Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents


World War II

World War II again revolutionized the military. The colonial administration recruited 77,131 Ugandans to serve in nine infantry units, two field artillery batteries, and several auxiliary battalions. Ugandans served outside Africa for the first time, seeing action in the occupation of Madagascar in opposition to the Vichy government in France and the reconquest of Burma from the Japanese. In addition, Ugandans helped defeat the Italians in Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) and worked as part of a military labor force in Egypt and the Middle East. They also garrisoned at Mauritius and Diego Suarez near Madagascar and helped build defenses in Mombasa, Kenya. As in World War I, Ugandan soldiers made important contributions to the war effort and received many awards, including the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Medal, and the Member of the British Empire Medal.

Following the allied victory in 1945, protectorate officials again reduced the army's size, demobilizing 55,595 of the Ugandan troops by March 1948. The remainder belonged to the Fourth Battalion. During the late 1940s, Ugandan troops deployed to British Somaliland and Kenya to contain local uprisings. In the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, Ugandans served in the Kenyan towns of Nakuru, Kinangop, Fort Hall, and Nyeri. As independence approached in both nations in the 1960s, Ugandans participated in joint police-army sweeps against cattle rustlers in northwest Kenya.

In 1948 the British established the East Africa High Commission to administer the three possessions (Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia) as one territory. The military arm of the High Commission, the East African Defence Committee, coordinated their military policies, but the War Office in London retained ultimate responsibility for military affairs. In 1957 the High Commission assumed all responsibility for administering East Africa's military organizations and changed the name of the King's African Rifles to the East African Land Forces. This unification scheme was shortlived, however, and in 1958 Uganda's Legislative Council created the Military Council to help Uganda's governor administer the army's finances and returned responsibility for the military to London.

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, army troops 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.

After Uganda achieved independence in October 1962, British officers retained most high-level military commands. Ugandans in the rank and file claimed this policy blocked promotions and kept their salaries disproportionately low. These complaints eventually destabilized the armed forces, already weakened by ethnic divisions. Each postindependence regime expanded the size of the army, usually by recruiting from among people of one region or ethnic group, and each government employed military force to subdue political unrest. These trends often alienated local populations where nationalist sentiment was already low.

Data as of December 1990