified society, they favored the development of small scale African capitalism in agriculture and trade and so encouraged the growth of a fragile petite bourgeoisie. In discussing the development of a Protestant elite, however, one needs to stress that CMS congregations remained overwhelmingly peasant only a tiny minority ever escaped the constraints of rural poverty and under-development of the colonial economy.

Catholics did not put the same emphasis on the creation of an elite. Their missions were often models in farming and industrial self-sufficiency (e.g. brick making). But here the primary aim was to build up a self-contained, economically viable Christian Community (it bas been called “feudalistic”) rather than to promote directly the colonial economy. Nevertheless whatever the mission ideology, Catholic peasants were drawn into the colonial economic system along with everyone else.

Protest against the Missions [17]

As we have seen, the Anglican Church in Uganda had a privileged position both in terms of its relationship to the local rulers and to the British administration. This close connection with the centers of power was to cause tensions within the Anglican Church when the colonial power structure was challenged. The Catholic Church, less concerned with questions of political power, was much less affected. However, in colonial times, independent churches did not easily thrive in Uganda (unlike Nigeria or South Africa or Kenya). One reason for this may lie in the fact that the Christian Churches had from an early stage become genuinely “folk churches,” churches of the people. In Buganda, to be a Muganda had come to mean that (if you were not part of the Muslim minority) you were either “Protestant” (i.e. Anglican) or “Catholic.” This was part of your basic identity – and just as political protest against the chiefly oligarchy did not make you any less a Muganda, so protest against church involvement in that oligarchy did not make you any less a Protestant (member of the Native Anglican Church).

In colonial times, where independent churches did not occur, they usually had a close connection with political protest. The exception is Mabel Ensor’s Mengo Gospel Church, the creation of a powerful ex-CMS missionary, discontented perhaps with her status as a woman within the mission structure, but more obviously motivated by the desire for a pure Spiritual church. Even here we might see political implications in her protest in that she wanted a Church which was totally divorced from politics, unimpeded by the compromises of being part of an establishment.

The Bamalaki

Joswa Kate was the Mugema, the head of the Nkima (Monkey) clan. In 1914 he and his clansman Malaki Mussajjakaawa broke away from the Anglican Church. They objected to two features which had become integral to the Christian mission in Uganda – the use of Medicine and the requirement of education as a prerequisite to baptism. The dissidents called their new movement Ekibiina kya Katonda Omu Ayinza Byonna (The Society of the One Almighty God), but it became popularly known as the Bamalaki. The chance of immediate baptism was largely responsible for the rapid growth of the movement, which consequently acquired the nickname Diini ya Layisi (religion on the cheap). Behind the religious protest was a political quarrel between Kate, a venerable representative of the bataka or clan heads, and the batongole (office holders) who had been the chief beneficiaries of the 1900 Agreement – the “Protestant oligarchy” led by Apollo Kaggwa. The bataka were particularly aggrieved that their land rights had been ignored in the land provisions of the 1900 Agreement.

The stubborn refusal even to inoculate cattle (i.e. give medicine to cows) brought the Bamalaki into direct conflict with the colonial authorities, and in 1929 (after a riot) the leaders were deported to remote parts of Uganda. After this the movement disintegrated. The Seventh Day Adventists first began work in Uganda in 1927. In some respects their emphasis on Saturday worship and adherence to many aspects of Jewish law resemble the teachings of the Balamaki – but the SDA were not, of course, against medicine, and there is no direct link between the two churches. The name malaki survives as a nickname for safari shoes, which do not need shoe polish (“medicine!”).

One interesting offshoot of the Bamalaki was begun in the Mbale area by Semei Kakungulu, who had a natural sympathy for Kate in his quarrels with Apollo Kaggwa. But he had no wish to be junior partner in a movement whose base was in Buganda, and so after collaborating for a time he founded his own group which took Bamalaki principles to an extreme by rejecting Christianity altogether and adopting what they could reconstruct of Judaism from the Luganda Old Testament. They practiced circumcision and Sabbath worship and were known as Bayudaya. ln the 1960s the survivors of Kakungulu’s “Jews” were given help from orthodox Jewish communities in Israel, but Amin’s anti-Zionist stance after 1972 put an end both to this incipient collaboration and the Bayudaya as a viable community.

