Ugandan Bush War

The Ugandan Bush War, also known as the Luwero War, the Ugandan Civil War or the Resistance War, was a civil war fought in Uganda between the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) and a number of rebel groups, most importantly the National Resistance Army (NRA), from 1980 to 1986.

The unpopular President Milton Obote was overthrown in a coup d'état in 1971 by General Idi Amin, who established a military dictatorship. Amin was overthrown in 1979 following the Uganda-Tanzania War, but his loyalists subsequently launched an insurgency in the West Nile sub-region. Subsequent elections saw Obote return to power in an UNLA-ruled government. Several opposition groups claimed the elections were rigged, and united as the NRA under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni to start an armed uprising against Obote's government on 6 February 1981. Obote was overthrown and replaced as President by his general Tito Okello in 1985 during the closing months of the conflict.

The war ended in victory for the NRA with hostilities officially ceasing on 25 January 1986, the establishment of a new government with Museveni as President, the UNLA and its political wing were dissolved, and sending Obote and Okello into exile.

Obote cropped
Obote cropped


In 1971, the President of Uganda Milton Obote was overthrown in a coup d'état by General Idi Amin of the Uganda Army (which had no distinct name at the time, UPDF-Uganda Peoples Defence Forces is its current name). Obote had been President since Uganda's independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, and his regime saw a general decline in living standards in the country, with widespread corruption, terrorism, and persecution of ethnic groups. Obote's increasing unpopularity led him to believe rivals were beginning to plot against him, particularly Amin and arranged a purge to occur while he was outside of the country. Amin was warned of the planned purge and acted first, seizing the presidency and forcing Obote into exile in Tanzania. Despite initial popularity, Amin quickly turned to despotism and established a military dictatorship which accelerated the decline of Obote's regime, destroying the country's economy and political system.

Increasing opposition to his regime, paranoia over Milton Obote returning to overthrow him, and friction with Tanzanian president Julius Nyrere led Amin to launch the Uganda–Tanzania War, declaring war on Tanzania and annexing part of the Kagera Region. Amin's forces and his Libyan allies were defeated by Tanzanian troops and the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), a political coalition formed by exiled anti-Amin Ugandans under the leadership of Obote, whose armed wing was known as Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).[5][6] Amin was overthrown during the fall of Kampala and then fled the country, and UNLF was installed by Tanzania to replace him. The unstable UNLF government ruled the country provisionally from April 1979 until December 1980. Meanwhile, the ousted Amin loyalists who had fled into Zaire and Sudan reorganised, and prepared to renew war in order to regain control of Uganda.[2]

Bush War

The first group to initiate hostilities were the Amin loyalists who launched a rebellion against the UNLF government in autumn 1980. Their 7,100-strong force never adopted an official name, but is generally called "Uganda Army" as it consisted for the most part of old troops of Amin's Uganda Army (it was also known as "West Front" or "Western Nile Front"). Though badly armed, the Uganda Army launched a devastating raid from Sudan into Uganda's West Nile sub-region in October 1980, capturing several towns and inflicting numerous casualties on local UNLA garrisons. As the rebels knew that they could not hold the captured territory against a full UNLA counter-offensive, they retreated back into Sudan after a few days. The Uganda Army launched its next offensive just before the Ugandan national elections in December 1980, and this time it held the areas it captured in West Nile, and gradually expanded its holdings.[2]

The rebellion was then crippled by internal divisions, however, as parts of the Uganda Army remained loyal to Idi Amin, whereas others wanted to distance themselves from the unpopular old dictator. The latter part of the insurgent army split off, forming the "Uganda National Rescue Front" (UNRF) under Moses Ali, whereas the remaining Amin loyalists became known as "Former Uganda National Army" (FUNA).[3][7]

As the rebellion in West Nile was expanding and fracturing, the UNLF government experienced its own divisions. The elections of December 1980 were officially won by Milton Obote's Uganda Peoples Congress, effectively making him President of Uganda again. The results were strongly disputed by other candidates, however, resulting in increasing strife. Yoweri Museveni, a former UNLA commander during the Uganda-Tanzania War and leader of the rival Uganda Patriotic Movement party, claimed electoral fraud and declared an armed rebellion against Obote's government. Museveni and his supporters assembled in the south-west of Uganda and formed the Popular Resistance Army (PRA), which later merged with former president Yusuf Lule's group, the Uganda Freedom Fighters, to create the National Resistance Army and its political wing, the National Resistance Movement.[8] Many Rwandan exiles in Uganda including Paul Kagame (who later formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front) allied with Museveni's NRA against Obote. Kagame had been trained in Tanzania as a spy and later became Museveni's counter-intelligence chief.[9][10]

