Tuesday we travelled from Kampala to Hoima along a very nice road. Before leaving, though, we drove around Kampala to see the sites. Kampala is a HUGE city that is very spread out. They say that the population of Kampala is 1.5 million at night and 3+ million during the day. That means that there is A LOT of traffic. So many cars move in and out and there does not seem to be an organized way of parking, so it is quite confusing and dangerous to drive in the city. I definitely would not want to be the one to be in control of the car. One of the interesting things was the Independence Monument which is in front of a mural painted with the history of Uganda.
Uganda has a fairly tragic history which is punctuated by the rule of Idi Amin – a brutal dictator who ravaged the country from 1971 – 1979. He seized power in 1971 in a military coup, declared himself President of Uganda, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Army Chief of Staff, and Chief of Air Staff. He announced that he was suspending certain provisions of the Ugandan constitution and soon instituted an Advisory Defence Council composed of military officers with himself as the chairman.
Amin began his show of force by purging the country of those who supported the former president, Obote. These were mainly from the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups, but later included other ethnic groups, eligious leaders, journalists, artists, senior bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, homosexuals, students and intellectuals, criminal suspects, and foreign nationals. In this atmosphere of violence, many other people were killed for criminal motives or simply at will. The killings, motivated by ethnic, political, and financial factors, continued throughout Amin’s eight-year reign. The exact number of people killed is unknown, but estimates range from 80,000 to 500,000.
Amin’s ally Muammar Gaddafi told Amin to expel Asians from Uganda. In August 1972, Amin declared what he called an “economic war”, a set of policies that included the expropriation of properties owned by Asians and Europeans. Uganda’s 80,000 Asians were mostly from the Indian subcontinent and born in the country, their ancestors having come to Uganda when the country was still a British colony. Many owned businesses, including large-scale enterprises, that formed the backbone of the Ugandan economy. On 4 August 1972, Amin issued a decree ordering the expulsion of the 60,000 Asians who were not Ugandan citizens.
In 1978, troops mutinied and Amin was forced to flee the country in April 1979.
Obote regained the presidency in 1980, but the national security forces continued to commit crimes against the Ugandan people. Another coup threw Obote out of power in 1985, and the new president General Okello promised a number of reforms including improving human rights, though the military continued to commit heinous crimes under his leadership. Museveni claimed the presidency in 1986 and has remained there since. Human rights abuses have since mostly ended and economic reforms have been implemented. There is, however, a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army which abducts children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves which is still active, especially in the northern section of the country.
All of this has had a profound impact on Uganda’s development and its culture.