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Uganda - Government

The first general elections in Uganda were held in 1961, and the British government granted internal self-government to Uganda on March 1, 1962, leading to full independence on October 9. Uganda maintained its Commonwealth membership. In succeeding years, supporters of a centralised state vied with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally based local kingdoms. Political manoeuvring climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution, assumed all government powers, and removed the president and vice president.

In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms. On January 25, 1971, Obote’s government was ousted in a military coup led by armed forces commander Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself president, dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power.

Idi Amin’s 8-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion of Amin’s troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian force, backed by Ugandan exiles, waged a war of liberation against Amin’s troops and Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On April 11, 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces.

After Amin's removal, the Uganda National Liberation Front (“UNLF”) formed an Final government with Yusuf Lule as president. This government adopted a ministerial system of administration and created a quasi-parliamentary organ known as the National Consultative Commission (“NCC”). In June 1979, following a dispute over the extent of presidential powers, the NCC replaced President Lule with Godfrey Binaisa. In a continuing dispute over the powers of the Final presidency, Binaisa was removed in May 1980. Thereafter, Uganda was ruled by a military commission chaired by Paulo Muwanga.

The December 1980 elections returned Milton Obote to power as president, with Muwanga serving as vice president. Under Obote, the security forces had one of the world's worst human rights records. In their efforts to stamp out an insurgency led by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (“NRA”), they lay waste to a substantial section of the country, especially in the Luwero area north of Kampala.

Obote ruled until July 27, 1985, when an army brigade, composed mostly of Acholi troops and commanded by Lt. Gen. Basilio Olara-Okello, took Kampala and proclaimed a military government. Obote fled to exile in Zambia. The new regime, headed by former defence force commander Gen. Tito Okello (no relation to Lt. Gen. Olara-Okello), opened negotiations with the insurgent forces of Yoweri Museveni, and pledged to improve respect for human rights, end tribal rivalry, and conduct free and fair elections. In the meantime, massive human rights violations continued as the Okello government murdered civilians and ravaged the countryside in order to destroy the NRA's support.

Negotiations between the Okello government and the NRA were conducted in Nairobi in the fall of 1985, with Kenyan President Daniel Moi seeking a cease-fire and a coalition government in Uganda. Although agreeing in late 1985 to a cease-fire, the NRA continued fighting, seized Kampala in late January 1986, and assumed control of the country, forcing Okello to flee north into Sudan. Museveni's forces organised a government with Museveni as president.

The 1995 constitution established Uganda as a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The constitution provides for an executive president, to be elected every 5 years. President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, was elected in 1996 and reelected in 2001, 2006, and 2011. Legislative responsibility is vested in the parliament; legislative elections are held every 5 years. Because of redistricting, the parliament elected in February 2011 grew from 332 to 375 members, including 112 special seats for women, 10 special seats for military, five for youth, and five for persons with disabilities.

The Ugandan judiciary operates as an independent branch of government and consists of magistrate's courts, high courts, courts of appeals (which also function as constitutional courts), and the Supreme Court. Parliament and the judiciary are independent bodies and wield significant power.

Uganda's constitution provides for freedom of speech, religion, and movement. Press and civil society enjoy relative freedom. However, the government sometimes uses charges of unlawful assembly, inciting violence, and promoting sectarianism to curtail government critics’ freedom of speech and assembly. In 2011, Ugandan security forces used live ammunition, tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disrupt opposition-led protests against rising prices, leaving at least 10 dead and many more injured.

At the cultural core of modern-day Uganda are the Bantu-speaking kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole, and Toro, whose traditional monarchs are important cultural figureheads and symbols of a common cultural identity. According to oral tradition, these centuries-old kingdoms are offshoots of the medieval kingdoms of Batembuzi and Bacwezi that lay in the vicinity of present-day Mubende and Ntusi, where archeological evidence suggests the existence of a strongly centralized polity by the 11th century.

When Arab traders moved inland from their enclaves along the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa and reached the interior of Uganda in the 1830s, they found several African kingdoms with well-developed political institutions dating back several centuries. In 1894,the Kingdom of Buganda was placed under a formal British protectorate. After independence, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally based local kingdoms.

The first constitution was promulgated in 1962 and attempted a quasi-federal arrangement, granting various degrees of autonomy to different local governments established during the protectorate. Of the four kingdoms it recognized, only Buganda received significant federal powers allowing it to raise its own tax revenues, pass laws on specified subjects, enjoy entrenched protection for land tenure and its local courts, and even control through its local legislature the election of the kingdom's representatives to the national parliament. The other three kingdoms - Ankole, Toro, and Bunyoro - and the district of Busoga became "federal states" with fewer powers.

After four years of independence, a struggle for power among local leaders seriously weakened the position of then Prime Minister Milton Obote. He responded by suspending the 1962 constitution in April 1966. Milton Obote abolished kingdoms in Uganda in 1967.

President Museveni restored the kingdoms in 1993. The Toro kingdom is one of Uganda’s four major cultural kingdoms. Buganda, the largest of four ancient kingdoms in Uganda, historically encompasses Kampala and central Uganda and is the traditional political authority of the Bugandan ethnic group. At least two people were killed in demonstrations in September 2009 after the king, or Kabaka, of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, was barred by the government from visiting Kayunga, a province considered to be within his traditional realm. The Buganda comprise more than 15 percent of Uganda's population.

A symbol of Buganda's cultural heritage, the Twekobe is the official residence of the Kabaka, or king, of Buganda, one of three extant structures within the palace grounds (the Lubiri) at Mengo. In 1966, Obote's army, led at the time by Idi Amin, badly damaged the Lubiri and the Twekobe, turning what remained of the latter into an army barracks. In preparation for the Kabaka's royal wedding in 1999, the Katikkiro (the Prime Minister of Buganda), Joseph Semwogerere Mulwanyamuli, called on the Baganda (the people of Buganda) to help rebuild the palace. Semwogerere's successful appeal was a measure of the strength of the traditional cultural institution of the Kabaka and the tradition of bulungi bwansi—working for the common good.

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Page last modified: 10-06-2015 21:28:37 ZULU