Spartas and the African Greek Orthodox Church

A more forward-looking movement than the Bamalaki was that begun by Reuben Mukasa Spartas, an Anglican educated at Budo. Reacting against Anglican paternalism, in 1929 he announced the establishment in Uganda of an Orthodox Church “for all right thinking Africans, men who wish to be free in their own house, not always being thought of as boys.” Spartas had been greatly influenced by the pan-Africanism of the Jamaican Marcus Garvey, through the magazine Negro World. The African Orthodox Church was founded in America as a religious expression of pan-Africanism but when Spartas discovered that this Church was not regarded as a legitimate branch of traditional Orthodoxy, he associated his Church with the Greek patriarchate in Alexandria. In the 1940s and 50s Spartas was much involved in the politics of Buganda nationalism. Unlike the Bamalaki, which grew rapidly and then collapsed, A.G.O.C. grew slowly and has remained a small but “respectable” Church. When Amin banned independent churches in 1977, the Orthodox were placed alongside the Catholics and Anglicans as a “recognized” Church.

The Church and Nationalism [18]

The Protestant schools were the breeding ground for the rising nationalism of the 1950s. In Uganda, nationalism was complicated by the conflicting claims of Buganda nationalism and Ugandan nationalism. It was, by and large, the Protestants who made the running in both kinds of nationalism. But the hierarchy of the Anglican Church was often attacked for identifying itself too closely with the colonial authorities. It was widely believed that the new bishop of Uganda, Leslie Brown, was involved in one way or another with the deportation of the Kabaka in 1953, though he has always strenuously denied any such involvement. The Anglican Church lost a lot of support in those years when Kiganda traditionalist sentiment was running high.

But Catholics too were under attack in these years from the traditionalists. After long years of being passive in political matters, as Independence approached, the Catholic hierarchy increasingly saw the Democratic Party as a suitable party for Catholics to support, more acceptable than either Buganda’s traditionalism (as finally embodied in Kabaka Yekka) or the secular and left with ideology of the Protestant dominated nationalist parties (which finally coalesced into the Uganda Peoples’ Congress).

D.P. was headed by a Muganda Catholic, Benedicto Kiwanuka but D.P.’s commitment to a unitary Uganda alienated Buganda. In the political maneuverings of the early 60s D.P. lost out to an alliance of Obote’s U.P.C. and Kabaka Yekka (a strange and incompatible alliance). But it did ensure that the Catholics entered Independence still denied any real share in political power.

The Religious Life of the Churches

The Anglican Church [19]

Bishop Tucker, despite opposition from missionaries, gave to the Native Anglican Church a constitution which allowed Ugandans a significant measure of participation in decision-making, in particular through the Synod. Tucker was also keen to foster a “native clergy,” and the first ordinations took place in 1893. These admirable developments were, however, partly offset during the colonial period by the poor educational level of the clergy, and consequently their low status and pay. The situation was much lamented but seemed incapable of solution. Moreover it seemed to lend plausibility to the failure of Bishop Willis to promote Ugandan clergy to positions of real responsibility, a persistent source of irritation, especially to politically-conscious Baganda. Why, for example, was a Muganda not appointed assistant Bishop in 1920, instead of importing a European who had never even worked in Uganda before? And why, when a Ugandan bishop was at last appointed in 1947, was he not a Muganda?

All this seemed to be evidence of a deeper spiritual malaise. It was 10 be the Revival movement, known as the Balokole (the Saved People), which was directly to confront that spiritual malaise. A key figure was a Muganda, Simeoni Nsibambi, who formed a strong spiritual bond with a young medical doctor of the CMS Ruanda Mission, Joe Church. Nsibambi sent keen Baganda missionaries to work at Gahini hospital in Ruanda, where Joe Church was working. It was here that a revival broke out in the early 30s. It spread to Kigezi and Ankole before making a powerful impact in Buganda itself. It was from the first a controversial movement, often extremely critical of the church leadership, both missionary and Ugandan. In 1941, 26 Balokole were expelled from Bishop Tucker Theological College for “indiscipline.” They were led by a great evangelist, William Nagenda, and included some of the best educated and most promising ordinands. For a time it seemed as if the movement might break away from the Church. But this did not happen and by the 1950s the relationship between Church and Revival had become much more amicable. The 1950s probably saw the high point of the Balokole movement. It became in western Uganda the dominant form of Anglican Church life. In Buganda there was more resistance, especially as the Balokole often conflicted with a resurgent Buganda nationalism. Nevertheless, the Revival became an integral part of church life in Buganda too. Revival was taken to northern Uganda by a Muganda doctor called Lubulwa, who had quarreled with Nagenda and the leadership of Revival in Buganda. Here it often took a militantly anti-Anglican form, with the Strivers or Trumpeters, as they were called, attacking church members after or even during church services, using megaphones. These immoderate attacks made the Church very suspicious of the whole Revival movement. Nevertheless a moderate group did emerge there too. Both Archbishop Janani Luwum (an Acholi) and Archbishop Silvanus Wani (a Kakwa) combined loyalty to the Anglican Church with leadership in the Revival.

