Category Archives: Kampala

24 May 1966 – the twists and turns of the Uganda story.

It reads like a work of fiction –

• Surprisingly a Prime Minister and the King cannot agree on the way forward for their country.

• The locals are unhappy with the Prime Minister and mutiny.

• A Prime Ministerial representative is sent to negotiate with the mutineers and he is also held hostage

• Promises are made to improve pay rates and army personnel are promoted.

• Neighbouring country Nationals are banned from government office and then finally removed from the country all together.

• Others of Indian origin, many of whom are successful businessmen are banned from running local business.

• The Prime Minister enters into secret deals to trade arms and munitions for gold with a neighbouring country.

• The parliament sanctions an investigation into corruption.

• The Prime Minister responds by suspending the constitution and appointing himself to the position of President with unlimited power.

One of the guns used by the army as they attacked the Palace in May 1966

• The President authorises the army to stage an armed attack on the King at his palace.

• The King is forced to flee from his country through the wilds of Africa. He holes up in a villager’s home for several days before making it all the way to England to live in exile.

Once used as barracks by Amin’s guards these houses are now used by the official guards of the palace.

• An army Major General, who fought alongside the British stages a military coup seizes power and appoints himself Field Marshall.

• The exiled King dies, apparently from poisoning.

• The new President’s rule is characterized by human rights abuse, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement.

• An attempt to annex portions of a neighbouring country go horribly wrong and the President flees the country to live in exile.

• Two further presidents make short appearances before

• Elections are held and results disputed but the President ousted in the previous coup returns for a 5 year reign.

• A guerrilla war fought in the bushlands of the country brings a new President to power.

• 28 years on and this President is still in office.

And this is the story of Uganda over the past 40 years.

Entrance to the Armoury – Torture Chamber

We toured the Kings Palace and received a fantastic narrative of recent history in Uganda from our tour guide. Alongside this story we also experienced the raw shock of being in one of Idi Amin’s torture chambers. Once used as the armoury this bunker, a thick concrete walled shelter built into the side of the hill facing Entebbe was eerily quite. But step back from the walls and you can see the writing etched in by previous occupants, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the shouts and screams of the estimated 15,000 who lost their life there during Amin’s rule.

Used as a torture chamber. The prisoners lived in the rooms to the left. Soldiers filled the lower level with water and ran electric current through to prevent escape!

As an uneducated man, Amin’s solution was to imprison those who he thought posed a threat to him and his rule. Estimates of the number of people killed under his regime range between 100,000 and 500,000.

This quote from an officer in the army says it all for me, “Idi Amin is a splendid type and a good (rugby) player, but virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained in words of one letter”.

Uganda is obviously still righting itself from social and economic impacts that resulted from the events that followed Independence in 1962. There are positive signs but there is still much much more to be done.

Once King Muteesa’s royal vehicle this Bentley now sits looted and rusting in the Palace ground. Brought back as a reminder to the tourists of the 24 May 1966 attack on the Palace grounds.

Boda Boda – The driving force in Uganda?

Blog-BodaBoda-4013Boda boda is the African term given to the motorcycles and drivers that provide a significant portion of the transport capacity in the cities and villages. From my observations the motorcycles are old, in poor repair and as a consequence contribute a large portion of the smog that clogs the Kampala skies each day.

Blog-BodaBoda-1030408There is no licensing required for the Boda Boda. The government tried several years back to implement a licensing programme but the drivers revolted, marched and in the end forced the government to back track on their plans.   And it’s this strength of the boda boda driver that can’t be ignored – the youth of Uganda is a significant force as they make-up such a significant portion of the population overall.

Blog-BodaBoda-4017Jobs are hard to come by in Uganda and for the uneducated and the educated alike the simplicity of jumping on a motor bike and driving customers to earning a living is an easy option. Whether it is in the large cities or small villagers there is a need for transport and the comparatively cheap rates offered by the boda boda present a ready and willing customer base.

Boda boda and taxi battle for patronage in Kampala

Through out Uganda there is no train or public bus service and t he only form of competition is the “taxi”. Taxi’s are usually a Toyota HiAce van and guaranteed to be in poor repair and just like the boda boda these vans are every were.

Blog-BodaBoda-3582Several nights back we had dinner with two couples from the Mengo are, one of the men is a doctor in Mengo hospital and he told us that 60% of the admissions to the hospital are related to boda boda injuries. Malargo hospital, the largest in Uganda has a whole ward devoted to patients of boda boda injuries.



Interestingly Rwanda, Uganda’s neighbour to the west, has a well licensed and policed boda boda infrastructure. All riders must be licensed and their motor bike must display the license number. The driver must wear a helmet and must also provide the sole passenger with a helmet and ensure it is fitted before commencing their journey.

Blog-BodaBoda-1030401The view of all westerners resident in Kampala that I’ve spoken to there is no option but for Uganda to license the boda boda.  Whether the government has the strength of will to go through with it is another matter.


The many (missing) faces of Koffu

During the drive back to Kampala after our day at Koffu village I was reflecting on the individuals that I had seen and tried to converse with during the days events.

It took a few moments for me to realise that there were few in the 30-45 age group and it was then that James’s comment from earlier in the day about the “missing generation” really began to get some traction in my mind.

Where were the middle aged men?  I had seen many under 15, a few from 15-20, a smattering of those in their 20’s  but then there was a big gap through to the 50-80 year group who were also well represented.

A similar pattern existed with the women but my recollection was that there were 30-50 year old women but they were few in number.

Today I was reading the Care For Kuffu web site in more detail and saw reference to the regime of Idi Amin, the Bush Wars between 1981 and 1986 and then the AIDS epidemic.  When you consider these events and see the impact that they have had on Kuffu you can  understand the magnitude of the impact on the nation of Uganda.

You will see the absence of this missing generation in the photo strip below.  Now consider how long it will be before the impact of the loss of the missing fathers and mothers is removed from Ugandan society.

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NOTE: The Ugandan Bush War refers to the guerrilla war waged between 1981 and 1986 in Uganda by the National Resistance Army (NRA) against the government of Milton Obote, and later that of Tito Okello.

The overall death toll from 1981 to 1985 was estimated as high as 500,000