African History

Start Free Trial

What are the problems facing Uganda today?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There is no other word for what Ugandans have suffered since 1962 other than “genocide.” The people of this East African nation have suffered government-endorsed and government sponsored acts of violence. Many have been subjected to egregious human rights violations, including violence and imprisonment without being tried. Countless persons have been forcibly exiled. Those seeking political power have distributed wealth to their own benefit and to that of their cronies while Ugandans starve and atrocities are overlooked. The only political changes have come about through violence.

The history of Uganda has contributed to its current-day dilemmas. During the colonial period, (1894-1962), the British established a distribution system for resources, which was largely based on ethnic lines. Favored with the highest incomes were the Europeans, who controlled the state, and Asians, who controlled business. Among the African population, those who fared best resource-wise were the Baganda, who grew the cash-rich crop of cotton and coffee. Western Ugandans were the source of labor for these crops. As for the military, those recruited to serve hailed mainly from the northern region. These soliders spoke Luo and Sudanic.

As racially-divided as the country was, when colonialism ended, instability soon enused. Untried and untested leaders, such as Milton Obote and Idi Amin took advantage of these tensions and established themselves in the seats of power. They blamed the Ugandans themselves for the inequalities engendered by British colonialism and they imposed “collective punishment” on whole groups of people, regardless of their class, loyalties, or race.

Mass killings of Ugandans began at the very dawn of the postcolonial era. It is estimated that massacres of between 400 and 1,000 Ugandans occurred under the rule of Obote from 1966 to 1941. The first causalties were the Baganda people. Idi Amin’s regime, from 1971-1979 was responsible for the targeted murders of the Alcholi and Langi peoples. Amin focused on those in the military; thousands were killed at his behest.

Amin was removed from office during the Tanzanian war. After his ouster, those who had been loyal to him, or were suspected to be sympathizers, or just those who came from the region he called home, were killed: Muslims, Nubians, and people West of the Nile were especially targeted.

Milton Obote returned to power in in 1980. He refocused his genocidal efforts on Bagandans once again. This time, it is estimated that some 300,000 people were murdered. The terror didn’t stop. From 1986 to 2003, 100, 000 people in the Acholi region were killed and it is thought that 20,000 children (or more) had been abducted.

Ugandans native population was also reduced by forced exile. Whole groups were forced to leave the country. The first wave of expulsions occurred in 1969. The Obote government exiled some 30,000 people, the majority of whom were from Luos. Idi Amin expelled even more: some 75,000 Asians and Indo-Pakistanis were force out in 1972. In 1982 and 1983, the “Uganda’s People’s Congress (UPC) exiled an estimated 75,000 more people, this time, those from Baryarwanda. Fighting continued to rage; between 20,000 and 40,000 are thought to have perished in this same year.

It is probably no surprise that in a country engaged in genocide and mass expulsions that human rights would also suffer. People were not free to express their opinions. They had no right to freely associate. The media was controlled by the government, which also closely monitored political parties, unions, students, and religious organization. Court rulings were often ignored by security forces. These forces also arrested people for no or little reason, and typically without warrants. They felt free to do so as they were in no danger of being prosecuted themselves. These abuses of power continued until 1986, when the government of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni came to power. The Museveni administration created a Human Rights Commission, which seriously pursued human rights abuses of the past. Things from that point on began to change for the better.

A constitution was drafted in 1995 which established ways to resolve conflicts and separated the governments’ powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Although there has been relative peace, it remains to be seen if continued peaceable transfer of power will continue.

Source: Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, ©2005 Gale Cengage. All Rights Reserved

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main problems affecting Uganda today involve the armed insurgencies both inside its borders and along the long common border it shares with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The main internal security challenge is the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla army founded on a complicated blend of Christian fundamentalism, mysticism, and ethnicity and led by a brutal and autocratic figure named Joseph Kony.  While the LRA has been largely militarily defeated, its legacy has left psychological scars on many Ugandan youth who had been forcibly recruited into Kony's army and subjected to inhumane conditions.  

The problems along Uganda's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are much more involved and less amendable to resolution.  A product of the civil war that had raged inside the former Zaire, now DRC, and the spillover from the genocidal conflict that occurred in neighboring Rwanda in 1994, the wars in the DRC have ceased to be as much about ethnicity and are now fought over that region's enormous wealth in minerals.  The refugee problem resulting from that conflict has exacerbated Uganda's economic problems and threatened its stability.  

Those conflicts aside, Uganda has witnessed relatively impressive economic growth and over the past several years under President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled since 1986.  A country once dominated by the psychotic despot Idi Amin today enjoys a modicum of stability previously unseen within its borders.  Consequently, its main domestic problem could the spread of AIDS among the more destitute parts of its population.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team