Brief Political History

When Arab traders travelled inland from their enclaves along the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa, and reached the interior of present-day Uganda in the 1830s, they found several African kingdoms with well-developed political institutions dating back several centuries. These traders were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the River Nile. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877 followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879.
Present day Uganda was proclaimed a Protectorate of the British Empire in 1894, after the Imperial British East African Company transferred its administrative rights of a territory composed mainly of Buganda Kingdom. Uganda remained under British control and administration until 9th October, 1962 when it became independent. This period witnessed, among other salient issues: the religious

wars (1885 – 1887) between Protestants, Catholics and Muslims; Deposition of Mwanga, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda in 1897 and replacing him with an infant Prince, Daudi Chwa; signing of the Uganda Agreement of 1900 – which extended effective control over the country; completion of the “Uganda Railway” from Mombasa to Kisumu; formation of political parties – the first of which was by I.K Musazi; and the first elections in 1961.

The period 1962 - 1986 was perhaps the most volatile in Uganda’s political history – witnessing a total of seven Heads of Government.

Political maneuvering between the various political parties (UPC, DP and KY) led to UPC’s Milton Obote becoming Executive Prime Minister at Independence and Kabaka Mutesa II with support of Kabaka Yekka becoming the first President. Political tensions between the President and Prime Minister culminated into the 1966 Crisis, when by Prime Minister Obote overthrew and exiled the President; suspended the constitution; and assumed all government powers. In 1967, he proclaimed a new Constitution removed the Prime Minister position and vested even more powers to him as President. It also abolished the traditional kingdoms.

On 25 January 1971, Obote was overthrown by Idi Amin in a military coup. The next eight years to 1979 were the most uncertain and destructive of Uganda’s political history. Characterized by massive human rights violations and extra-judicial killings and disappearances, this period also saw the near collapse of Uganda’s economy following the 1972 expulsion of the entrepreneurial Indian community from Uganda (with a 90-day ultimatum).

The existence of several Ugandan exiles in Tanzania agitated Idi Amin so much so that in October 1978, he ordered Uganda troops to invade Tanzania (Kagera Salient), following which he threatened annexation of Tanzania land north of River Kagera. This political miscalculation would lead to his overthrow in April 1979 when Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere ordered the re-capture of Kagera salient and subsequent attack on Uganda.

The period April 1979 – December 1980 had three short-lived presidents. Selected from mostly returning Tanzania exiles, Uganda National Liberation Front formed the interim government with President Yusuf Lule. The National Consultative Commission (NCC) was instituted as the legislative branch. Following differing political views with the NCC and UNFL, he was replaced after only sixty seven (67) by Godfrey Binaisa on 20th April, 1979. After eleven (11) months, Binaisa too was removed on 12th May 1980 due to continuing political disputes. Thereafter, Uganda was ruled by a military commission chaired by Paulo Muwanga until the December 1980 general elections, which saw the return of Milton Obote.

Obote’s second government was overthrown, again through a military coup, on 27 July 1985 by Gen. Tito Okello (then Army Commander) who proclaimed a military government. Earlier in February 1981, Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) had launched a guerilla war in central Uganda against Obote’s government. During the period 1981 to 1985, Uganda witnessed gross human rights abuse and killings, as Obote’s security forces intensified efforts to stamp out NRA’s insurgency, especially in Luwero. Tito Okello’s government was short-lived, as he was overthrown by Yoweri Museveni’s NRA on 26th January 1986.

1986 – to the present has been the most stable period for Uganda, under President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Following the successful guerilla war, the new government took on the responsibility of uniting and rebuilding the country: politically, economically and socially – based on a 10-point programme. Impeccable progress and reforms have been on all fronts with major milestones including, but not limited to: securing peace and security across the country – the last effort being the defeat of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army; adherence to constitutionalism and rule of law – guided by the 1995 Constitution; democratization of the country – through regular, free and fair elections, underpinned by universal adult suffrage and multi-party participation; continuing professionalization of the army and other security services.

This period also worked for the recovery of the economy and has laid the foundation for the country’s socio-economic transformation.