Uganda: Obama Fights the Lord’s Army


Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, that borders the Congo-Kinshasa (west), Southern Sudan (north), Kenya (east), and Rwanda and Tanzania (south), has just witnessed the arrival of special U.S. military forces sent by President Obama to execute Arrest Warrants, issued by the International Criminal Court, against the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been fighting for decades near the Ugandan-South Sudan border.

Historically, Obama’s men are not the first Westerners to enter Uganda, as England sent explorers in 1862, Christian missionaries in 1875, and soldiers in 1894 to establish a British Protectorate. Afterward, more Englishmen arrived, as a 1,081-mile railroad was built through Kenya to the port at Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.

Following independence in 1962, Uganda’s first president (1962-66) maintained relations with Britain and did business with them.

45 years of trouble started in 1966 when Milton Obote (1966-71), overthrew the government, abolished tribal kingdoms, and nationalized businesses. Relations with the outside were severed completely, as Uganda slipped into darkness, when a coup led by the infamous Idi Amin Dada (1971-79), seized control, dissolved parliament, outlawed political parties, and murdered troops loyal to Obote. Amin expelled British businessmen, and 70,000 Asians, who controlled most professions and industries. 300,000 disappeared during his reign of terror, which continued, until the Uganda-Tanzania War (1978-79) forced him into exile.

Outsiders stayed away when Obote returned in 1980, because he reinstated tribal favors, and triggered a civil war (1981-86), which sacrificed another 100,000. Political unrest continued, as a coup headed by Yoweri Museveni ousted Obote in 1985, and imposed one-party rule, fearing many parties would reignite tribal tension.

Although electoral stability returned in 1995, when a multi-party system was implemented, enabling Museveni to win elections in 1996, 2001, and 2006, the country became involved in external conflicts. As the Tutsi Tribe fled from neighboring Rwanda, they were permitted to set up bases in Uganda, from which they later launched the Rwandan Civil War (1990-93), prompting the UN to station observers along the Uganda-Rwanda border.

Uganda then intervened in the 1st Congo War (1996-98) and 2nd Congo War (1998-03) on the side of the Tutsi Tribe, because the Congolese leader was supporting the Rwandan Hutu Tribe. In the Democratic Rep of Congo v Uganda (2000), the International Court of Justice found Uganda violated the ban against unilateral force and the laws of war, when they entered the Congo, killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property.

Museveni’s Ugandan government remains engaged in a fight with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Christian group, based in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, whose leader, Joe Kony, has evaded an Arrest Warrant, issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court, and has rejected a peace plan, because his opponents are not willing to dismiss the warrant.

Now, President Obama has intervened in Uganda with 100 Special Forces troops to assist in a kill or capture mission against Kony, an action authorized by the LRA Disarmament Act passed by Congress in 2009. If Obama succeeds in defeating the Lord’s Army, perhaps Uganda will finally move away from their 45-year history of tribal war, anti-Western feelings, civil war, military dictatorship, border area conflicts, adverse court rulings, and other problems, and may finally become a stable political democracy of the sort envisioned when independence was granted in 1962.

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One Comment to “Uganda: Obama Fights the Lord’s Army”

  1. Thank you for this succinct historical summary of Ugandan politics.

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