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LIST OF WARS: DETAILS

Uganda Civil War

Years: 1980-2015
Battle deaths: 119,955 [1]
Non-state conflict, battle-deaths: 98 [3]
Onesided violence: 8,574 [2]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]
Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan

Published prior to 2013 | Altered: 2017-06-04 16:22:13

This article comprises a series of armed conflicts in Uganda since 1980 including the Government of Uganda, sometimes allied with neighbouring nations, and rebel groups, including FUNA, NRA, UNRF, UFM, UPA, UPDA, LRA (Lord's resistance army, from 1988), ADF and WNBF (from 1996).

UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia: Uganda's post-independence history has been characterized by violence. The country has seen almost continuous warfare since 1978, with rebel groups in different parts of the country fighting successive regimes.

A common denominator for many of the conflict phases has been political elites manipulating ethnic and regional differences in order to legitimate their claim to power. After the geographically widespread fighting of the 1980s and 1990s, only two rebel groups were active for most of the 2000s: LRA, presently not active in Uganda, but in DR Congo, South Sudan and the CAR and ADF, active in DR Congo.

After the failure of Operation Lighting Thunder in December 2008 the LRA fighters broke up in small groups and dispersed over a vast territory stretching over three countries: DR Congo, CAR and Southern Sudan. In 2013 Ugandan forces together with troops from the affected countries continued to pursue the rebels, but their efforts were hampered by the chaos engulfing CAR and South Sudan. In North Kivu ADF stepped up its attacks, causing large refugee flows into eastern Uganda.

Wikipedia: In February 1981, shortly after the new Obote government took office, with Paulo Muwanga as vice president and minister of defense, a former Military Commission member, Yoweri Museveni, and his armed supporters declared themselves the National Resistance Army (NRA). Museveni vowed to overthrow Obote by means of a popular rebellion, and what became known as "the war in the bush" began. Several other underground groups also emerged to attempt to sabotage the new regime, but they were eventually crushed.

Museveni, who had guerrilla war experience with the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frente de Libertaçâo de Moçambique--Frelimo), campaigned in rural areas hostile to Obote’s government, especially central and western Buganda and the western regions of Ankole and Bunyoro.

The Obote government’s four-year military effort to destroy its challengers resulted in vast areas of devastation and greater loss of life than during the eight years of Amin’s rule. UNLA’s many Acholi and Langi had been hastily enrolled with minimal training and little sense of discipline. Although they were survivors of Amin’s genocidal purges of northeast Uganda, in the 1980s they were armed and in uniform, conducting similar actions against Bantu-speaking Ugandans in the south, with whom they appeared to feel no empathy or even pity.

In early 1983, to eliminate rural support for Museveni’s guerrillas the area of Luwero District, north of Kampala, was targeted for a massive population removal affecting almost 750,000 people. These artificially created refugees were packed into several internment camps subject to military control, which in reality meant military abuse. Civilians outside the camps, in what came to be known as the "Luwero Triangle," were presumed to be guerrillas or guerrilla sympathizers and were treated accordingly.

The farms of this highly productive agricultural area were looted--roofs, doors, and even door frames were stolen by UNLA troops. Civilian loss of life was extensive, as evidenced some years later by piles of human skulls in bush clearings and alongside rural roads.

The army also concentrated on the northwestern corner of Uganda, in what was then West Nile District. Bordering Sudan, West Nile had provided the ethnic base for much of Idi Amin’s earlier support and had enjoyed relative prosperity under his rule. Having born the brunt of Amin’s anti-Acholi massacres in previous years, Acholi soldiers avenged themselves on inhabitants of Amin’s home region, whom they blamed for their losses. In one famous incident in June 1981, Ugandan Army soldiers attacked a Catholic mission where local refugees had sought sanctuary. When the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported a subsequent massacre, the government expelled it from Uganda.

Despite these activities, Obote’s government, unlike Amin’s regime, was sensitive to its international image and realized the importance of securing foreign aid for the nation’s economic recovery. Obote had sought and followed the advice of the International Monetary Fund, even though the austerity measures ran counter to his own ideology. He devalued the Uganda shilling by 100 percent, attempted to facilitate the export of cash crops, and postponed any plans he may once have entertained for reestablishing one-party rule. The continued sufferance of the DP, although much harried and abused by UPC stalwarts, became an important symbol to international donors. The government’s inability to eliminate Museveni and win the civil war, however, sapped its economic strength, and the occupation of a large part of the country by an army hostile to the Ugandans living there furthered discontent with the regime.

Abductions by the police, as well as the detentions and disappearances so characteristic of the Amin period, recurred. In place of torture at the infamous State Research Bureau at Nakasero, victims met the same fate at so-called "Nile Mansions." Amnesty International, a human rights organization, issued a chilling report of routine torture of civilian detainees at military barracks scattered across southern Uganda. The overall death toll from 1981 to 1985 was estimated as high as 500,000.

Obote, once seen by the donor community as the one man with the experience and will to restore Uganda’s fortunes, now appeared to be a liability to recovery. In this deteriorating military and economic situation, Obote subordinated other matters to a military victory over Museveni. North Korean military advisers were invited to take part against the NRA rebels in what was to be a final campaign that won neither British nor United States approval. But the army was warweary, and after the death of the highly capable General Oyite Ojok in a helicopter accident at the end of 1983, it began to split along ethnic lines. Acholi soldiers complained that they were given too much frontline action and too few rewards for their services.

Obote delayed appointing a successor to Oyite Ojok for as long as possible. In the end, he appointed a Langi to the post and attempted to counter the objection of Acholi officers by spying on them, reviving his old paramilitary counterweight, the mostly Langi Special Force Units, and thus repeating some of the actions that led to his overthrow by Amin.

As if determined to replay the January 1971 events, Obote once again left the capital after giving orders for the arrest of a leading Acholi commander, Brigadier (later Lieutenant General) Basilio Olara Okello, who mobilized troops and entered Kampala on July 27, 1985. Obote, together with a large entourage, fled the country for Zambia. This time, unlike the last, Obote allegedly took much of the national treasury with him.

Sources: Source: Wikipedia, published under the GNU FDL. Retrieved [dat]
Source: Uppsala Conflict Data Program (Date of retrieval: 2014-08-12) UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University

SOURCES: FATALITY DATA

Data Sources

[1] Battle deaths: PRIO Battle Deaths Dataset v3.0 (link) (1946-88) #118 UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v. 5-2016 (link) (1989-2015)
Low: 114,919 High: 332,432

[2] UCDP One-sided Violence Dataset v. 1.4-2015 (1989-2014) (link) including actors: Government of Uganda, UPA, LRA, ADF, WNBF
Low: 8,487 High: 9,677

[3] UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset v. 2.5-2014, 1989-2013 (link) including dyads: Arrow Boys vs LRA, Bangadi Militia vs LRA
Low: 98 High: 107

Lord's Resistance army (LRA) has attacked civilians in many of Ugandas neighbouring countries.

More about sources

NOTE ON NATION DATA

NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.

UPDATES

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