The fact that the very first Anglican Archbishop, Erica Sabiti, was also a pioneer or Revival in Ankole is an indication of how deeply the Revival movement has penetrated the whole life of the Anglican Church.

The Catholic Church [20]

As we have seen, the loss of political power early on in the colonial era did not mean a decline in evangelistic zeal for the Catholics. Unencumbered by aspirations for political power, they devoted their efforts to the more spiritual side of their work. Archbishop Henri Streicher (nicknamed Stensera) was leader of the White Father Vicariate in Uganda from 1897 to 1933 (and after his retirement remained in Uganda until his death in 1952). He did much to consolidate Catholics, to build up their institutions and to encourage priestly vocations. Buddu (in southwest Buganda) became an overwhelmingly Catholic county and a strong base for Catholicism throughout the country. Despite the long, arduous and essentially de-culturizing process of seminarian training, the first two Baganda were ordained in 1913: Bazilio Lumu and Viktoro Mukasa. In 1939 Uganda produced the first African Catholic bishop of modem times – Joseph Kiwanuka W.F., appointed Vicar Apostolic of Masaka.

The success of Ugandan Catholicism should not be measured only by the steady stream of priestly vocations. Lay orders were also established: the Bannakaroli (Brothers of Charles Lwanga) the Bannabikira (Sisters of the Virgin), founded by Mother Mechtilde of the White Sisters and the Little Sisters of St. Francis, founded by Mother Kevin. The fact that these local orders flourished rested on the strong foundations of a solid Catholic piety at village level. The Ugandan Catholic Church, particularly in Buganda, became surprisingly indigenized, long before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. At Villa Maria, the Catholic center in Buddu, an elaborate ritual was developed on the model of the Kabaka’s court. The Church was known as Twekobe (the place where the Kabaka dwells), and the Virgin Mary, as “Queen Mother” or Namasole was addressed as Naluggi (“She was the most effective door for seeking special royal favors”). There were other imaginative translations of Christian concepts into local terms, such as referring to a guardian angel as ow’omukago (a blood-brother).

“The mission that can produce martyrs can also produce priests,” Streicher had claimed. For laity too, the cult of the martyrs became an important aspect of their piety and remains one of the outstanding features of Ugandan Catholicism to this day.

If the success of Anglicanism lay in its ability to become part and parcel of the new political framework of Ugandan society, the success of Catholicism lay in its penetration into the fabric of village and peasant life.


Christianity in Uganda Since Independence Since Independence Uganda has gone through py history of conflict, turmoil, war and oppression. With the failure of D.P. to gain power in 1962, the Catholic Church was forced back into its pre-independence role as the church without political power. However, the exigencies of the situation have impelled the Catholic Church to adopt a much more critical stance towards successive governments. Both Archbishop Kiwanuka and his successor Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga have had occasion to speak out strongly on the abuse of human rights, speaking not only for Catholics but for all oppressed Ugandans. Under the impact of a common experience of suffering, the Catholic Church has managed to maintain an impressive unity of purpose and goal.

The Anglican Church (the Church of Uganda), in contrast, has reflected all the tensions and disunity which have characterized Ugandan society as a whole. The fact that a Protestant-dominated party came to power at Independence meant that a close relationship between the Church of Uganda and the state was bound to continue, however much Church leaders might try to distance themselves from the government, and however much the politicians stressed a secular, non-denominational nationalism. But the nation was becoming bitterly divided, especially with the abolition in 1967 of the Kingdom of Buganda and the other kingdoms and the declaration of a unitary state. The frustrations and animosities caused by these events found expression in conflict within the Church of Uganda. The coming to power of Amin in 1971 at first diffused the conflict. Even a common identity was achieved in the face of Amin’s repression, which culminated in the murder of the Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum in 1977. But the tragedy of Obote’s second term of office (1980-5) brought a return of conflict and bitterness.

