Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents


Conditions of Service

After independence, several national leaders relied on ethnic quotas or preferences to fill the security services with those they believed could be trusted. Thus, during the 1960s, President Obote recruited many Langi soldiers from his home area in the north. During the 1970s, recruits from Idi Amin Dada's home region of the northwest dominated the rank and file at the expense of Acholi and Langi soldiers, many of whom were purged. In 1980 President Yusuf Lule, a Muganda, adopted a quota system to increase recruits from the south and allowed soldiers from Amin's home area to be harassed or expelled from the army. In the late 1980s, President Museveni attempted to halt this cycle of ethnic-based recruitment. He sought to recruit men from all regions, reduce the army's political role, and strengthen its image as a national security force. However, even this program of eliminating preferences created a backlash against attempts to achieve equitable regional and ethnic representation in the military.

Military pay, living conditions, and benefits varied widely under Uganda's diverse regimes. Under the British, military pay usually paralleled private-sector wages. After independence, however, life for the common soldier became desperate, and increasingly so in the 1970s and 1980s. Soldiers sometimes mutinied because of nondelivery of food and pay. Officers and enlisted personnel sometimes survived by relying on theft, extortion, or bribery.

In 1986 the government vowed to improve living conditions for military personnel. Museveni instituted pay reforms and punished soldiers found guilty of theft or bribery, but in the late 1980s, the common soldier's life remained difficult. Despite claims of high professional standards among government officials and military officers, many soldiers were not being paid regularly and discontent in the military was growing.

Uganda's military justice system deteriorated during the 1970s. The Code of Service Discipline, which was incorporated into the Armed Services Act of 1964, had defined offenses and punishments and upheld military standards. It also laid down regulations governing trial and court-martial procedures in military courts. During the 1970s, however, military justice became subject to the whims of the authorities. Military personnel were often imprisoned or executed for poor performance or disloyalty, but in perhaps as many cases, military misconduct went unpunished. Conditions failed to improve during the Lule and Binaisa regimes of 1979 and 1980, respectively, nor did they improve during the second Obote regime from 1980 to 1985. In the late 1980s, Museveni tried to restore confidence in the military justice system among soldiers and civilians. Military tribunals tried members of the armed forces for crimes against civilians, and the government arrested and tried soldiers for thefts and assaults on civilians. In a few cases, soldiers were executed for these crimes.

Data as of December 1990