On 6 February 1981, hostilities began in the south with an NRA attack on an army installation in the central Mubende District. Museveni was familiar with guerrilla warfare, having fought with the Mozambican Liberation Front in Mozambique, his own Front for National Salvation to fight the Amin regime, and had continued to campaign in rural areas hostile to Obote's government, especially central and western Buganda and in the western regions of Ankole and Bunyoro.[11] Most of the battles involved small mobile units called "coys" under the command of Fred Rwigyema, and Museveni's brother, Salim Saleh, with "A" Coy led by Steven Kashaka, "B" Coy by Joram Mugume, and "C" Coy by Pecos Kuteesa. There were three small zonal forces: the Lutta Unit operating in Kapeeka, the Kabalega Unit operating near Kiwoko, and the Nkrumah Unit operating in the areas of Ssingo.[12]

While the rebellion in the south grew in intensity, UNRF and FUNA started to fight each other in West Nile. The former managed to gain the upper hand, but this inter-rebel struggle only resulted in the overall weakening of the West Nile insurgents. The UNRF was thus mostly destroyed in a government offensive in December 1982 that saw widespread destruction and massacres at the hands of the UNLA, whereupon 260,000 people fled the area for Zaire and Sudan. This in turn destroyed the "insurgent infrastructure" of UNRF and FUNA, further weakening their remnants.[4]

In 1983, the Obote government launched Operation Bonanza, an extensive military expedition of UNLA forces that alone claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced a significant portion of the population. The blame for the massacres was placed on the people of northern Uganda for supporting the actions of the NRA, which increased the existing regional tensions in the country.

In July 1985, the UNLA military commanders General Tito Okello and Lieutenant General Bazilio Olara-Okello staged a coup d'état that ousted Milton Obote from the presidency, who then fled to Kenya and later to Zambia. By 22 January, 1986, government troops in the capital Kampala had begun to abandon their posts en masse as the rebels gained ground from the south and south-west. Okello ruled as president for six months until he fled to Kenya in exile when the government was eventually defeated by the NRA on 25 January 1986. Yoweri Museveni was subsequently sworn in as president on 29 January, and the NRA became the new regular army of Uganda, which was renamed the Uganda People's Defence Force in 1995.


It has been estimated that approximately 100,000 to 500,000 people, including combatants and civilians, died across Uganda as a result of the Ugandan Bush War.[13][14][15][16]

Milton Obote never returned to Uganda following his second overthrow and exile, despite repeated rumors he planned to return to Ugandan politics. Obote resigned as leader of the Ugandan Peoples Congress and was succeeded his wife, Miria Obote, shortly before his death on 10 October 2005 in South Africa. Tito Okello remained in exile in Kenya until 1993, when he was granted an amnesty by Musaveni and returned to Uganda, where he died in Kampala in 1996.

Human rights abuses

The ranks of the UNLA included many ethnic Acholi and Lango, who had themselves been the victims of Idi Amin's genocidal purges in northern Uganda. Despite this, the UNLA under Obote targeted and abused civilians, reminiscent of Amin's own abuses. These included the forced removal of 750,000 civilians from the area of the then Luweero District, including present-day Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, and others. They were moved into refugee camps controlled by the military. Many civilians outside the camps, in what came to be known as the "Luweero triangle", were continuously abused as "guerrilla sympathizers". The International Committee of the Red Cross has estimated that by July 1985, the Obote regime had been responsible for more than 300,000 civilian deaths across Uganda.[17]

The NRA also committed atrocities, as land mines were used against civilians, and child soldiers were widespread in the NRA's ranks, and continued to be after the NRA had become the regular Ugandan army.[18]

In popular culture

The Ugandan Bush War was depicted in the 2018 film 27 Guns. It was written and directed by Natasha Museveni Karugire, Yoweri Museveni's eldest daughter.[19]


