Ugandan Bush War
|Ugandan Bush War|
Milton Obote (left) and Yoweri Museveni, leaders of the UNLF government forces and National Resistance Army respectively for most of the war.
| Ugandan government (UNLF)
North Korea (1981–1985)
National Resistance Army (NRA)
Rwenzururu movement (until 1982)
|Commanders and leaders|
David Oyite-Ojok †
Smith Opon Acak
Uganda Freedom Movement:
Andrew Kayira (POW)
Uganda National Liberation Army
|Numerous rebel militias|
| UNLA and allied militias:
11,000 (until 1980)
800–1,000 (from 1981)
c. 50 (1984)
c. 7,100 (1980)
|Casualties and losses|
The Ugandan Bush War, also known as the Luwero War, the Ugandan Civil War or the Resistance War, was a civil war fought in Uganda by the official Ugandan government and its armed wing, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), against a number of rebel groups, most importantly the National Resistance Army (NRA), from 1980 to 1986.
The unpopular President Milton Obote was overthrown in a coup d'état in 1971 by General Idi Amin, who established a military dictatorship. Amin was overthrown in 1979 following the Uganda-Tanzania War, but his loyalists subsequently launched an insurgency in the West Nile region. Subsequent elections saw Obote return to power in an UNLA-ruled government. Several opposition groups claimed the elections were rigged, and united as the NRA under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni to start an armed uprising against Obote's government on 6 February 1981. Obote was overthrown and replaced as President by his general Tito Okello in 1985 during the closing months of the conflict.
The NRA captured Kampala, Uganda's capital, in January 1986. It subsequently esablished a new government with Museveni as President, while the UNLA fully disintegrated in March 1986. Obote and Okello went into exile. Despite the nominal end of the civil war, numerous anti-NRA rebel factions and militias remained active, and would continue to fight Museveni's government in the next decades.
- 1 Background
- 2 Bush War
- 3 Aftermath
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
Background [ edit ]
In 1971, the President of Uganda Milton Obote was overthrown in a coup d'état by General Idi Amin of the Uganda Army. Obote had been President since Uganda's independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, and his regime saw a general decline in living standards in the country, with widespread corruption, terrorism, and persecution of ethnic groups. Obote's increasing unpopularity led him to believe rivals were beginning to plot against him, particularly Amin and arranged a purge to occur while he was outside of the country. Amin was warned of the planned purge and acted first, seizing the presidency and forcing Obote into exile in Tanzania. Despite initial popularity, Amin quickly turned to despotism and established a military dictatorship which accelerated the decline of Obote's regime, destroying the country's economy and political system.
Increasing opposition to his regime, paranoia over Milton Obote returning to overthrow him, and friction with Tanzanian president Julius Nyrere led Amin to launch the Uganda–Tanzania War, declaring war on Tanzania and annexing part of the Kagera Region. Amin's forces and his Libyan allies were defeated by Tanzanian troops and the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), a political coalition formed by exiled anti-Amin Ugandans under the leadership of Obote, whose armed wing was known as Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Amin was overthrown during the fall of Kampala and then fled the country, and UNLF was installed by Tanzania to replace him. The unstable UNLF government ruled the country provisionally from April 1979 until December 1980. Meanwhile, the ousted Amin loyalists who had fled into Zaire and Sudan reorganised, and prepared to renew war in order to regain control of Uganda.
Bush War [ edit ]
West Nile rebellion, elections, and formation of the NRA [ edit ]
The first group to initiate hostilities were the Amin loyalists who launched a rebellion against the UNLF government in autumn 1980. Their 7,100-strong force never adopted an official name, but is generally called "Uganda Army" as it consisted for the most part of old troops of Amin's Uganda Army (it was also known as "West Front" or "Western Nile Front"). Though badly armed, the Uganda Army launched a devastating raid from Sudan into Uganda's West Nile sub-region in October 1980, capturing several towns and inflicting numerous casualties on local UNLA garrisons. As the rebels knew that they could not hold the captured territory against a full UNLA counter-offensive, they retreated back into Sudan after a few days. The Uganda Army launched its next offensive just before the Ugandan national elections in December 1980, and this time it held the areas it captured in West Nile, and gradually expanded its holdings. The West Nile rebellion was then crippled by internal divisions, however, as parts of the Uganda Army remained loyal to Idi Amin, whereas others wanted to distance themselves from the unpopular old dictator. The latter part of the insurgent army split off, forming the "Uganda National Rescue Front" (UNRF) under Moses Ali, whereas the remaining Amin loyalists became known as "Former Uganda National Army" (FUNA).
