Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents


Chapter 5. National Security


Traditional shield and spear

SINCE INDEPENDENCE IN 1962, Uganda has been plagued by recurring cycles of political upheaval, lawlessness, and civil war. The armed forces had played a significant role in political and social development throughout much of the twentieth century. In the years leading up to independence and for several years after that, military and civilian leaders competed for control. Civilian political institutions were unable to end the regional strife that plagued Uganda, and as they were also unable to address the basic economic and social needs of their citizens, popular support for the idea of military rule increased.

Under Idi Amin Dada's military regime (1971-79), several hundred thousand Ugandans died, many of them as a result of human rights violations by security forces. The violence, together with the practice of using the military to protect presidential wealth and power, destroyed Ugandan society. Amin's aggressive foreign policy also heightened tensions with neighboring states, and in 1979, Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere ordered his troops to invade Uganda, and the ensuing conflict led to Amin's downfall.

Milton Obote's second term as president, from 1980 to 1985, followed a period of transition and nationwide elections that renewed hopes for democratic rule. Obote nonetheless failed to restore peace or stability, and as insurgent groups proliferated, the government unleashed another reign of terror against the civilian population. After a succession of short-lived regimes, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) seized power in 1986 and pledged to end the political upheaval. But the military had changed from a standing force to a loose coalition of former rebel armies, and these groups continued to engage in military and political rivalries. By 1990 it was clear that economic and social reconstruction would be slowed by ethnicbased rivalries and rebel opposition well into the decade.

Data as of December 1990