  1. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), pp. 40–41.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), p. 39.
  3. ^ a b Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), pp. 39–40.
  4. ^ a b c Cooper & Fontanellaz (2015), p. 40.
  5. ^ Gberie, Lansana (2005). A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone. London: Hurst & Company. ISBN 1-85065-742-4.
  6. ^ Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (30 July 2009). "WHO FOUGHT? Chihandae supplied 16 of the first 27 NRA guns". The Observer. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Peace and conflict in northern Uganda 2002-06 (2010)".
  8. ^ "A Country Study: The Ten-Point Program", Library of Congress Country Studies
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2015-02-05.
  11. ^ "A Country Study: The Second Obote Regime: 1981–85", Library of Congress Country Studies
  12. ^ Dr Kizza besigye, "We fought for what was right Archived 2007-06-13 at the Wayback Machine", The Monitor, 1 July 2004
  13. ^ Encarta. Microsoft. 1995.
  14. ^ Eckhardt, William (1987). Sivard, Ruth L. (ed.). World Military and Social Expenditures 1987–88 (12th ed.). ISBN 0-918281-05-9.
  15. ^ Wasswa, Henry (10 October 2005). "Uganda's first prime minister, and two-time president, dead at 80". Associated Press.
  16. ^ Bercovitch, Jacob; Jackson, Richard (1997). International Conflict: A Chronological Encyclopedia of Conflicts and Their Management 1945–1995. Washington: Congressional Quarterly. ISBN 1-56802-195-X.
  17. ^ 1947-, Ofcansky, Thomas P., (1999). Uganda : tarnished pearl of Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. p. 55. ISBN 9781435601451. OCLC 174221322.
  18. ^ Uganda, Landmine Monitor Report, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, May 2004
  19. ^ "27 Guns trailer out: dawn of a new age-Museveni's revolution". Reportrt. Edge. Retrieved 14 November 2018.

Works cited

  • Cooper, Tom; Fontanellaz, Adrien (2015). Wars and Insurgencies of Uganda 1971–1994. Solihull: Helion & Company Limited. ISBN 978-1-910294-55-0.
27 Guns

27 Guns is an action, adventure biopic film about Yoweri Museveni and his military colleagues during the Ugandan Bush War. It was directed by Natasha Museveni Karugire and premiered in Kampala on September 8 2018 and was later screened in Johannesburg South Africa on September 19.

Bush War

The Bush War may refer to:

The Bush War (so-called “Guerre des Bois”) broke out in the year 1795 in St Lucia.

The Rhodesian Bush War, a conflict in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) between the white minority government of Ian Smith and the black nationalists of the ZANU and ZAPU movements

The South African Border War, also known as the Angola Bush War or the Namibian War of Independence, a conflict from 1966 to 1989 in South-West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola

The Ugandan Bush War, a guerrilla war in Uganda waged by the National Resistance Army against the governments of Milton Obote and Tito Okello between 1981 and 1986

The Central African Republic Bush War, a war in the Central African Republic, between 2004 and 2007

Chief of Defence Forces (Uganda)

The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) is the professional head of the Uganda People's Defence Forces. He is responsible for the administration and the operational control of the Ugandan military. The position was established after the National Resistance Army was reconstituted as the Uganda People's Defence Forces, three years after the NRA's victory in the Ugandan Bush War in 1986. The current CDF is General David Muhoozi.

Entebbe Military Hospital

Entebbe Military Hospital, also Katabi Military Hospital or Katabi UPDAF Hospital, but whose official name is Ronald Bata Memorial Hospital, is a military hospital in Uganda.

Fred Rwigyema

Fred Gisa Rwigyema (also spelled Rwigema; born Emmanuel Gisa; 10 April 1957 – 2 October 1990) was a Rwandan politician and military officer. He was the founder of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a political and military force formed by Rwandan Tutsi exile descendants of those forced to leave the country after the 1959 Hutu Revolution.

Juma Oris

Juma Oris Abdalla (died in March 2001) was an Ugandan military officer and minister under the dictatorship of Idi Amin. After fleeing his country during the Uganda–Tanzania War, he became leader of the West Nile Bank Front (WNBF), a rebel group active in the West Nile sub-region of Uganda during the 1990s.


Kyankwanzi is a town in Central Uganda. It is one of the major political and economic centres of Kyankwanzi District and the district headquarters are located there.

List of wars involving Uganda

The following is a list of wars involving Uganda.

Luwero Triangle

The Luweero Triangle, sometimes spelled Luwero Triangle, is an area of Uganda north of the capital Kampala, where, in 1981, Yoweri Museveni started the guerrilla war that propelled him and his National Resistance Movement into power in 1986.

