Uganda’s post-colonial political history can be summarised with three names: Obote, Amin and Museveni - each man playing a dominant role in his own era of political ascendancy.
Obote was the first independence prime minister - pseudo-socialist, northern and well educated - he ruled from 1966 as President after overthrowing Edward Mutesa until his own violent removal in a coup by army commander Idi Amin. Amin, the poorly educated but popular soldier from the peripheral West Nile state, was in power for 8 turbulent years during the 1970s. During this time, he disposed of a staggering number of political opponents and famously expelled the country’s entire Asian population.
Driven from power in 1979, after a Tanzanian counter-invasion of Uganda, Amin was replaced by the second, and even more vicious and dysfunctional Obote regime. Obote II was in power until 1985 when he was again removed in a coup by military brothers Tito and Basilio Okello. At this point Ugandan politics reached its own apotheosis of violence and dysfunctionality. The Okello regime was finally removed by the current President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army, which took the capital, and despite an invasion from the North by the bizarre Holy Spirit Forces of their witch commander Alice Auma, has been there ever since.
Uganda is probably most famous for its political leaders – notably Amin, who was memorably portrayed by Forest Whitaker in the film (and book) The Last King of Scotland. However, the country boasts stunningly beautiful scenery, both around Lake Victoria and in the West of the country, where the famous Ruwenzori Mountains of the moon support one of the last colonies of Mountain gorillas in Africa. The capital, Kampala, is also a notably attractive city built on seven hills sloping down towards Lake Victoria, and for this reason is known as the Rome of Africa. A short drive from the current capital can be found Entebbe – an attractive lake-side colonial hang-out, which still houses several government ministries in the original British designed buildings.
In recent years, Uganda has enjoyed stable government and impressive levels of development under political colossus Yoweri Museveni. A relatively successful attempt to curb HIV-AIDS infection rates, economic recovery and the favourable gaze of the international community marked Uganda out as one of the more successful African negotiators or the new millennium. However, this could not mask the continued violence in the North of the country with the Lords Resistance Army (a strange mutation of the Holy spirit Forces, under the appalling but inspired leadership of Joseph Kony,) controversial military forays into the virtually ungoverned Eastern regions of the DRC, and a feeling that Museveni increasingly sees himself as a life-time President.
Uganda may be more peaceful, richer and stable than it was for most of its post-colonial history, but democracy has certainly not been institutionalised (in practise), and the country continues to exist under the strong arm of its current ‘big man.’
Internationally high-profile Ugandans include well known intellectual and commentator on Islam – Mahmoud Mamdani and British Archbishop of York John Sentamu.