Ugandan Bush War

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Ugandan Bush War
Date 6 February 1981 – 25 January 1986
Location Uganda
Result National Resistance Army victory
Uganda National Liberation Army National Resistance Army
Supported by:
Commanders and leaders
Milton Obote
Tito Okello
David Oyite-Ojok
Smith Opon Acak
Bazilio Olara-Okello
Yoweri Museveni
Salim Saleh
Steven Kashaka
Joram Muguma
Pecos Kuteesa
Fred Rwigyema
Casualties and losses

The Ugandan Bush War, also known as the Luwero War, the Ugandan civil war or the Resistance War, refers to the guerrilla war waged between 1981 and 1986 in Uganda by the National Resistance Army (NRA) under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni against the government of Milton Obote, and later that of Tito Okello.

The war[edit]

After defeat in what he called fraudulent[citation needed] elections in 1979, Museveni and his supporters assembled in the southwest of the country and formed the Popular Resistance Army (PRA). The PRA later merged with former president Yusuf Lule's group, the Uganda Freedom Fighters, to create the NRA and its political wing, the National Resistance Movement.[7]

At the same time, the military wing of the Uganda National Liberation Front, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), fought remnants of Idi Amin's supporters. They had formed the Uganda National Rescue Front and the Former Uganda National Army to the north in the country's West Nile sub-region.[8]

Paul Kagame and other Rwandan exiles in Uganda (who later formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front) allied with Museveni's NRA. Kagame had been trained in Tanzania as a spy and later became Museveni's counter-intelligence chief.[9][10]

Hostilities in the south began on 6 February 1981, with an NRA attack on an army installation in the central Mubende District. Museveni was familiar with guerrilla warfare. He fought with the Mozambican Liberation Front in Mozambique, and with his own Front for National Salvation, which was formed in Tanzania to fight the Amin regime, and had continued to campaign in rural areas hostile to Obote's government, especially central and western Buganda and in the western regions of Ankole and Bunyoro.[11]

Most of the battles involved small mobile units called "coys" under the command of Fred Rwigyema, and Museveni's brother, Salim Saleh. "A" Coy was led by Steven Kashaka, "B" Coy by Joram Mugume, and "C" Coy by Pecos Kuteesa. There were three small zonal forces – Lutta Unit operating in Kapeeka, Kabalega Unit operating near Kiwoko, and Nkrumah Unit operating in the areas of Ssingo.[12]

Human rights abuses[edit]

The ranks of the UNLA included many ethnic Acholi and Lango, who had themselves been the victims of Amin's genocidal purges in northern Uganda. Despite this, the UNLA under Obote targeted and abused civilians, reminiscent of Amin's own abuses. These included the forced removal of 750,000 civilians from the area of the then Luweero District, including present-day Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, and others. They were moved into refugee camps controlled by the military. Many civilians outside the camps, in what came to be known as the "Luweero triangle", were continuously abused as "guerrilla sympathizers". Amnesty International has estimated that by July 1985, the Obote regime had been responsible for more than 300,000 civilian deaths across Uganda.

The NRA also committed atrocities. They used land mines against civilians. Child soldiers were widespread in the NRA's ranks, and continued to be after the NRA had become the regular Ugandan army.[13]


  1. ^ Gberie, Lansana (2005). A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone. London: Hurst & Company. ISBN 1-85065-742-4. 
  2. ^ Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (30 July 2009). "WHO FOUGHT? Chihandae supplied 16 of the first 27 NRA guns". The Observer. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  3. ^ Encarta, Microsoft Encarta '95.
  4. ^ Eckhardt, William, in World Military and Social Expenditures 1987–88 (12th ed., 1987) by Ruth Leger Sivard.
  5. ^ Henry Wasswa, "Uganda's first prime minister, and two-time president, dead at 80," Associated Press, 10 October 2005
  6. ^ Jacob Bercovitch and Richard Jackson, International Conflict: A Chronological Encyclopedia of Conflicts and Their Management 1945–1995 (1997)
  7. ^ "A Country Study: The Ten-Point Program", Library of Congress Country Studies
  8. ^ "Peace and conflict in northern Uganda 2002-06 (2010)". 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "". 
  11. ^ "A Country Study: The Second Obote Regime: 1981–85", Library of Congress Country Studies
  12. ^ Dr Kizza besigye, "We fought for what was right", The Monitor, 1 July 2004
  13. ^ Uganda, Landmine Monitor Report, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, May 2004