Since religion has remained a strong factor in the conflicts of Uganda politics, Protestant-Catholic relations have often remained strained. Nevertheless in 1963 the Uganda Joint Christian Council was formed – a pioneer venture in world ecumenical relations between Catholics and Protestants. There has been co-operation in joint Christian education syllabuses for schools, and in Bible translation. Above all, Christians of both churches have been united in a “fellowship of suffering.” Christians of both churches have courageously witnessed to the truth at the cost of their lives: Ben Kiwanuka, Fr. Clement Kiggundu (editor of the Catholic newspaper, Munno), Archbishop Luwum, Rev. Godfrey Bazira (killed in the Namugongo massacre of 1984).

Independent churches have blossomed since 1962 (despite being banned by Amin). They tend to be a political, of a Pentecostal/charismatic type, some of American origin, but many truly indigenous, such as the Deliverance Church. They are rarely “traditionalist” in seeking consciously to indigenize their worship but the emphasis on spiritual healing does accord with a deeply felt traditional religious concern, as well as facing the modern reality of a breakdown of health services!

Despite the challenge of these new churches, the Anglican and Catholic Churches continue to retain the allegiance of an overwhelming majority of Ugandans. Their position has if anything been strengthened. For a period in the 1950s and 60s enthusiasm for the new politics often detracted from church participation. But with Amin’s seizure of power in 1971, the disintegration of the economy and of social services, the demise of political parties, the judiciary and the press, the insecurity of life and property, so the Church increased in importance, a refuge in times of trouble, a sign of hope. Prominent Ugandans who avoided death or exile threw their energies and resources into the Church. This has been a period of enthusiastic church building, the growth of parishes, the creation of dioceses – a response to local needs and concerns. But neither has the Church been immune from the general social disintegration. Corruption, personal rivalries, ethnic conflict have all been present in the Church also. Both church and state have an immense task of reconstruction. In the era of Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Movement, Christianity remains at the centre of Uganda society, both as a problem to be overcome and as an essential contributor to fundamental change.

1. The best account of Buganda in the 19th Century is S .M. Semukala Kiwanuka, A History of Buganda, London, 1971.
For a brilliant account of Muteesa’s reign, see J .A. Rowe, Revolution in Buganda 1856-1900. Part 1: The Reign of Kabaka Mukabya Mutesa, Ph.D. Wisconsin. Unfortunately this has never been published.

2. For the impact of world religions on Africa in the 19th Century, see the pioneering essay by Robin Horton, “African Conversion” in Africa, XLI, 1971. pp 85-108.
For the relevance of Horton’s ideas for East Africa, see J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, London, 1979.
For an important discussion of Kiganda traditional religion, see F.B. Welbourn, “Some Aspects of Kiganda Religion,” Uganda Journal, 1962, pp. 171-182 and F.X. Kyewalyanga, Traditional Religion, Custom and Christianity in Uganda, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1976.
For Islam see, A. Kasozi, N. King & A. Oded, Islam and the Confluence of Religions in Uganda 1840-1966, Florida, 1973.

3. Both the Centenary publications describe the coming of missionaries: T. Tuma & P. Mutibwa, A Century of Christianity in Uganda, Nairobi, 1978.
Y. Tourigny, So Abundant a Harvest, London, 1979.
For the rivalry between Mackay and Lourdel, see Mackay of Uganda, By his Sister, London, 1898 and K. Ward, “Catholic-Protestant Relations in Uganda: An Historical Perspective,” in African Theological Journal, Makumira, Tanzania, 1984.

4. J.V. Taylor, The Growth of the Church in Buganda, London, 1958, still provides an excellent account of the first converts.

5. The reasons for the Catholic withdrawal are discussed well in R. Heremans, L’Education dans les Missions des Peres Blancs en Afrique Centrale, Brussels, 1983, pp. 100-103.

6. The deaths of the three boys and the circumstances of Hannington’s death are well described in the contemporary account of the CMS missionary Robert Ashe. R. Ashe, Two Kings of Uganda, London, 1890.
The now classic work on the Catholic martyrs (but with attention to the Protestants too) is J.F. Faupel, African Holocaust, London, 1962. (Reprinted in paperback by St Paul’s Publications, Africa, 1984.)
L. Pirouet, Strong in the Faith, Kisubi, Uganda, 1969, is a good, popular account, with particular attention to the Protestant martyrs.