Furthermore, southwestern Uganda experienced a resurgence of the Rwenzururu movement which wanted self-determination for the Konjo and Amba peoples. The movement had been largely dormant since the 1960s, but managed to take control of weapon stockpiles that had been left unguarded when Amin's government collapsed in 1979. They thus resumed their insurgency, and the security situation in the mountainous border areas of the southwest quickly detoriated in 1980.
Meanwhile, the UNLF government experienced its own divisions. As the UNLA was being transformed from a loose alliance of various anti-Amin insurgent groups into a regular army, the different political factions attempted to ensure that their own loyalists would be present and dominant in the new military. Obote outmaneuvered his rivals, most importantly Yoweri Museveni, and made his several-hundred strong Kikosi Maalum group the core of the UNLA. In contrast, just 4,000 out of Museveni's 9,000 FRONASA fighters were allowed to join the new army, and these were distributed across several units. Furthermore, FRONASA was forced to give up its own weaponry. At the same time, the UNLA was rapidly expanded; most of the new recruits came from ethnic groups that supported Obote. As result, power shifted to pro-Obote elements in the government and the army.
The elections of December 1980 were officially won by Milton Obote's Uganda Peoples Congress, effectively making him President of Uganda again. The results were strongly disputed by other candidates, however, resulting in increasing strife. Several political factions claimed electoral fraud, and believed to be proven correct when Obote immediately launched a campaign of political repression. As the UNLA was dominated by pro-Obote forces, a coup was impossible, so that the opposition instead launched armed rebellions against Obote's government: Museveni's Uganda Patriotic Movement party organized the Popular Resistance Army (PRA), Yusuf Lule formed the Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF), and Andrew Kayira armed his Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM). The PRA and UFF later merged to create the National Resistance Army and its political wing, the National Resistance Movement. Many Rwandan exiles in Uganda including Paul Kagame (who later formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front) allied with Museveni's NRA against Obote. Kagame had been trained in Tanzania as a spy and later became Museveni's counter-intelligence chief.
On 6 February 1981, hostilities began in the south with a PRA attack on an army installation in the central Mubende District. Museveni was familiar with guerrilla warfare, having fought with the Mozambican Liberation Front in Mozambique, his own Front for National Salvation to fight the Amin regime, and had continued to campaign in rural areas hostile to Obote's government, especially central and western Buganda and in the western regions of Ankole and Bunyoro. Some believed that he was supported by his old Mozambican allies, resulting in tensions between Obote's government and Mozambique. In any case, Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi opted to provide support to the NRA, although it was made up of forces which had overthrown his old ally Amin. Gaddafi believed that Libya could gain greater influence in central Africa through the NRA than it had previously with Amin. Most attacks by Museveni's force involved small mobile units called "coys" under the command of Fred Rwigyema, and Museveni's brother, Salim Saleh, with "A" Coy led by Steven Kashaka, "B" Coy by Joram Mugume, and "C" Coy by Pecos Kuteesa. There were three small zonal forces: the Lutta Unit operating in Kapeeka, the Kabalega Unit operating near Kiwoko, and the Nkrumah Unit operating in the areas of Ssingo.
Early rebel successes, government counter-offensives, and stalemate [ edit ]
As the war escalated, foreign support became vital for the survival of Obote's government. The Tanzanians initially helped to defend his regime and kept some order through the presence of about 10,000 Tanzania People's Defence Force soldiers and 1,000 policemen. Nevertheless, the unsustainable costs of these troops led Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere to gradually withdraw most of his forces from Uganda. Just 800 to 1,000 Tanzanian advisors remained in the country from June 1981. These advisors remained of crucial importance for the UNLA, but the Tanzanian withdrawal greatly weakened Obote's position. To compensate, he tried to enlist further foreign aid: He hired a British private military company, and convinced the Commonwealth of Nations as well as the United States to send small teams of security advisors.
