External Involvement in Uganda’s Politics

Uganda became an
independent nation on
October 9,
. The pre-independence political process involved many
Ugandans representing different interest groups. The colonial administration
worked closely with the
Protestant Church throughout
the colonial period, giving the latter political leverage as most
administrators came from that church.

The Catholics who had been marginalized
organized themselves into a political party – the Democratic Party (DP) with
the intention of wrestling political power from Protestants who later formed
their own political party – the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) that formed an
alliance with the Kabaka Yekka (KY) of
Buganda kingdom
Protestants to deny DP gaining political power.

It is believed that the colonial
administration and the Church of England played a role in handing power over to
the UPC/KY alliance under the leadership of Milton Obote. The British
government decided that Milton Obote was the best man to lead the country, and
steered power into his hands (Walter Oyugi et al, 1988 and Trevor Lloyd, 2001).

Prime Minister and later President
Obote’s development plans were based on external recommendations including
those of the World Bank which stressed the comparative advantage of agriculture
and export of raw commodities.

In the late 1960s, President Obote
introduced a new development model – the Common Man’s Charter – or Move to the
Left – to solve the country’s complex problems and create an egalitarian
society. The so-called socialist model threatened foreign interests in
Uganda. The
foreigners reasoned that by launching the Common Man’s Charter,
Uganda had joined
the socialist camp and become part of a “Red Belt” group of countries
stretching from
Libya, Egypt and Sudan to Tanzania and Zambia. The belt cut
across the “Blue Belt” of capitalist countries from
Ethiopia and Kenya to the Democratic
Republic of the Congo
– then Zaire.

Obote had to go as he no longer
protected foreign interests. Foreign interests needed someone else who had no
interest in the Move to the Left. They needed a man of the right to protect
their interests – raw materials for their industries and food for their
populations – as well as markets for their manufactured products. And Iddi Amin
was that man – a pliable gentle giant! The British and Israelis gave Amin the nod to overthrow Obote’s
government – which he did in January 1971 (Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey,

Amin was also supported by foreign
recruits from
Zaire now DRC and
Nubians as well as ex-Anyanya (poison) who had just ended fighting the
Khartoum government in Sudan. In the end Amin’s army numbered twenty-five
thousand. Half of them came from
Sudan, 26 percent
Zaire and only 24
percent were indigenous mostly from
West Nile. This was
indeed a foreign occupation army (Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey, 1982).

As problems in Uganda multiplied,
Amin attempted to divert domestic attention by invading the Kagera Salient of
North West Tanzania. In response, Tanzanian troops invaded
Uganda, organized a
conference of Ugandans in
Tanzania (at Moshi) to
form a government and later overthrew Amin’s regime – another case of foreign

Julius Nyerere then President of
Tanzania had intended to return Obote to power. However something went awfully
wrong. “It was, however, the intervention of a misinformed British foreign
secretary that upset Nyerere’s plan. Seeking logistical support from Britain
for a counter-invasion of Uganda, Nyerere was told that assistance would only
be given if Yusufu Lule, a former minister in the colonial government and
subsequently an international civil servant, were to become head of state [of
Uganda]” (Kenneth Ingham, 1994). And he was elected President at the Moshi
conference in
Tanzania! People who
attended the Moshi conference were completely surprised about the election of
Lule. Now you have the answer!

Through the 1980 elections, Obote was
returned to power. Although he tried to introduce capitalism under the
structural adjustment program launched in 1981, the West did not trust him
because of his earlier socialist leanings (Vijay Gupta, 1983) and he had to go.
In July 1985 Obote was overthrown a second time by Tito Okello.

“After the overthrow of the second regime of
Milton Obote by a section of his own military in July 1985 the shaky Okello
regime which replaced it [Obote’s government] was propped up indirectly by the
US and other Western powers; they were interested in seeing another pliable
government come to power in Uganda – strategically important because of its
borders with Kenya, Sudan and Zaire. It was particularly Kenya (which, during
the Reagan administration, became more important to the US when a military
facilities agreement was signed by President Daniel Arap Moi in 1981) which
provided regional diplomatic support to the barely credible military junta
headed by General Tito Okello, then opposing Yoweri Museveni’s National
Resistance Army. The US was instrumental in arms shipments from Egypt and
Western Europe, paid for by Saudi Arabia, which were brought in for Okello’s
army during the autumn, while inconclusive peace talks with Museveni were spun
out in Kenya under the chairmanship of President Daniel Arap Moi” (Victoria
Brittain, 1988).

Contrary to popular belief, Yoweri
Museveni’s rise to power also had foreign backing. “War for the control of the Democratic
Republic of Congo – what should be the richest country in the world – began in
Uganda in the 1980s, when now Uganda President Yoweri Museveni shot his way to
power with the backing of Buckingham Palace, the White House, and Tel Aviv
behind him” (Peter Phillips, 2006).

Yoweri Museveni, like Iddi Amin before
him, also received foreign assistance of Tutsi recruits in his guerrilla war
against the Obote and Okello regimes. Foreign recruits constituted up to 25
percent of the National Resistance Army (Journal of Modern African Studies,
2005). This was a significant foreign force.

Since the assumption of power in 1986
President Museveni has been described as the blue-eyed darling of the West.

Clearly there has been a significant
foreign intervention in Uganda’s politics.

Not least, it is interesting to note
that Milton Obote (RIP), Iddi Amin (RIP) and Yoweri Museveni have their origins
in Southern Sudan. What a coincidence!