Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents



Uganda's relations with Sudan have been strained, primarily because of long-standing problems with refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an estimated 500,000 Ugandans fled to Sudan between 1978 and 1988. After Sudan's civil war began to intensify in 1983, several thousand Sudanese--perhaps tens of thousands--fled to northern Uganda. Resolving even basic logistical problems caused by the movement of so many people proved difficult, especially for two governments beset by economic crises. To help ease the situation, Khartoum and Kampala in April 1988 signed a memorandum in which they agreed to repatriate approximately 60,000 Ugandan refugees from Sudan. Those who refused repatriation were to be moved to camps well inside Sudan to prevent them from participating in cross-border raids into Uganda.

In June 1988, Uganda claimed that the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which opposed the government in Khartoum, had intruded into Arua and Moyo districts in the northwest. According to Ugandan officials, SPLA troops assaulted, kidnapped, and murdered civilians. They also burned and looted several villages, apparently in search of food and supplies. To lessen the resulting tensions, the Ugandan-Sudanese Joint Ministerial Commission in September 1988 issued a statement addressing problems of security, trade, customs, health, transport, telecommunications, and wildlife conservation, and the two governments pledged to work toward cooperation.

In November 1988, the UNHCR announced that the UN had repatriated 11,000 Ugandans, and the UNHCR reiterated the understanding that Ugandan refugees still in Sudan would be located well inside the border but could return home in small groups whenever they wished. The UN also carried out a two-month emergency foodlift from Entebbe to Juba in southern Sudan and delivered 5,000 tons of supplies to famine victims. UN aircraft also ferried emergency humanitarian supplies provided by the Catholic Relief Services and the Norwegian Church Aid.

Despite the substantial efforts of the Ugandan and Sudanese governments and international relief agencies, the refugee problem continued to overshadow relations between Uganda and Sudan. In February 1989, the UNHCR determined that about 15,000 Ugandan refugees still in Sudan were waiting to return to Uganda. Almost 18,000 Sudanese refugees remained in northwest Uganda, and that number was increasing rapidly in response to Sudan's continuing civil war. Providing food, shelter, water, medical assistance, and transportation for this growing number of refugees threatened to drain both resources and energy from the Ugandan and Sudanese governments for several more years.

Despite Uganda's attempts to contribute to a peaceful solution to the Sudanese civil war and the conclusion of a barter trade agreement with Sudan in September 1989, tension between the two countries continued to mount. Sudan accused Uganda of aiding the antigovernment SPLA, and in November 1989 Sudanese aircraft bombed the town of Moyo in apparent retaliation.

Relations improved somewhat after Sudanese president Lieutenant General Umar Hasan Ahmad al Bashir visited Kampala in December 1989. The two leaders signed a nonaggression pact which committed each country to refrain from using force against the other and to prevent its territory from being used to launch hostile actions against the other. To enforce this pact, Sudan deployed a military team of nine officials to Uganda to monitor security along the common border. President Museveni also renewed efforts to facilitate the peace process in Sudan. Despite these steps, however, many Western observers remained skeptical about the long-term prospects for good relations between the two countries.

Data as of December 1990