7. The story of the wars is brilliantly told by M. Wright, Buganda in the Heroid Age, London, 1971. J. Rowe, Lugard at Kampala, Makerere History Paper/3 Kampala, 1969, gives an equally graphic account of the period 1890-2.

8. The quotation of the British M.P. Labouchere can be found in M. Perham, Lugard. The Years of Adventure, London, 1956.
D.A. Low & R.C. Pratt, Buganda and British Overrule, London, 1960. H.P. Gale, Uganda and the Mill Hill Fathers, London, 1959.

9. The concept of a “Christian Revolution” is discussed in: C. Wrigley, “The Christian Revolution in Buganda,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, II, l, 1959, pp. 33-48.
D.A. Low, Buganda in Modern History, London, 1971, pp. 13-53. M. Twaddle, “The Muslim Revolution in Buganda,” African Affairs, 71, pp.54-72.

10. The basic books on the expansion of Christianity outside Buganda are:

– Louise Pirouet, Black Evangelists, London, 1978.
– A. Luck, African Saint: the Life of Apolo Kivebulaya, London, 1963.
– J. Nicolet, Yohaana Kitagaana: a Runyankore translation from the French, 1953, reprinted in Mbarara 1985.
– See also two articles in Leadership (magazine), Kisubi, Numbers 2 & 3, 1987.

11. D.M. Byabazaire, The Contribution of the Christian Churches to the Development of Western Uganda 1894-1974, Frankfort am. Main, 1979.
E. Maari, The Growth of the Anglican Church in Ankole, 1899-1951, unpublished M. Phil. degree, London, 1984.
M.R. Doornbos, “Kumanyana and Rwenzururu: two responses to ethnic inequality,” in R.I. Rotberg & A.A. Mazrui, Protest and Power in Black Africa, London, 1970 pp. 1088-1136.

12. See Gale op. cil. and Pirouet op. cit.
For Busoga, see T. Tuma, Building a Ugandan Church, Nairobi, 1980.
For a biography of Kakungulu see H.B. Thomas, “Capax Imperii –The Story of Simei Kakunguru,” Uganda Journal, 1939, pp. 125-36.

13. J.K. Russell, Men Without God? London, 1966.
Okot p’Bitek, “The Concept of Jok among the Acholi and Langi,” Uganda Journal, 1963, pp. 15-29.
J. Tosh, Clan leaders and Colonial Chiefs in Lango, London, 1977-8.

14. P. Ngologoza, Kigezi and its people, Nairobi, 1969.
S. Kermu, The Life and Times of Bishop Silvanus Wani, presented to ATIEA as a research paer for the BD, 1987.

15. H.B. Hanson, Mission, Church and State in a Colonial Setting, Uganda 1890-1925, London, 1984.
Leslie Brown, Three Worlds: One Word, London, 1981.

16. A. Wandira, Early Missionary Education in Uganda, Kampala, 1972.
For the economy see: J J. Jorgensen, Uganda, A Modern History, London, 1981.


The origins of the present Ugandan armed forces can be traced back to 1902, when the Uganda Battalion of the King’s African Rifles was formed. Ugandan soldiers fought as part of the King’s African Rifles during the First World War and Second World War. As Uganda moved toward independence, the army stepped up recruitment, and the government increased the use of the army to quell domestic unrest. The army was becoming more closely involved in politics, setting a pattern that continued after independence. In January 1960, for example, troops were deployed to Bugisu and Bukedi districts in the east to quell political violence. In the process, the soldiers killed twelve people, injured several hundred, and arrested more than 1,000. A series of similar clashes occurred between troops and demonstrators, and in March 1962 the government recognized the army’s growing domestic importance by transferring control of the military to the Ministry of Home Affairs.


On 9 October 1962 Uganda became independent from the United Kingdom, with 4th Battalion, King’s African Rifles, based at Jinja, becoming the Uganda Rifles. 6 The traditional leader of the Baganda, Edward Mutesa, became president of Uganda. 7 Milton Obote, a northerner and longtime opponent of autonomy for the southern kingdoms including Buganda, was prime minister. Mutesa recognized the seriousness of the rank-and-file demands for Africanising the officer corps, but he was more concerned about potential northern domination of the military, a concern that reflected the power struggle between Mutesa and Obote. Mutesa used his political power to protect the interests of his Baganda constituency, and he refused to support demands for Africanization of the officer ranks.

