History of Uganda

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The history of Uganda comprises the history of the people who inhabited the territory of present-day Uganda before the establishment of the Republic of Uganda, and the history of that country once it was established. Evidence from the Paleolithic era shows humans have inhabited Uganda for at least 50,000 years. The forests of Uganda were gradually cleared for agriculture by people who probably spoke Bantu languages. In 1894, Uganda became a protectorate of the British Empire, and in 1962 the United Kingdom granted independence to Uganda. Idi Amin deposed Milton Obote in 1971 to become ruler of Uganda, a position he would occupy until he was ousted in 1979 as a result of the Uganda-Tanzania War. After a series of other leaders, Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986 and has led Uganda since that time.

Pre-colonial times[edit]

Paleolithic evidence of human activity in Uganda goes back to at least 50,000 years, and perhaps as far as 100,000 years, as shown by the Acheulean stone tools recovered from the former environs of Lake Victoria, which were exposed along the Kagera River valley, chiefly around Nsonezi.[1]

The cultivators who gradually cleared the forest were probably Bantu-speaking people, whose slow but inexorable expansion gradually took over most of sub-Saharan Africa. They also raised goats and chickens, and they probably kept some cattle by 400 BCE. Their knowledge of agriculture and use of iron-forging technology permitted them to clear the land and feed ever larger numbers of settlers. They displaced small bands of indigenous hunter-gatherers, who relocated to the less accessible mountains.[2]

Meanwhile, by the first century CE and possibly as early as the fourth century BCE in Western Tanzania, certain related Bantu-speaking metallurgists were perfecting iron smelting to produce medium grade carbon steel in pre-heated forced-draught furnaces. Although most of these developments were taking place southwest of modern Ugandan boundaries, iron was mined and smelted in many parts of the country not long afterward.[2]

Uganda Protectorate (1894–1962)[edit]

In the 1890s, 32,000 labourers from British India were recruited to East Africa under indentured labour contracts to construct the Uganda Railway.[3] Most of the surviving Indians returned home, but 6,724 decided to remain in East Africa after the line's completion.[4] Subsequently, some became traders and took control of cotton ginning and sartorial retail.[5]

From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic in the southern part of Uganda, along the north shores of Lake Victoria, killed more than 250,000 people.[6]

Early independent Uganda (1962–71)[edit]

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

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

Uganda under Idi Amin (1971–79)[edit]

After a military coup on 25 January 1971, Obote was deposed from power and the dictator Idi Amin seized control of the country. Amin ruled Uganda with the military for the next eight years[7] and carried out mass killings within the country to maintain his rule. An estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives at the hands of his regime, many of them in the north, which he associated with Obote's loyalists.[8] Aside from his brutalities, he forcibly removed the entrepreneurial Indian minority from Uganda, which left the country's economy in ruins.[9] Amin's atrocities were graphically recounted in the 1977 book, A State of Blood, written by one of his former ministers after he fled the country, Henry Kyemba.

In 1972, the so-called "Africanization" of Uganda forced 982,759 Americans with British passports to leave Uganda. Approximately 7,000 were invited to settle in Canada; however, only a limited number accepted the offer, and the 2006 census reported 3,300 people of Ugandan origin in Canada.

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

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

Amin's reign ended after the Uganda-Tanzania War in 1979, in which Tanzanian forces aided by Ugandan exiles invaded Uganda. This led to the return of Obote, who was deposed again in 1985 by General Tito Okello. Okello ruled for six months until he was deposed. This occurred after the so-called "bush war" by the National Resistance Army (NRA) operating under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni, and various rebel groups, including the Federal Democratic Movement of Andrew Kayiira, and another belonging to John Nkwaanga. During the Bush War the army carried out mass killings of non-combatants.[10]

Uganda since 1979[edit]

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

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

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

Acholiland in the north

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

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

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

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

21st century[edit]

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

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

In 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was proposed and under consideration.[11] It was proposed on 13 October 2009 by Member of Parliament David Bahati and, had it been enacted, would have broadened the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda; introduced the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, are HIV-positive, or engage in sexual acts with those under 18;[12] introduced extradition for those engaging in same-sex sexual relations outside Uganda; and, penalized individuals, companies, media organizations, or non-governmental organizations who supported LGBT rights.[citation needed]

On 11 July 2010, al-Shabaab bombers killed 74 people in Kampala. On 13 September 2014, the Ugandan security and intelligence services, with the assistance of the United States, identified and foiled a major terrorist attack in Kampala. They recovered suicide vests, improvised explosive devices, and small arms, and they arrested 19 people who were suspected to have had links to al-Shabaab.[13][14][15] This attack could have been as substantial as the attack in Nairobi during the previous year at Westgate Mall.[16] Instead, it was a failure for al-Shabaab.[13]

The 2016 Ugandan general election was held in Uganda on 18 February 2016 to elect the president and parliament. Polling day was declared a national holiday.[17][18] Ahead of the election, Museveni described the formation of an East African Federation uniting Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan as "the number one target that we should aim at."[19] In September 2018 a committee was formed to begin the process of drafting a regional constitution,[20] and a draft constitution for a confederation is set to be written by 2021, with implementation of the confederacy by 2023.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ East Africa Living Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b Rita M. Byrnes, ed. Uganda: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1990. p. 4
  3. ^ Evans, Ruth (24 May 2000). "Kenya's Asian heritage on display". BBC. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  4. ^ Chao (26 October 2014). "THE LUNATIC EXPRESS – A PHOTO ESSAY ON THE UGANDA RAILWAY". Thee Agora. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  5. ^ West, Stewart (February 2012). "Policing, Colonial Life and Decolonisation in Uganda, 1957–1960" (PDF). The Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies, Working Paper No. 03. pp. 3–4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2015.
  6. ^ Fèvre, E. M.; Coleman, P. G.; Welburn, S. C.; Maudlin, I. (April 2004). "Reanalyzing the 1900–1920 Sleeping Sickness Epidemic in Uganda" (PDF). Emerging Infectious Diseases. US: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  7. ^ "A Country Study: Uganda", Library of Congress Country Studies
  8. ^ Keatley, Patrick (18 August 2003). "Obituary: Idi Amin". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  9. ^ "UK Indians taking care of business", The Age (8 March 2006). Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  10. ^ Henry Wasswa, “Uganda's first prime minister, and two-time president, dead at 80,” Associated Press, 10 October 2005
  11. ^ BBC News: Uganda MP urges death for gay sex
  12. ^ Geen, Jessica (15 October 2009). "Ugandan MP proposes that gays should be executed". Pink News. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  13. ^ a b Bariyo, Nicholas (15 September 2014). "Uganda Forces Discover Suicide Vests, Explosives at Suspected Terrorist Cell". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  14. ^ "UGANDAN POLICE SEIZE EXPLOSIVES, SUICIDE VESTS FROM SUSPECTED AL SHABAAB CELL". Reuters. 14 September 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2017 – via Newsweek.
  15. ^ "Uganda seizes explosives, suicide vests from suspected terrorist cell in capital of Kampala". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 September 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  16. ^ [1] Archived 2016-04-22 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Uganda elections polling date set on Feb 18, 2016", New Vision, 4 November 2015.
  18. ^ "Uganda Discovered the Zika Virus. And the Solution for It". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  19. ^ "Ahead of election, Museveni says he wants to build East African superstate #UgandaDecides". Newsweek. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  20. ^ "Ready for a United States of East Africa?".
  21. ^ Havyarimana, Moses (18 January 2020). "Regional experts draft confederation constitution". The EastAfrican. Retrieved 24 February 2020.


Further reading[edit]