The area was notorious for the persecution of civilians during the Luweero War, between the rebel National Resistance Army and the government of Milton Obote. Many residents were either forcibly recruited or killed by both sides during the five-year Ugandan Bush War, as Museveni's guerrilla forces started their advance from Kyankwanzi southeast toward Kampala. The following Buganda districts constitute the Luweero Triangle:

Kiboga District

Kyankwanzi District, formerly part of Kiboga

Nakaseke District, formerly part of Luweero

Nakasongola District, formerly part of Luweero

Luweero District

Mubende District

Mityana District, formerly part of Mubende

Wakiso District, formerly part of Mpigi

Military history of Uganda

The military history of Uganda begins with actions before the conquest of the country by the British Empire. After the British conquered the country, there were various actions, including in 1887, and independence was granted in 1962. After independence, Uganda was plagued with a series of conflicts, most rooted in the problems caused by colonialism. Like many African nations, Uganda endured a series of civil wars and coup d'états. Since the 2000s in particular, the Uganda People's Defence Force has been active in peacekeeping operations for the African Union and the United Nations.

Milton Obote

Apollo Milton Obote (28 December 1925 – 10 October 2005) was a Ugandan political leader who led Uganda to independence in 1962 from British colonial administration. Following the nation's independence, he served as Prime Minister of Uganda from 1962 to 1966 and President of Uganda from 1966 to 1971, then again from 1980 to 1985. He was overthrown by Idi Amin in 1971, but regained power after Amin's 1979 overthrow. His second period of rule was marred by repression and the deaths of many civilians as a result of a civil war known as the Ugandan Bush War.

National Resistance Army

The National Resistance Army (NRA), the military wing of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), was a rebel army that waged a guerrilla war, commonly referred to as the Ugandan Bush War or Luwero War, against the government of Milton Obote, and later that of Tito Okello.

NRA was supported by Muammar al-Gaddafi.NRA was formed in 1981 when Yoweri Museveni's Popular Resistance Army (PRA) merged with ex-president Yusuf Lule's group, the Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF). Museveni, then leader of the Uganda Patriotic Movement party, alleged electoral fraud and declared an armed rebellion, following the victory of Uganda Peoples Congress in the bitterly disputed 1980 general elections.Museveni, who had guerrilla war experience with the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in Mozambique, and his own Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) formed in Tanzania to fight Idi Amin, led the NRA to victory against Ugandan government troops (UNLA) in 1986. By the time that the victorious NRA entered Kampala in 1986, about a quarter of its 16,000 combatants were Banyarwanda, while Fred Rwigema was its deputy commander. The NRA then became the national army.

Shortly afterwards the UNLA carried out a number of attacks against civilians in the north of Uganda. The attacks largely targeted the Acholi people and were in part seen as a form of revenge for Operation Bonanza, the scorched-earth operation there that had been ordered by Milton Obote during his presidency.From 1986 to 1990, the Museveni regime tried to end various insurgencies and to establish control over the army. Despite repeated government claims that the NRA had defeated the UNLA and other rebel groups, insurgent activity continued, especially in the northern, eastern, and western regions. In April 1988, 3,000 former Uganda People's Army (UPA) fighters and members of several other small rebel groups accepted a government amnesty by surrendering and declaring their support for Museveni's regime. In June 1988, the president concluded a peace agreement with Uganda People's Democratic Army (UPDA) commander Lieutenant Colonel John Angelo Okello. Although the NRA subsequently integrated many UPA and UPDA personnel into its ranks, thousands of others rejected the peace accord and continued to fight against the NRA.

After the 1995 Ugandan constitution was enacted, the NRA was renamed the Uganda People's Defence Force.

Order of Katonga

The Order of Katonga (Swahili: Nishani ya Katonga) is the highest military decoration of the Ugandan Honours System. It is awarded very rarely for extraordinary heroism.

Paul Kagame

Paul Kagame (; born 23 October 1957) is a Rwandan politician and former military leader. He is currently the President of Rwanda, having taken office in 2000 when his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned. Kagame previously commanded the rebel force that ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He was considered Rwanda's de facto leader when he served as Vice President and Minister of Defence from 1994 to 2000. He was re-elected in August 2017 with an official result of nearly 99% in an election criticized for numerous irregularities. He has been described as the "most impressive" and "among the most repressive" African leaders.Kagame was born to a Tutsi family in southern Rwanda. When he was two years old, the Rwandan Revolution ended centuries of Tutsi political dominance; his family fled to Uganda, where he spent the rest of his childhood. In the 1980s, Kagame fought in Yoweri Museveni's rebel army, becoming a senior Ugandan army officer after Museveni's military victories carried him to the Ugandan presidency. Kagame joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990. RPF leader Fred Rwigyema died early in the war and Kagame took control. By 1993, the RPF controlled significant territory in Rwanda and a ceasefire was negotiated. The assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana set off the genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. Kagame resumed the civil war, and ended the genocide with a military victory.