On 1 August 1962 the Uganda Rifles became the Uganda Army. The armed forces more than doubled, from 700 to 1,500, and the government created 2nd Battalion stationed at the northeastern town of Moroto, on 14 November 1963. Omara-Otunnu wrote in 1987 that “a large number of men had been recruited into the Army to form this new battalion, and.. the new recruits were not given proper training” because the Army was already heavily committed in its various operations. 9

In January 1964, following a mutiny by Tanganyikan soldiers in protest over their own Africanisation crisis, unrest spread throughout the Uganda Army. On 22 January 1964, soldiers of the 1st Battalion in Jinja mutinied to press their demands for a pay raise and a Ugandan officer corps. They also detained their British officers, several noncommissioned officers, and the minister of interior, Felix Onama, who had arrived in Jinja to represent government views to the rank and file. Obote appealed for British military support, hoping to prevent the mutiny from spreading to other parts of the country. About 450 British soldiers from 2nd Battalion, The Scots Guards and Staffordshire Regiment (elements of the 24th Infantry Brigade) responded, surrounded the First Battalion barracks at Jinja, seized the armory, and quelled the mutiny. The government responded two days later by dismissing several hundred soldiers from the army, several of whom were subsequently detained.

Although the authorities later released many of the detained soldiers and reinstated some in the army, the mutiny marked a turning point in civil-military relations. The mutiny reinforced the army’s political strength. Within weeks of the mutiny, the president’s cabinet also approved a military pay raise retroactive to 1 January 1964, more than doubling the salaries of those in private to staff-sergeant ranks. Additionally, the government raised defense allocations by 400 percent. The number of Ugandan officers increased from eighteen to fifty-five. Two northerners, Shaban Opolot and Idi Amin Dada, assumed command positions in the Uganda Rifles and later received promotions to Brigadier and commander in chief, and army chief of staff, respectively.

Following the 1964 mutiny, the government remained fearful of internal opposition. Obote moved the army headquarters approximately 54 miles (87 km) from Jinja to Kampala. He also created a secret police force, the General Service Unit (GSU) to bolster security. Most GSU employees guarded government offices in and around Kampala, but some also served in overseas embassies and other locations throughout Uganda. When British training programs ended, Israel started training Uganda’s army, air force, and GSU personnel. Several other countries also provided military assistance to Uganda.

..using classic ‘divide and rule’ tactics, he Obote appointed different foreign military missions to each battalion, scrambled operational chains of command, played the police off against the army, encouraged personal infighting between his main military “proteges” and removed from operational command of troops officers who appeared unreliable or too authoritative.”

When Congolese aircraft bombed the West Nile villages of Paidha and Goli on 13 February 1965, President Obote again increased military recruitment and doubled the army’s size to more than 4,500. Units established included a third battalion at Mubende, a signals squadron at Jinja, and an antiaircraft detachment. On 1 July 1965 six units were formed: a brigade reconnaissance, an army ordnance depot (seemingly located at Magamaga), a brigade signals squadron training wing, a records office, a pay and pensions office, and a Uganda army workshop.

Tensions rose in the power struggle over control of the government and the army and over the relationship between the army and the Baganda people. Shortly after February 1966, Amin was appointed Chief of the Army and Air Force Staff, while Brigadier Opolot was transferred to the Ministry of Defence as Chief of the Defence Staff. On 24 May 1966, Obote ousted Mutesa, assumed his offices of president and commander in chief, suspended the 1962 constitution, and consolidated his control over the military by eliminating several rivals. In October 1966 Opolot was dismissed from the army and detained under the emergency regulations then in force.

At about the same time, Obote abrogated the constitution, revoked Buganda’s autonomous status, and instructed the Army to attack the Kabaka’s palace, forcing the Kabaka to flee. Elections were cancelled. Political loyalties rather than military skill became critical amongst both officers and men. Many educated Southern officers were court-martialled or dismissed in 1966 and 1967, and ethnicity became the key factor in recruitment and promotions.


In 1970, the International Institute for Strategic Studies assessed the Ugandan armed forces to consist of 6,700 personnel, constituting an Army of 6,250 with two brigade groups, each of two battalions, plus an independent infantry battalion, with some Ferret armoured cars, and BTR-40 and BTR-152 armoured personnel carriers, plus an air arm of 450 with 12 Fouga Magister armed jet trainers, and seven MiG-15s and MiG-s.

