West Nile Bank Front

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West Nile Bank Front
Dates of operation1988 – c. 1997
Split fromUganda People's Democratic Army
HeadquartersMorobo (until 1997)[3]
Active regionsNorthern Uganda, southern Sudan, northeastern DR Congo
WebsiteWar in Uganda (1986–1994)
Post-1994 insurgency in northern Uganda
First Congo War
Second Sudanese Civil War

The West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) was an Ugandan rebel group under the command of Juma Oris.


Formed by ex-Uganda Army soldiers who remained loyal to Idi Amin,[4] the group's exact foundation is unclear. Its first reported activity was in 1988.[5] It became active as proper insurgent force from 1994.[6] However, one ex-fighter of the group stated that the WNBF was founded in 1995. It appears to have been a West Nile offshoot of the Uganda People's Democratic Army and recruited primarily in Koboko County, Arua and Obongi, Moyo.[7] One prominent associate of the WNBF was Isaac Lumago.[8]

It was active up through the end of the First Congo War in 1997, fighting from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo against the Uganda People's Defense Force. The WNBF worked at destabilizing northern Uganda. It was responsible for many kidnappings and violent raids, and had similar goals and tactics to the Lord's Resistance Army. While it had initially recruited with promises of generous pay, which proved to be false, it eventually turned to forced recruitment to replenish its ranks. The brutal tactics of the WNBF, including the laying of landmines, made it lose popular support in the region. They were in competition for popular support with the rebel Uganda National Rescue Front II that was operating in the same region simultaneously.

The fortunes of the WNBF did not really change until UPDF Major General Katumba Wamala arrived in 1996 and initiated a policy of civil-military cooperation. He has stated:

Seeing that the people didn’t support the war, my approach was to reach out to them and deny the enemy fertile ground to work on. So I had to combine a military approach with a political strategy... Rather than just sitting in the barracks, I decided to go out and spend time with the communities to work on calling the rebels back. It was very important that we never mistreated reporters (people who reported on rebel activity), so we built up trust.1

By working through local and traditional authority structures and enforcing a measured approach to the counter-insurgency, Wamala earned the trust of much of the populace and was able to arrange for numerous rebels to return to their former lives. This diplomatic initiative was coupled by military pressure upon WNBF bases in Southern Sudan by the Ugandan-backed Sudan People's Liberation Army. Amid Operation Thunderbolt (1997), the last WNBF bases in Sudan were destroyed at a major battle at Kaya in which the SPLA, UPDF and several Congolese armed groups took part. Its leader Juma Oris was wounded, and the group splintered. By late 1997, the WNBF was no longer capable of significant activity.[9]



  1. ^ Faustin Mugabe (14 May 2016). "I was condemned for being 'Amin's' soldier". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Robert Elema (3 March 2018). "Government agrees to pay veterans". West Nile Web. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Marching to Juba". Africa Confidential. 11 April 1997. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  4. ^ Golooba-Mutebi 2008, p. 17.
  5. ^ Lewis 2017, p. 1431.
  6. ^ Day 2011, p. 447.
  7. ^ "Negotiating Peace: Resolution of Conflicts in Uganda's West Nile Region" (PDF). Refugee Law Project. Refugee Law Project Working Paper No. 12: 14. June 2004.
  8. ^ "Taban Amin returns". New Vision. 27 October 2003. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  9. ^ Day 2011, p. 451–452.

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