TransAfrica Forum Issue Brief

(Vol. 5, No. 4)
by TransAfrica Forum
Washington, DC, United States
August-September 1986
8 pages
Type: Newsletter
Coverage in Africa: East Africa, Uganda
Coverage outside Africa: United States
Language: English
Contents: UGANDA 1986: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS • THE PEOPLE AND POLITICS • HEALTH CRISIS: AND NOW THE THREAT OF AIDS • RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES • THE ECONOMY • KEY DATES IN UGANDA'S HISTORY • BASIC FACTS • This ISSUE BRIEF examines the crisis that paralyzed Uganda for about 15 years and examines prospects for positive change and what role Americans have played. The issue begins with an interview of Dr. Ezra Suruma, who just returned from Uganda. The newsletter discusses the early history of Uganda, populated by diverse immigrants from different parts of Africa. British missionaries arrived by 1877, and the British protectorate was formally established in 1894. British influence and occupation initially took place in the kingdom of Buganda and gave Buganda a political and economic advantage over its neighbors that it still maintains. Despite nearly 15 years of widespread, often state-sanctioned violence and wanton destruction, Uganda still has the human, agricultural, and mineral resources to make it one of Africa's more developed societies once again. The National Resistance Movement (NRM) appears to have begun an impressive program for the political, economic and cultural revitalization of Uganda. Milton Obote's behavior toward his opponents inside Uganda, particularly the Kabaka (king) of Buganda, contributed considerably to the demise of his regime. Prime Minister Obote, along with Nyerere of Tanzania, had been tagged as a socialist; he also was a key player in a move by several Commonwealth countries to stem a push by the apartheid government for closer ties with the conservative British government. Obote’s increasing support of the Arabs in the Middle East and cancellation of some military ties with Israel further weakened his standing in certain quarters in the West. Amin's seizure of power in 1971 was a turning point, including for health services in Uganda. Prior to his rule, the Ugandan health system and the health status of Ugandans were among the best on the African continent. Basic health service was provided essentially free of charge; the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox, sleeping sickness, meningitis, and leprosy had been contained. Ugandans now also face the threat of an AIDS epidemic. The existence of AIDS (known locally as" Slim") in Uganda war first publicized by doctors at the Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Before the Amin years, the U.S. maintained generally cordial, low-key relations with Uganda; in the 1960s, the U.S. treated Uganda largely as an appendage of the European colonial powers. Like other Western powers, the U.S. government grew increasingly concerned at what it perceived to be Obote's turn to the left in the late 1960s. The U.S. was strongly critical of Amin's expulsion of Asians in 1972; his outbursts, especially at Israel and Jews at the same time as he grew closer to Libya and Saudi Arabia, generated condemnation. In 1973, the U.S. withdrew Peace Corps volunteers and stopped bilateral economic assistance, followed shortly by the withdrawal of all official U.S. employees and the closing of the embassy. Finally, in 1978, Congress legislated a trade embargo against Uganda. The Amin years were disastrous for the economy: waves of violence and corruption, deficit financing, expulsion of 50,000 Asians who played critical roles in the economy, and profligate military spending. The cautious reactions of foreign donors and lenders, even after Uganda fulfilled tough IMF conditions, together with the effects of drought and continuing violence, brought the economy to a depressed state. Inflation is  increasing once again; coffee exports, Uganda's primary source of foreign exchange, have been hindered by an international coffee quota. Among pressing economic concerns are re-stimulating the agricultural sector, reducing the black market and smuggling, and encouraging discipline and sacrifice, especially among the urban population. The newsletter mentions the Uganda Democratic Party, the Uganda People’s Congress Party, Paolo Muwanga, Yoweri Museveni, the National Resistance Army (NRA), General Tito Okello, Friends of Uganda, the Uganda National Congress (UNC), the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), President Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, guerrilla groups, Paulo Muwanga, South Africa, Rhodesia, the Sudan, and the Congo.
Used by permission of TransAfrica Forum.
Collection: William Minter Southern Africa Papers