In January 1971, Amin and his followers within the army seized power in the 1971 coup d’état.

Shortly after the expulsion of Asians in 1972, Obote launched a small invasion across the Tanzanian border into southwestern Uganda. His small army contingent in twenty-seven trucks set out to capture the southern Ugandan military post at Masaka but instead settled down to await a general uprising against Amin, which did not occur. A planned seizure of the airport at Entebbe by soldiers in an allegedly hijacked East African Airways passenger aircraft was aborted when Obote’s pilot blew out the aircraft’s tires and it remained in Tanzania. Amin was able to mobilize his more reliable Malire Mechanised Regiment and expel the invaders.

In 1976, during Operation Entebbe the Israeli military destroyed 12 MiG-21s and three MiG-s based at Entebbe Airport in order to prevent pursuit.

In 1977, before the Uganda–Tanzania War, the Ugandan armed forces were reported, by the IISS, as consisting of 20,000 land forces personnel, with two four-battalion brigades and five other battalions of various types, plus a training regiment. There were a total of 35 T-34, T-55, and M-4 Sherman medium tanks. An air arm was 1,000 strong with 21 MiG-21 and 10 MiG- combat aircraft. The IISS noted that the Ugandan armed forces collapsed in the face of the Tanzanian onslaught and the serviceable aircraft were removed to Tanzania.

After the Uganda–Tanzania War, fighters available to the new government numbered only the fewer than 1,000 troops who had fought alongside the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force (TPDF) to expel Amin. The army was back to the size of the original army at independence in 1962. Titularly, Colonel Tito Okello served as army commander and Colonel David Oyite Ojok as chief of staff,leading the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).

But in 1979, in an attempt to consolidate support for the future, such leaders as Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Major General (later Chief of Staff) David Oyite Ojok began to enroll thousands of recruits into what were rapidly becoming their private armies. Museveni’s 80 original soldiers grew to 8,000 Ojok’s original 600 became 24,000. When then-President Godfrey Binaisa sought to curb the use of these militias, which were harassing and detaining political opponents, he was overthrown in a military coup on 10 May 1980. The coup was engineered by Ojok, Museveni, and others acting under the general direction of Paulo Muwanga, Obote’s right-hand man and chair of the Military Commission. The TPDF was still providing necessary security while Uganda’s police force—which had been decimated by Amin—was rebuilt, but Nyerere refused to help Binaisa retain power. Many Ugandans claimed that although Nyerere did not impose his own choice on Uganda, he indirectly facilitated the return to power of his old friend and ally, Milton Obote. In any case, the Military Commission headed by Muwanga effectively governed Uganda during the six months leading up to the national elections of December 1980.

After the Museveni government was formed in 1986, a number of key Rwanda Patriotic Front personnel became part of the National Resistance Army that became Uganda’s new national armed forces. Fred Rwigyema was appointed deputy minister of defense and deputy army commander-in-chief, second only to Museveni in the military chain of command for the nation. Paul Kagame was appointed acting chief of military intelligence. Other Tutsi refugees were highly placed: Peter Baingana was head of NRA medical services and Chris Bunyenyezi was the commander of the 306th Brigade, while Adam Wasswa was the Commander of the 316th Brigade at Moroto in northern Uganda, Steven Ndugutse was commander of the 79th Battalion, and Sam Kaka was Military Police Commander. citation needed Tutsi refugees formed a disproportionate number of NRA officers for the simple reason that they had joined the rebellion early and thus had accumulated more experience.

Uganda People’s Defence Force

The National Resistance Army was renamed the Uganda People’s Defence Force following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. UPDF’s primary focus was the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group operating in the country’s northern region. Since March 2002 UPDF has been granted permission to carry out operating against LRA bases across the border in the Sudan, and these raids, collectively known as Operation Iron Fist, have resulted in the repatriation of many abducted children being held by the rebels as child soldiers or sex slaves. However the LRA fled Uganda and were pushed deep into the jungles of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (principally Orientale Province).

The UPDF has also been the subject of controversy for having a minimum age for service of 13. Many international organizations have condemned this as being military use of children. This has created an image problem for the UPDF and may have impacted the international aid Uganda receives. Western nations have sent a limited level of military aid to Uganda. “Between 1990 and 2002, the army payroll had at least 18,000 ghost soldiers, according to a report by General David Tinyefuza.

