|Uganda Table of Contents
A general climate of good neighborliness and noninterference in each others' affairs marked relations among the three East African states during the 1960s. But these ties became strained at the end of the decade, as Obote's tentative moves toward more radical domestic and foreign policies caused anxiety among the more conservative Kenyan leadership and drew praise from the socialist-minded Tanzanians. Amin's coup d'état in 1971 created a sharp break in Uganda's ties to Tanzania and upset relations with Kenya. Immediately after the coup, the Kenyan authorities forced Obote to leave Nairobi, and Kenya recognized Amin's government. The Tanzanians welcomed Obote and continued to consider him the Ugandan head of state until shortly before the overthrow of Amin in 1979. Kenyan business people took sufficient advantage of shortages in Uganda during the Amin period that Kenya eventually replaced Britain as Uganda's main trading partner. However, many of Kenya's exports to Uganda were actually goods transshipped from Europe and the United States. Kenyan business people were frequently paid in Ugandan coffee, which they smuggled across the border and sold to the Kenyan government. These ties were temporarily disrupted in 1976 when Amin suddenly claimed for Uganda all Kenyan territory west of Lake Naivasha on the basis of early colonial boundaries. A large number of Ugandan refugees, particularly the highly educated, found jobs in Kenya during the 1970s.
Meanwhile, the Tanzanian government supported an unsuccessful invasion of Uganda organized by Obote in 1972. In 1978 Amin sent the Ugandan army into the Kagera Salient in northwest Tanzania, where it plundered the area. The Tanzanian authorities sent their army to oust the Ugandans but, after meeting little resistance, invaded Uganda with a small contingent of Ugandan irregulars to overthrow Amin and install a Ugandan liberation front as his successor. The Tanzanian army remained in Uganda to maintain peace while the Ugandan liberation front organized elections to return the country to civilian rule. Officially, the Tanzanians were neutral, leaving political decisions to Ugandan officials. However, in early 1980, the Tanzanian army acquiesced in the removal of the interim president by Obote's supporters in the newly formed Ugandan army. After the 1980 election, President Obote discreetly distanced himself from the Tanzanian government and formed amicable relations with Kenyan officials and business people. After Obote was overthrown in 1985, the short-lived military government maintained friendly ties with the Kenyan president, Daniel T. arap Moi.
The Okello government engaged in a war with the NRM that few observers thought it could win. Moi successfully mediated peace negotiations between the NRM and the Okello government in Nairobi in late 1985. However, the agreement for the two sides to share power was never implemented, as war broke out a month later and quickly resulted in the NRM's seizure of Kampala. President Moi, together with the heads of state from Zaire and Rwanda, met with Museveni shortly thereafter in Goma, Zaire, but he remained irritated over the NRM's "betrayal" of the agreement in which he had invested much of his time and prestige. In addition, Moi feared that the example of a guerrilla force taking power from an established African government might give heart to Kenyan dissidents and that the NRM government might even assist them. He also regarded Museveni's government as left-wing and likely to make alliances with radical states, which Kenya shunned. A year later, Moi accused the Ugandans of permitting Kenyan dissidents to arrange for guerrilla training by Libya.
In its first year in office, the NRM government attempted to reduce the cost of transporting its coffee to the Kenyan port of Mombasa by shifting from private Kenyan trucking companies, thought to have connections with Kenyan government figures, to rail delivery. It also announced plans to shift some of its other trade from Kenyan to Tanzanian routes. The Kenyan government and its press reacted strongly by castigating Uganda, disrupting supplies and telephone service, and unilaterally closing the border on several occasions. In response, in the middle of 1987 Uganda closed down its supply of electricity to Kenya and suspended all coffee shipments through Kenya. It also accused Kenya of assisting Ugandan dissidents fighting in eastern and northern Uganda. For three days in mid-December 1987, there was firing across the border, and it appeared that the two countries might go to war. The two high commissioners were harassed and expelled. The two presidents met in the border town of Malaba two weeks later. They reopened the border, pulled their troops back from it, and agreed to ship coffee to Mombasa on Kenya Railways, but similar hostile threats and actions occurred intermittently over the next several years. In March 1989, the Kenyan government claimed that a sizeable contingent of NRA troops had invaded northwest Kenya and that a Ugandan aircraft had bombed a small town in the same area. Uganda denied both allegations, pointing out it had no aircraft capable of carrying out such a raid and that the "soldiers" were probably cattle rustlers who had carried out raids across the border for years. For its part, the Ugandan government claimed that the Kenyans were continuing secretly to assist rebels infiltrating eastern Uganda, and tensions remained high through mid-1990. Both leaders expressed their willingness to improve relations, however, and in mid-August 1990, Museveni and Moi met and agreed to cooperate in ending their longstanding animosity.
Relations between the NRM government and Tanzania were quieter and more correct, if not especially warm. The two governments were suspicious of each other when the NRM took power. On the one hand, NRM leaders believed the Tanzanians had supported Obote's efforts to gain power during the interim period before the 1980 elections and had helped him in his efforts to suppress the NRA during the guerrilla struggle. On the other hand, Museveni had admired Tanzania's progressive policies since his university days in Dar es Salaam. When the Ugandan government had asked a team of British military advisers to leave in November 1986, it replaced them with Tanzanian army trainers. Moreover, both governments strongly supported regional cooperation. Despite all of Uganda's public statements about developing an alternative route for its exports through Tanzania in the late 1980s, there was little it could send by that route until Tanzanian roads were rebuilt and the port of Dar es Salaam functioned more effectively.
More about the Government of Uganda.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress