State Department Notes on Uganda
U.S. Department of State Background Note
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Africans of three main ethnic groups--Bantu, Nilotic, and Nilo-Hamitic--constitute most of the population. The Bantu are the most numerous and include the Baganda, which, with 18% of the population, constitute the largest single ethnic group. Individual ethnic groups in the southwest include the Banyankole and Bahima, 10%; the Bakiga, 8%; the Banyarwanda, 6%; the Bunyoro, 3%; and the Batoro, 3%. Residents of the north, largely Nilotic, include the Langi, 6%, and the Acholi, 4%. In the northwest are the Lugbara, 4%, and the Karamojong, 2%, occupy the considerably drier, largely pastoral territory in the northeast. The Basoga, 8% and the Bagisu, 5% are among ethnic groups in the East. Europeans, Asians, and Arabs make up about 1% of the population with other groups accounting for the remainder.
Uganda's population is predominately rural, and its population density highest in the southern regions. Until 1972, Asians constituted the largest nonindigenous ethnic group in Uganda. In that year, the Idi Amin regime expelled 50,000 Asians, who had been engaged in trade, industry, and various professions. In the years since Amin's overthrow in 1979, Asians have slowly returned and now number around 30,000. Other nonindigenous people in Uganda include Arabs, Western missionaries, non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, diplomats, and business people.
When Arab traders moved inland from their enclaves along the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa and reached the interior of 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 Nile River. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879.
In 1888, control of the emerging British "sphere of interest" in East Africa was assigned by royal charter to the Imperial British East Africa Company, an arrangement strengthened in 1890 by an Anglo-German agreement confirming British dominance over Kenya and Uganda. In 1894, the Kingdom of Buganda was placed under a formal British protectorate.
Britain granted internal self-government to Uganda in 1961, with the first elections held on March 1, 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda maintained its Commonwealth membership. A second round of elections in April 1962 elected members to a new National Assembly. Milton Obote, leader of the majority coalition in the National Assembly, became prime minister and led Uganda to formal independence on October 9, 1962.
In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political maneuvering climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution, assumed all government powers, and removed the ceremonial president and vice president. In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms. On January 25, 1971, Obote's government was ousted in a military coup led by armed forces commander Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself president, dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power.
Idi Amin's 8-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. The Acholi and Langi ethnic groups were particular objects of Amin's political persecution because they had supported Obote and made up a large part of the army. In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that more than 100,000 Ugandans had been murdered during Amin's reign of terror; some authorities place the figure much higher.
In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion of Amin's troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian force, backed by Ugandan exiles, waged a war of liberation against Amin's troops and Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On April 11, 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces.
After Amin's removal, the Uganda National Liberation Front formed an interim government with Yusuf Lule as president. This government adopted a ministerial system of administration and created a quasi-parliamentary organ known as the National Consultative Commission (NCC). The NCC and the Lule cabinet reflected widely differing political views. In June 1979, following a dispute over the extent of presidential powers, the NCC replaced Lule with Godfrey Binaisa. In a continuing dispute over the powers of the interim presidency, Binaisa was removed in May 1980. Thereafter, Uganda was ruled by a military commission chaired by Paulo Muwanga. December 1980 elections returned the UPC to power under the leadership of President Obote, with Muwanga serving as vice president. Under Obote, the security forces had one of the world's worst human rights records. In their efforts to stamp out an insurgency led by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA), they laid waste to a substantial section of the country, especially in the Luwero area north of Kampala.
Obote ruled until July 27, 1985, when an army brigade, composed mostly of ethnic Acholi troops and commanded by Lt. Gen. Basilio Olara-Okello, took Kampala and proclaimed a military government. Obote fled to exile in Zambia. The new regime, headed by former defense force commander Gen. Tito Okello (no relation to Lt. Gen. Olara-Okello), opened negotiations with Museveni's insurgent forces and pledged to improve respect for human rights, end tribal rivalry, and conduct free and fair elections. In the meantime, massive human rights violations continued as the Okello government murdered civilians and ravaged the countryside in order to destroy the NRA's support.
Negotiations between the Okello government and the NRA were conducted in Nairobi in the fall of 1985, with Kenyan President Daniel Moi seeking a cease-fire and a coalition government in Uganda. Although agreeing in late 1985 to a cease-fire, the NRA continued fighting, seized Kampala in late January 1986, and assumed control of the country, forcing Okello to flee north into Sudan. Museveni's forces organized a government with Museveni as president and dominated by the political grouping called the National Resistance Movement (NRM or the "Movement").
A referendum was held in March 2000 on whether Uganda should retain the Movement system, with limited operation of political parties, or adopt multi-party politics. Although 70% of voters endorsed retention of the Movement system, the referendum was widely criticized for low voter turnout and unfair restrictions on Movement opponents. Museveni was reelected to a second five-year term in March 2001. Parliamentary elections were held in June 2001, and more than 50% of contested seats were won by newcomers. Movement supporters nevertheless remained in firm control of the legislative branch. Observers believed that the 2001 presidential and parliamentary elections generally reflected the will of the electorate; however, both were marred by serious irregularities, particularly in the period leading up to the elections, such as restrictions on political party activities, incidents of violence, voter intimidation, and fraud.
A Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) issued a report proposing comprehensive constitutional change in December 2003. The government, however, took issue with many CRC recommendations and made counter-proposals in September 2004. A July 2005 national referendum resulted in the adoption of a multiparty system of government and the subsequent inclusion of opposition parties in elections and government.
In February 2006, the country held its first multiparty general elections since President Museveni came to power in 1986. The election generally reflected the will of the people, although serious irregularities occurred. Ruling NRM candidate President Museveni was declared the winner with 59.26% of the vote, giving him a third term in office following the passage of a controversial amendment in June 2005 to eliminate presidential term limits. Opposition FDC leader Kizza Besigye captured 37.39% of the vote, while the remaining contestants received less than 2% of the vote each, according to official figures from the Electoral Commission.
The 1995 constitution established Uganda as a republic with an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. The constitution provides for an executive president, to be elected every 5 years. President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, was elected in 1996 and reelected in 2001 and 2006. Legislative responsibility is vested in the parliament; legislative elections were last held February 2006. There currently are 332 members of parliament, of which 79 are women. The Ugandan judiciary operates as an independent branch of government and consists of magistrate's courts, high courts, courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court. Parliament and the judiciary have significant amounts of independence and wield significant power.
Principal Government Officials
President and Commander in Chief--Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Vice President--Dr. Gilbert Bukenya
Prime Minister--Apollo Nsibambi
Foreign Minister--Sam Kutesa
Minister of Defense--Crispus Kiyonga
Ambassador to the United States--Perezi K. Kamunanwire
Uganda maintains an embassy in the United States at 5909 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011 (tel. 202-726-7100).
Since assuming power, Museveni and his government have largely put an end to the human rights abuses of earlier governments, initiated substantial economic liberalization and general press freedom, and instituted economic reforms in accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and donor governments.
The vicious and cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which seeks to overthrow the Ugandan Government, has murdered and kidnapped civilians in the north and east since 1986. Although the LRA does not threaten the stability of the government, LRA violence at one time displaced up to 1.7 million people, creating a humanitarian catastrophe, particularly when they were forced into internally displaced persons (IDP) camps for their own protection. The Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) launched "Operation Iron Fist" against LRA rebels in northern Uganda in 2002 and conducted operations against LRA sanctuaries in southern Sudan with the permission of the Sudanese Government. The Sudanese Government had previously supported the LRA.
There have been significant new developments in this conflict since January 2006. With the signing of the Sudanese "Comprehensive Peace Agreement," the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) was created. To protect this fragile peace from LRA incursions in southern Sudan, Riek Machar, a GOSS Vice President, launched efforts to broker a peace agreement between the Government of Uganda and the LRA in July 2006. Those talks are ongoing and represent the first time there has been meaningful progress in ending this conflict. As a result, many northern Ugandans are leaving the IDP camps and returning to their villages.
In 1998, Uganda deployed a sizable military force to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), ostensibly to prevent attacks from Ugandan rebel groups operating there. There were widespread allegations that Ugandan military and civilian officials were involved in the illegal exploitation of D.R.C. natural resources. After much international pressure, Uganda withdrew its troops from D.R.C. in June 2003. Relations with the D.R.C., however, continue to be frosty. When the LRA left southern Sudan and relocated to eastern Congo in September 2005, Museveni threatened to enter D.R.C. and go after the LRA if neither Congo nor the UN peacekeepers in the region would take action. The recent peace talks have taken a lot of steam out of those threats, however, and Uganda seems focused on seeing the talks to conclusion.
Uganda's economy has great potential. Endowed with significant natural resources, including ample fertile land, regular rainfall, and mineral deposits, it appeared poised for rapid economic growth and development at independence. However, chronic political instability and erratic economic management produced a record of persistent economic decline that left Uganda among the world's poorest and least-developed countries.
Since assuming power in early 1986, Museveni's government has taken important steps toward economic rehabilitation. The country's infrastructure--notably its transportation and communications systems that were destroyed by war and neglect--is being rebuilt. Recognizing the need for increased external support, Uganda negotiated a policy framework paper with the IMF and the World Bank in 1987. It subsequently began implementing economic policies designed to restore price stability and sustainable balance of payments, improve capacity utilization, rehabilitate infrastructure, restore producer incentives through proper price policies, and improve resource mobilization and allocation in the public sector. These policies produced positive results. Inflation, which ran at 240% in 1987 and 42% in June 1992, was 5.4% for fiscal year 1995-96 and 5.1% in 2003.
Investment as a percentage of GDP was estimated at 20.3% in 2003 compared to 13.7% in 1999. Private sector investment, largely financed by private transfers from abroad, was 14.9% of GDP in 2002. Gross national savings as a percentage of GDP was estimated at 6.4% in 2003. The Ugandan Government has also worked with donor countries to reschedule or cancel substantial portions of the country's external debts.
Agricultural products supply nearly all of Uganda's foreign exchange earnings, with coffee (of which Uganda is Africa's leading producer) accounting for about 19% and fish 17% of the country's exports in 2002. Exports of non-traditional products, including apparel, hides, skins, vanilla, vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, and fish are growing, while traditional exports cotton, tea, and tobacco continue to be mainstays.
Most industry is related to agriculture. The industrial sector is being rehabilitated to resume production of building and construction materials, such as cement, reinforcing rods, corrugated roofing sheets, and paint. Domestically produced consumer goods include plastics, soap, cork, beer, and soft drinks.
Uganda has about 30,000 kilometers (18,750 mi.), of roads; some 2,800 kilometers (1,750 mi.) are paved. Most radiate from Kampala. The country has about 1,350 kilometers (800 mi.) of rail lines. A railroad originating at Mombasa on the Indian Ocean connects with Tororo, where it branches westward to Jinja, Kampala, and Kasese and northward to Mbale, Soroti, Lira, Gulu, and Kapwach, though the routes west of Kampala and north of Mbale currently are not in use. Uganda's important road and rail links to Mombasa serve its transport needs and also those of its neighbors-Rwanda, Burundi, and parts of Congo and Sudan. An international airport is at Entebbe on the shore of Lake Victoria, some 32 kilometers (20 mi.) south of Kampala.
The Ugandan Government generally seeks good relations with other nations without reference to ideological orientation. Relations with Rwanda, Congo and Sudan have sometimes been strained because of security concerns. President Museveni has been active in attempts implement a peace agreement Burundi and has supported peace initiatives in Sudan and Somalia.
In the past, neighbors were concerned about Uganda's relationship with Libya, which had supplied military equipment and bartered fuel to Uganda. In addition to its friendly ties to Western nations, Uganda has maintained ties with North Korea. Uganda's has strained relations with Sudan because of past Sudanese support for the LRA. The LRA seeks to overthrow the Uganda Government and has inflicted brutal violence on the population in northern Uganda, including rape, kidnapping, torture, and murder. In 2002 Uganda and Sudan reestablished diplomatic ties and signed a protocol permitting the UPDF to enter southern Sudan and engage the LRA. The protocol must be renewed periodically.
Another rebel group operating in western Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the Rwenzori Mountains, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), emerged as a localized threat in 1996 and inflicted substantial suffering on the population in the area. It has largely been defeated by the UPDF and the affected areas of western Uganda have been secured. Remnants of the ADF remain in eastern Congo.
The Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF)--previously the National Resistance Army--constitutes the armed forces of Uganda. Prior to 2000, U.S. military forces participated with the UPDF in training activities under the African Crisis Response Initiative. U.S. military assistance was terminated in 2000 as a result of the Ugandan incursion into the D.R.C. Following the June 2003 UPDF withdrawal of troops from the D.R.C., the U.S. restarted limited nonlethal military assistance.
Although U.S.-Ugandan relations were strained during the rule of Idi Amin in the 1970s, relations improved after Amin's fall. In mid-1979, the United States reopened its embassy in Kampala. Relations with successor governments were cordial, although Obote and his administration rejected strong U.S. criticism of Uganda's human rights situation.
Bilateral relations between the United States and Uganda have been good since Museveni assumed power, and the United States has welcomed his efforts to end human rights abuses and to pursue economic reform. Uganda is a strong supporter of the global war against terrorism. The United States is helping Uganda achieve export-led economic growth through the African Growth and Opportunity Act and provides a significant amount of development assistance. At the same time, the United States is concerned about continuing human rights problems and the pace of progress toward the establishment of genuine political pluralism.
U.S. development assistance in Uganda has the overall goal of reducing mass poverty. Most U.S. program assistance is focused in the areas of health, education and agriculture. Both the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have major programs to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Other programs promote trade and investment, curb environmental degradation, encourage the peaceful resolution of local and international conflicts, and promote honest and open government. The United States also provides large amounts of humanitarian assistance to populations without access to adequate food supplies because of conflict, drought and other factors.
U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers are active in primary teacher training and HIV/AIDS programs. The Department of State carries out cultural exchange programs, brings Fulbright lecturers and researchers to Uganda, and sponsors U.S. study and tour programs for a wide variety of officials from government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Through Ambassador's Self-Help Fund, local groups in poor areas receive assistance for small projects with a high level of community involvement.
U.S.-Ugandan relations also benefit from significant contributions to health care, nutrition, education, and park systems from U.S. missionaries, non-governmental organizations, private universities, HIV/AIDS researchers, and wildlife organizations. Expatriate Ugandans living in the U.S. also promote stronger links between the two countries.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador-- Steven A. Browning
Deputy Chief of Mission--Andrew G. Chritton
Public Affairs Officer--Alyson Grunder
Director, USAID--Margot Ellis
The U.S. Embassy in Uganda is at 1577 Ggaba Road, Kampala; tel. 259791/2/3/5; fax: 259-794.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.
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Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov
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Revised: Nov. 2007