During his vice presidency, Kagame controlled the national army and maintained law and order, while other officials began rebuilding the country. Many RPF soldiers carried out retribution killings. Kagame said he did not support these killings but failed to stop them. A small number of these soldiers were later put on trial. Hutu refugee camps formed in Zaire and other countries. These camps were given food and medical aid by several western governments and aid agencies. The RPF attacked the camps in 1996, forcing many refugees to return home, but insurgents continued to attack Rwanda. The attack on the refugee camps killed an estimated 200,000 people. As part of the invasion, Kagame sponsored two controversial rebel wars in Zaire. The Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels won the first war (1996–97), installing Laurent-Désiré Kabila as president in place of dictator Mobutu and renaming the country as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The second war was launched in 1998 against Kabila, and later his son Joseph, following the DRC government's expulsion of Rwandan and Ugandan military forces from the country. The war escalated into a conflict that lasted until a 2003 peace deal and ceasefire.

As president, Kagame has prioritized national development, launching a programme to develop Rwanda as a middle-income country by 2020 (Vision 2020). As of 2013, the country is developing strongly on key indicators, including health care and education; annual growth between 2004 and 2010 averaged 8% per year. Kagame has had mostly good relations with the East African Community and the United States; his relations with France were poor until 2009. Relations with the DRC remain tense despite the 2003 ceasefire; human rights groups and a leaked United Nations report allege Rwandan support for two insurgencies in the country, a charge Kagame denies. Several countries suspended aid payments in 2012 following these allegations. Kagame is popular in Rwanda and with some foreign observers; human rights groups accuse him of political repression. He won an election in 2003, under a new constitution adopted that year, and was elected for a second term in 2010. Kagame was elected again in 2017, and due to yet another change in the constitution, he could potentially be President until 2034. His role in the assassination of exiled political opponents has been controversial.


UFF may refer to:

The Ulster Freedom Fighters, paramilitary wing of the Ulster Defence Association - a loyalist organisation in Northern Ireland

The Uganda Freedom Fighters, an anti-government faction in the Ugandan Bush War.

UltraFast Fibre, a local fibre company in New Zealand - part of the Ultra-Fast Broadband initiative.UFF (Tvind), a second hand clothing store chain of the Tvind association

Universidade Federal Fluminense (Fluminense Federal University), a university in Brazil

Universal force field- a molecular mechanics force field developed by Rappe

United Freedom Front, an American left-wing terrorist group active in the 1970s and 1980s

Uffie, an American underground electronic artist

Undesired future fertility, a designation given to women in labor who desire or are strongly considering sterilization to prevent future pregnancies

Universal File Format, a file format used in computer aided test software packages

Uzbekistan Football Federation, the governing body of association football in Uzbekistan

Uff!, the name of a Venezuelan boy band.

Uganda Muslim Liberation Army

The Uganda Muslim Liberation Army (abbreviated UMLA) was a Muslim rebel group in Uganda. Most of its fighters were from the Muslim minority of Baganda, whilst others were non-Baganda Muslims. The group was formed in response to the Museveni government's alleged mistreatment of Muslims in Buganda.

Ugandan Civil War

The Ugandan Civil War may refer to:

The Uganda–Tanzania War

The Ugandan Bush War

The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency

The ADF insurgency

Uganda–Tanzania War

The Uganda–Tanzania War, known in Tanzania as the Kagera War (Kiswahili: Vita vya Kagera) and in Uganda as the 1979 Liberation War, was fought between Uganda and Tanzania from October 1978 until June 1979, and led to the overthrow of Idi Amin's regime. Idi Amin's forces included thousands of troops sent by Libya.

Ulbricht Doctrine

The Ulbricht Doctrine, named after East German leader Walter Ulbricht, was the assertion that normal diplomatic relations between East Germany and West Germany could occur only if both states fully recognised each other's sovereignty. That contrasted with the Hallstein Doctrine, a West German policy which insisted that West Germany was the only legitimate German state.

East Germany gained acceptance of its view from fellow Communist states, such as Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria, which all agreed not to normalise relations with West Germany until it recognised East German sovereignty.

West Germany eventually abandoned its Hallstein Doctrine, instead adopting the policies of Ostpolitik. In December 1972, a Basic Treaty between East and West Germany was signed that reaffirmed two German states as separate entities. The treaty also allowed the exchange of diplomatic missions and the entry of both German states to the United Nations as full members.

Years in Uganda (1962–present)

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