One of Obote's most important allies was North Korea. The Ugandan President visited the country in late 1981 and signed a cooperation agreement which included military support for his regime. At least 30 North Korean officers were subsequently sent to Gulu in northern Uganda, where they trained UNLA soldiers and repaired military equipment. By 1984, the number had risen to about 50 North Koreans who acted as security, intelligence, and military advisors. Museveni claimed that over 700 North Koreans were ultimately used by the UNLA; Obote maintained that only about 170 were present in Uganda. According to one study, the North Korean officers actively participated in and even led counter-insurgency operations for Obote. A Central Intelligence Agency report stated, however, that the North Koreans refused to actually venture to the frontlines. The Ugandan military also sent some officers and non-commissioned officer to North Korea for advanced trainings.
By May 1981, another rebel group was formed, the so-called "Uganda Liberation Movement" which threatened to kidnap and kill United Nations personnel, as the latter was supporting Obote's attempts at restablising Uganda. The threats worked, and the U.N. stopped its training programme for the Ugandan police.
While the rebellion in the south grew in intensity, UNRF and FUNA started to fight each other in West Nile. The former managed to gain the upper hand, but this inter-rebel struggle only resulted in the overall weakening of the West Nile insurgents. By 1981, four different insurgent factions were active in northwestern Uganda, all of which claimed to have no direct links with Amin. One West Nile rebel group, the so-called "Nile Regiment" (NR) was set up by Felix Onama, a former follower of Obote. The Ugandan government exploited these divisions by launching counter-attacks into Western Nile from 1981, where its regular military and "People's Militia" committed numerous atrocities. In contrast, Obote opted for a more conciliatory approach with the Rwenzururu movement. Following negotiations, the Ugandan government signed a peace agreement with the rebel group's leadership in return for payements and other benefits to the latter. Furthermore, Obote granted the Rwenzururu region some limited autonomy.
By late 1981, the UNLA was already in a critical situation. Its rapid expansion to over 15,000 troops by December 1981 resulted in a majority of its troops being untrained, badly armed and often unpaid. Corruption became rampant, and great differences emerged between UNLA units. Some, like those that were active in northern Uganda, were given preferential treatment and became relativel reliable. In contrast, the Central Brigade that mostly fought the NRA mostly consisted of barely-trained militiamen who were considered to be "cannon-fodder" by their own commanders. The counter-insurgency operations against the West Nile rebels were thus much more successful than those against the NRA. Overall, the UNLA already showed signs of great strain at this point, and would have probably collapsed without Tanzanian support by the end of 1981.
By November 1982, the National Resistance Army, Uganda Freedom Movement, Uganda National Rescue Front, and the Nile Regiment had formed an alliance, called the "Uganda Popular Front" (UPF). Exiled politician Godfrey Binaisa was appointed head of the UPF. While being based in London, Binaisa decided to organize an invasion from Zaire to topple Obote. He attempted to enlist the aid of white mercenaries for this plot, but his plans fell through and were revealed when he was unable to pay for the operation. The entire plot discredited Binaisa. The UNRF was mostly destroyed in a government offensive in December 1982. This operation included widespread destruction and massacres at the hands of the UNLA in the West Nile region, whereupon 260,000 people fled the area for Zaire and Sudan. This in turn destroyed the "insurgent infrastructure" of UNRF and FUNA, further weakening their remnants. UNRF subsequently relocated from West Nile and its bases in southern Sudan to northern Uganda, where it attempted to rally the Karamojong people to its cause.
In 1983, the Obote government launched Operation Bonanza, an extensive military expedition of UNLA forces that alone claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced a significant portion of the population. The blame for the massacres was placed on the people of northern Uganda for supporting the actions of the NRA, which increased the existing regional tensions in the country. Furthermore, one rebel force, the Uganda Freedom Movement, was largely defeated in 1983 while its exiled leadership was scattered due to a crackdown in Kenya. Remnants of the UFM, possibly a few hundred militants strong, subsequently formed the Uganda Federal Democratic Movement.