The problem continued in 2003, when there was a severe problem of ‘ghost’ soldiers within the UPDF. As of 2008, these personnel problems has been exacerbated by the surge of UPDF troops resigning to go to work with the Coalition Forces in Iraq. They mostly work as an additional guard force at control points and dining facilities, for example.

Prior to 2000, the United States armed forces trained together with the UPDF as part of the African Crisis Response Initiative. This cooperation was terminated in 2000 as a result of Uganda’s incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Following the June 2003 UPDF withdrawal of troops from the DRC, limited nonlethal military assistance has restarted. The UPDF participates in the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance programme with the United States.

After several interventions in the Congo, the UPDF was involved in a further incursion there from December 2008, stretching into February 2009, against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Garamba area. UPDF special forces and artillery, supported by aircraft, were joined by the Congolese FARDC and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Called ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ by the UPDF, it was commanded by Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, commander of 3rd Division.


The UPDF currently has more than 6,000 soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The force commander in 2009, Ugandan Major General Nathan Mugisha, was wounded in a car bomb attack on September 2009 which left nine soldiers dead, including his second in command the Burundian Major General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza. The current force commander is the Ugandan Lieutenant General Andrew Gutti. 30

The United States has provided extensive training for UPDF contingents headed for Somalia. In the first half of 2012, Force Recon Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defense Force. In addition, a significant amount of support to AMISOM has been provided by private companies. “Bancroft Global Development, headquartered on Washington’s Embassy Row, employs about 40 South African and European trainers who work with AMISOM’s Ugandan and Burundian troops. Bancroft director Michael Stock told The EastAfrican that these mentors are embedded with AMISOM units in Mogadishu and southern and central Somalia. They coach commanders on how to predict and defeat the tactics which foreign fighters bring from outside East Africa and teach to al-Shabaab.” Bancroft “does not receive funding directly from the US government but is instead paid by AMISOM, which is then reimbursed by the State Department for these outlays.” The Associated Press reported that Bancroft has been paid $12.5 million for its work in Somalia since 2008.

On 12 August 2012, two Ugandan Mil Mi-24s flying from Entebbe across Kenya to Somalia crashed in rugged terrain in Kenya. They were found two days later, burned out, with no likely survivors from the 10 Ugandan servicemen on board the two helicopters. Another aircraft from the same flight crashed on Mount Kenya, and all seven Ugandan servicemen on board were rescued a day later. The aircraft were supporting AMISOM in the ongoing Somali Civil War. An accompanying Mil Mi- transport helicopter landed without problems in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa near the Somali border for a scheduled refuelling stop.


Uganda has been an acceptably safe travel destination ever since Museveni took power in 1986. Relative stability has returned to Northern Uganda with the departure of the LRA in 2006. Recent LRA activity has been restricted to the remote region of Garamba National Park in the DRC.

With the improvement in infrastructure and the political stability, Uganda is developing to be one of the world’s top safari destinations. Both the Government and the local communities appreciate the benefits of tourism and want to share ‘The Pearl of Africa’ with visitors. Although, as with any travel, whether in your own country or another, a little bit of common sense is required, for example, use the safes provided in the accommodations, don’t wear or bring your most treasured belongings or valuables with you and listen to the advice and instructions of your guide.


Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD) was founded in 1998 as an autonomous umbrella body composed of individual Persons with Physical Disabilities (PWPDs) and their District Associations in Uganda. The main aim of forming UNAPD was to forge unity among PWPDs, advocate for their rights, fight their marginalization, educate them on their rights and ensure they are represented at all levels and uplift their standard of living. Ultimately UNAPD visualizes “a society where persons with physical disabilities live with dignity”.

The mission of UNAPD is “to advance member efforts in removing barriers that prevent persons with physical disabilities from enjoying rights through advocacy, capacity building and networking”. To achieve our purpose, since the founding of UNAPD, we have undertaken a series of policy and structural transformations in response to the reality of our member’s existence and needs. All our programmes have been implemented through well thought and inclusively developed strategic and annual work plans.

The Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD) is an indigenous, non-partisan, non-political, non-religious, gender-inclusive and democratic organisation in Uganda (East Africa) that brings together Persons with Physical Disabilities (PWPD). It is a membership organisation started in 1998 by and for PWPD to create a common voice in airing views, challenges, and advocacy for the rights of PWPD.

Watch the video: How Dictators Killed the Democracy. History of Uganda 1962-2021 (October 2022).

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