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Foreign Assistance in the 1960s and 1970s

During the years immediately after independence, Ugandan ties with Britain remained strong. Uganda was a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and maintained civil service, judiciary, and educational systems organized according to British institutions. A number of British military personnel remained in Uganda, including the commander of the Ugandan Army, and each year two Ugandan students were admitted to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. In 1964 Uganda called on British troops to help suppress a mutiny staged primarily by Baganda soldiers, but Ugandans soon objected to the continued British military presence, and the troops were withdrawn later that year.

Although relations with Britain remained important, Uganda broadened its foreign military relations during the 1960s. Israel, China, and the Soviet Union substantially increased military assistance. Israel and Uganda established diplomatic ties in 1962, and the two nations soon concluded agreements to train Ugandan intelligence, police, military, and paramilitary personnel. In August 1963, four Ugandans qualified as pilots on a Piper Super Cub in Israel. By 1965 Tel Aviv was equipping Uganda's security services, supplying small arms, light artillery pieces, and other equipment, and providing Israeli military instructors in Uganda. Israel also helped establish the Ugandan Air Force and equipped it with Piper Super Cub and Piaggio aircraft. After Congolese (Zairian) aircraft bombed western Ugandan villages in 1965, Israel furnished Uganda with six armed Fouga Magister jet trainers and three DC-3 Dakota transport aircraft. Tel Aviv also established training schools for Ugandan pilots, artillery officers, and paratroopers. By early 1967, Israel had seconded approximately fifty instructors to support this training effort, supplementing nonmilitary assistance for agricultural development and a variety of construction projects.

The government of China hoped to block Tel Aviv's efforts to gain a foothold in Africa because of Israel's pro-Western orientation. To neutralize Israeli influence, Beijing supplied a range of economic and military assistance to Kampala, but this effort was short-lived. In 1965 the Chinese granted Uganda US$1 million and provided a US$4 million interest-free loan. Beijing also sent some small arms and a military aid mission to Uganda. In late 1967, after Ugandan officers complained that the Chinese mission was "engaging in revolutionary activity" and distributing lapel buttons displaying the picture of Mao Zedong, President Obote asked the mission to leave the country.

In contrast to China's relatively minor role in Uganda, the Soviet Union eventually became one of Kampala's closest allies. Soviet weapons deliveries to Uganda began after the two countries signed a military agreement in July 1965. Under the terms of this agreement, Moscow trained more than 250 Ugandan army personnel, 20 pilots, and 50 air force technicians and mechanics. In addition, the Soviet Union supplied a squadron of two MiG-15 and four MiG-17F fighter-interceptors, airport ground support, and military maintenance facilities, ground-to-ground and ground-to- air radio communication equipment, artillery pieces, and military trucks. All this matériel was free of charge, but Uganda had to pay for spare parts and ammunition purchased after that. By the end of 1967, twenty-five Soviet advisers were in Uganda helping to integrate this equipment into the Ugandan security services.

During the 1970s, the Soviet Union expanded its influence by increasing military assistance. In July 1972, a Ugandan military delegation visited Moscow and arranged to take delivery of a variety of weapon systems, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles, transport aircraft, helicopters, marine patrol boats, field engineering equipment, MiG-21s, and radar. The next major Soviet arms deliveries were in 1974 and 1975, when Uganda obtained more than US$500 million in equipment. Significant items included 12 MiG-21s, 8 MiG-17s, 60 T-34/T-54 tanks, 100 armored personnel carriers, 50 antiaircraft guns, 200 antitank missiles, 850 bombs and rockets, 9 radar units, 2 Mi-8 helicopters, 250 surface-to-air missiles, 6 patrol boats, 6 mobile bridges, an unknown number of trucks and jeeps, and quantities of ammunition, spare parts, and test equipment. In addition, between 1973 and 1975, more than 700 Ugandan military personnel received training in the Soviet Union, while more than 100 Soviet instructors managed a variety of training programs in Uganda.

Ugandan-Soviet relations cooled in 1975, when Amin expelled the Soviet ambassador because of a disagreement over Moscow's intervention in Angola. In July 1976, Israel launched a raid on the airport at Entebbe that freed passengers who had been taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists. Embarrassed and threatened, Amin improved relations with the Soviet Union. Moscow resumed arms shipments and signed a series of technical and cultural protocols with Kampala, but ties became strained once again as the Amin regime began to deteriorate in the late 1970s.

When Tanzania invaded Uganda in 1979, a decline in Soviet military assistance forced Amin to look to Libya and, to a lesser extent, the PLO for support. Tripoli responded by sending large quantities of arms to Uganda, including three BM-21 "Stalin organ" rocket launchers and a Soviet-built Tu-22 bomber, which were used to bomb Tanzanian positions throughout southern Uganda. In addition, Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi sent approximately 2,000 poorly trained members of the Libyan militia to Uganda. Several hundred PLO guerrillas also took part in the unsuccessful fight to save the Amin regime, which fell in April 1979.

Data as of December 1990

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