Up to late 1983, Obote's government had remained relatively stable and in control of most of Uganda thanks to the efforts of the UNLA's ruthless, capable, and popular chief of staff David Oyite-Ojok. Though it could not defeat the NRA, the military was able to contain it. Despite this, Obote's forces suffered from tribalism, corruption, and internal rivalries. The UNLA and its allied militias had been expanded too quickly in an attempt to defeat the insurgency: By 1984, Obote had 35,000 to 40,000 men under arms, but just 15,000 had received basic training. As result, the soldiers were undisciplined, unreliable, and prone to harass, steal from, and murder civilians due to a lack of proper pay and supplies. Although the Ugandan government knew that it could not not even feed its large army, let alone properly train or arm it, Obote was unwilling to demobilize troops out of fear that the soldiers could behave even worse if they were no longer employed.
Collapse of the Ugandan government, victory for the NRA [ edit ]
The situation began to change with Oyite-Ojok's death under suspicious circumstances in a plane crash in December 1983. Many believed that Obote had arranged the death of his chieff of staff due to developing rifts between them. Although this could not be proven, it damaged Obote's reputation among the military. The CIA judged that Oyite-Ojok had been crucial for keeping the Ugandan government afloat, and had been responsible for "maintaining some semblance of security and order" in the country. With him gone, the UNLA began to unravel. The NRA also became more successful at spreading its propaganda, and attracting dissatisfied Acholi army officers to their cause. The growing unrest in Obote's army eventually resulted in his downfall.
In July 1985, the UNLA military commanders General Tito Okello and Lieutenant General Bazilio Olara-Okello staged a coup d'état that ousted Milton Obote from the presidency, who then fled to Kenya and later to Zambia. On 23 August the 196 North Korean military advisers to the UNLA were flown out of Uganda. By January 1986, the UNLA was starting to collapse as the rebels gained ground from the south and south-west. Okello's regime effectively ended when Kampala was captured by the NRA on 26 January 1986. Yoweri Museveni was subsequently sworn in as president on 29 January, and the NRA became the new regular army of Uganda. Despite this massive defeat, the UNLA attempted to rally once more, and intended to defend its remaining holdings in northern Uganda. The NRA subsequently carried out offensives into the east and north, capturing several more strategically important towns in February and March 1986. With effective resistance no longer possible, the UNLA disintegrated and its remnants fled into exile, along with many former government officials.
Aftermath [ edit ]
It has been estimated that approximately 100,000 to 500,000 people, including combatants and civilians, died across Uganda as a result of the Ugandan Bush War. Although the NRA had formally won the civil war, fighting did not end. Various anti-NRA rebel groups and remnants of UNLA remained active, with major insurgencies affecting Acholiland and West Nile in particular.
Milton Obote never returned to Uganda following his second overthrow and exile, despite repeated rumors he planned to return to Ugandan politics. Obote resigned as leader of the Ugandan Peoples Congress and was succeeded his wife, Miria Obote, shortly before his death on 10 October 2005 in South Africa. Tito Okello remained in exile in Kenya until 1993, when he was granted an amnesty by Musaveni and returned to Uganda, where he died in Kampala in 1996.
Despite its support for Obote during the civil war, North Korea quickly developed amicable relations with Museveni's government. Cooperation was restored as soon as 1986, and the new Ugandan military consequently received weaponry as well as training by North Korea. The country's involvement in the Bush War had other long-lasting repercussions, however, as North Koreans became a symbol for mystical military power in northern Uganda. As result, rebel groups such as the Holy Spirit Movement went on to claim that they were aided by North Korean spirits in their war against Museveni's government.
Human rights abuses [ edit ]
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The ranks of the UNLA included many ethnic Acholi and Lango, who had themselves been the victims of Idi Amin's genocidal purges in northern Uganda. Despite this, the UNLA under Obote targeted and abused civilians, reminiscent of Amin's own abuses. These included the forced removal of 750,000 civilians from the area of the then Luweero District, including present-day Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, and others. They were moved into refugee camps controlled by the military. Many civilians outside the camps, in what came to be known as the "Luweero triangle", were continuously abused as "guerrilla sympathizers". The International Committee of the Red Cross has estimated that by July 1985, the Obote regime had been responsible for more than 300,000 civilian deaths across Uganda.
