Uganda was a protectorate of the United Kingdom from 1894 until granted independence in 1962.
Northern Uganda was primarily an agricultural area and home to the Acholi people, who comprised the
vast majority of the Ugandan military, while southern Uganda was industrialized and the seat of the
national capital in Kampala.
In 1966, Prime Minister Obote removed President Mutesa (A Bugandan from the south) from office
and assumed control of the government and appointed Idi Amin (From the south) as Army Chief.
During his presidency, Obote abolished provincial government and the traditional kingdoms, including
that of the former President Mutesa. These and other actions taken by Obote resulted in the loss of
support of European leaders and of the Ugandan people, especially those from the south.
In 1971, while Obote was out of the country, Amin lead a military coup and took control of the
government. Obote lived in exile as the guest of Tanzanian president Nyerere. Because of the actions
of Obote and his own sectarian and ethnic believes the Acholi suffered terribly under the Amin regime.
With the aid of the Tanzinian military a successful rebellion was launched and Amin was removed from
power in 1980 and Obote regained the Presidency.
Citing election fraud, Yoweri Museveni united with several other resistance groups and lead a rebellion
against the Obote regime. Obote's UNLA force consisted of many ethnic Acholi. In 1985 Obote was
successfully removed from office and Museveni assumed the Presidency, of which office he still holds
While Museveni has brought relative stability to southern Uganda, northern Uganda and notably the
Acholi people continue to suffer.
In 1987 the Lord's Resistance Army, currently lead by Joseph Kony, began a rebellion with the goal of
destabilizing the Ugandan government. Operating primarily in northern Uganda, the LRA waged a war
of abduction and extreme brutality against the civilian population. Any Acholi thought to aid the
government was attack by the LRA, anyone the thought to aid the LRA was attacked by the
In 1996 the Ugandan government, in an effort to separate the civilian population from the LRA, forced
the local population, many at gunpoint, to temporary safety villages. Hundreds of thousands more fled
to cities in the west and south and others still fled outside the country. The temporary safety villages
eventually became IDP camps, and for many, the only home they have ever known. In all it is estimated
that in excess of two million people were displaced.
While the camps offered some safety, security was often lax and rebel attacks were common. As
food, water, and firewood became scarce, women were forced to wander farther and farther from the
camps and risked abduction, mutilation, or death. Rebels often punished women caught outside the
camps by cutting off their lips. Thousands of women and children were abducted, many of whom are
still held captive to this day.
In the mean time, a surge of what was known as "slim disease" began near the Lake Victoria area and
began spreading along Uganda's major highways. In 1982 the first confirmed case of AIDS was
diagnosed in Uganda and the link between slim disease and AIDS was made. It was not until 1986,
with the relative stability of Museveni's presidency, that the government was able to launch an HIV
prevention program. While significant progress has been made it is estimated that over one million
people have died in Uganda, a country with a population of thirty two million, due to AIDS related
complications, leaving hundreds of thousands of orphans and having a devastating effect on every
aspect of Ugandan life.
In 2006, assisted by the United States and other nations, the Ugandan Army successfully forced the
withdrawal of the LRA from Uganda. Since then there has been relative peace in the area and the
Ugandan government has ordered the closure of the refugee camps. There are some estimates that the
camps will be completely closed by 2011. This, however, is not the end of the story.
Life in northern Uganda is in stark contrast to that in the south. Living in the south many only knew of
the war by what they read in the newspapers or from broadcasts on radio and television. In the south
one sees paved roads, vast green fields of tea, tobacco, and other cash crops. There are luxury home
building developments and modern universities, hospitals, and good jobs for the well connected and
The IDPs that fled here found themselves unwanted and unwelcome. Being not of the southern tribes
and not in their homeland they face extreme prejudice and hardship. Most make barely a subsistence
wage by hard labor, distilling alcohol, selling fruits, or prostitution. Unable to afford rent in the main
city, many moved to slum villages. Barely able to buy food and pay the land owners, there is no money
left over for school fees, so the children remain home, uneducated. Many say we are farmers, and
would remain farmers were it not for the war.
In the north, life is little better. Those that remember were home is return to bush and rock, all that
remains of the village and the life that was left behind so many years before. With no water, food, or
the tools to rebuild, it is a day to day struggle for survival. Many who were orphaned in the camps
know nothing of their families nor have any idea of where home may be. Many are too old and sick to
travel, and remain in the remnants of the camps as they are pressured daily by the government and the
land owners to leave.
While the rebels are gone, they have been replaced by thieves and cattle rustlers. The frustration of
poverty, hunger, and hardship are taking their tolls on the Acholi families as domestic violence,
alcoholism, and suicide is rampant. Many cry real tears as they lament on a culture in danger of being
lost as the customs handed down for centuries are dying along with the casualties of war, disease, and