Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents




Ugandan soldiers, seven and ten years old, on patrol, 1986
Courtesy UNICEF (Yann Gamblin)


Twelve-year-old Ugandan soldier on a march between Kampala and Luwero, 1986
Courtesy UNICEF (Yann Gamblin)

The armed forces have played a significant role in Uganda's political and social development throughout much of the twentieth century. In the years leading up to independence, however, and for the first few years after independence, the army and civilian leaders competed for control of state decision making. In the 1970s, this power struggle culminated in a military government, and President Amin used the increasingly ill-disciplined army and other security forces to secure his own power and wealth. Then in the early 1980s, the army changed from a standing force to a coalition of rebel armies. As these groups engaged in their own military and political rivalries, military discipline declined even further. Some Ugandans described the military as little more than a rabble preying on the civilian population.

In part because of the army's reputation for poor discipline, many Ugandans viewed Museveni's 1986 accession to power with skepticism. Although he promised to restore stability, end human rights violations, and use the armed forces to implement social, political, and economic reforms, opposition to the regime persisted. The NRA nonetheless ushered in several important political changes, the most significant of which was the introduction of grass-roots political organizations, or resistance councils (RCs; see Local Administration , ch. 4). RC members, elected at the village level and several administrative levels above the village, were ultimately responsible to the National Resistance Council (NRC). Officials claimed this move marked the beginning of an effort to build democratic institutions and the end of state terrorism.

For many people, the most optimistic development under NRA rule was the promise to end the military's abuse of civilians. Museveni implemented a Code of Military Conduct which required soldiers to respect civilians' personal and property rights, and directed army units to assist farmers in civic action programs. Museveni also directed NRA officers to reduce the army's dependence on the civilian economy and to increase NRA selfsufficiency by raising cattle and cultivating cotton and corn on farmland set aside for army use at Kasese and Kiryandongo. These directives have increased popular support for the government, but have not restored the army's tarnished image in most areas of Uganda.

Data as of December 1990