The NRA also committed atrocities, as land mines were used against civilians, and child soldiers were widespread in the NRA's ranks, and continued to be after the NRA had become the regular Ugandan army.
In popular culture [ edit ]
Notes [ edit ]
References [ edit ]
- Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), pp. 40–41.
- CIA 2012, p. 4.
- Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), p. 39.
- Seftel 2010, p. 268.
- Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), pp. 39–40.
- CIA 2012, p. 6.
- Seftel 2010, p. 262.
- Reid 2017, p. 76.
- Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), p. 40.
- Reid 2017, p. 77.
- CIA 2012, p. 5.
- Berger 2015, p. 80.
- Gberie, Lansana (2005). A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone. London: Hurst & Company. ISBN 1-85065-742-4.
- Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (30 July 2009). "WHO FOUGHT? Chihandae supplied 16 of the first 27 NRA guns". The Observer. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Peace and conflict in northern Uganda 2002–06 (2010)". c-r.org.
- Rothchild 1997, p. 90.
- Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), p. 41.
- Kasozi 1994, p. 133.
- "A Country Study: The Ten-Point Program", Library of Congress Country Studies
- "Africandictator.org". www.africandictator.org. Archived from the original on 2015-02-05.
- "A Country Study: The Second Obote Regime: 1981–85", Library of Congress Country Studies
- Dr Kizza besigye, "We fought for what was right Archived 2007-06-13 at the Wayback Machine", The Monitor, 1 July 2004
- Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), p. 42.
- Legum 1987, p. B-467.
- Seftel 2010, p. 263.
- Rothchild 1997, pp. 90–91.
- CIA 2012, p. 1.
- CIA 2012, p. 3.
- CIA 2012, pp. 1, 3.
- Reid 2017, pp. 77–78.
- Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 50.
- Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 51.
- Encarta. Microsoft. 1995.
- Eckhardt, William (1987). Sivard, Ruth L. (ed.). World Military and Social Expenditures 1987–88 (12th ed.). ISBN 0-918281-05-9.
- Wasswa, Henry (10 October 2005). "Uganda's first prime minister, and two-time president, dead at 80". Associated Press.
- Bercovitch, Jacob; Jackson, Richard (1997). International Conflict: A Chronological Encyclopedia of Conflicts and Their Management 1945–1995. Washington: Congressional Quarterly. ISBN 1-56802-195-X.
- Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, pp. 51–60.
- Berger 2015, pp. 80–81.
- Young, Benjamin R. (22 February 2017). "The Ugandan insurgents guided by North Korean spirits". NK News. Archived from the original on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
- 1947–, Ofcansky, Thomas P., (1999). Uganda : tarnished pearl of Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. p. 55. ISBN 9781435601451. OCLC 174221322.
- Seftel 2010, pp. 265–267.
- Uganda, Landmine Monitor Report, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, May 2004
- "27 Guns trailer out: dawn of a new age-Museveni's revolution". Reportrt. Edge. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
Works cited [ edit ]
- Berger, Andrea (2015). Target Markets: North Korea's Military Customers. Abingdon: Royal United Services Institute. ISBN 978-1-138-65493-8.
- Cooper, Tom; Fontanellaz, Adrien (2015). Wars and Insurgencies of Uganda 1971–1994. Solihull: Helion & Company Limited. ISBN 978-1-910294-55-0.
- Kasozi, A. (1994). Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 1964-1985. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 9780773564879.
- Legum, Colin, ed. (1987). Africa Contemporary Record : Annual Survey and Documents : 1985–1986. 18. New York City & London: Africana Publishing Company. ISBN 9780841905566.
- Reid, Richard J. (2017). A History of Modern Uganda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-06720-2.
- Rothchild, Donald S. (1997). Managing ethnic conflict in Africa: pressures and incentives for cooperation. Brookings Institution Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-8157-7593-5.
- Seftel, Adam, ed. (2010) [1st pub. 1994]. Uganda: The Bloodstained Pearl of Africa and Its Struggle for Peace. From the Pages of Drum. Kampala: Fountain Publishers. ISBN 978-9970-02-036-2.
- "Uganda: Obote's Dimming Prospects"(PDF). Langley, Virginia: Central Intelligence Agency. 2012 [1st pub. 1984].