Africa comprises 54 countries with a collective population of approximately equal to that of India. These countries represent an influential voting bloc in international fora. Modern day Africa has come far from its turbulent past and is widely perceived to be the continent of the future.
There exists a competition for influence in the continent and its resources among the major powers of the world. India plays a lead role in capacity building in the continent apart from its unmatchable contribution to peace support operations.
Principally the Indian approach has been to capitalize on its soft power and historical trade relations with African countries. India's commitment to Africa also reflects its political aspiration to be the voice of countries of the Global South. Uganda is among the poorest countries in the world however it has made significant strides in reducing poverty.
In the Eastern African Region, the armed forces of most countries except Kenya and Tanzania are in a state of transition, converting into professional armed forces from a guerilla background. Training of the armed forces is currently multi sourced in most countries and this has highlighted the need for harmonization of doctrines.
India and Uganda share common concerns and interests. Uganda looks forward to Indian assistance in all fields as well as trade. India seeks greater influence in Africa, access to raw materials and oil to meet its growing needs and security of its major lines of communication in the Arabian Sea.
India stands to gain support from all the African countries in international fora such as the UN and access to the vast natural resources as well as the fast-emerging markets of the continent. While African countries seek to professionalise their armed forces by better training, infrastructure and institutions, they wish to obtain the same at the lowest cost and with the least preconditions.
They also seek cheaper weaponry, telecommunication equipment and electronics as well as spares for their aircraft, tanks and other equipment. In this regard India is the most suited destination for them. After the hiatus of the previous century, mutual relations between India and Uganda have seen an upswing in all fields. This momentum needs to be continued in the future.
The “Dark Continent”- Then & Now
“You cannot build a house for last year’s summer”.
- Ethiopian proverb -
To the common man in India, Africa brings in images of a mysterious land inhabited by dark skinned people, stricken by poverty and violence and in general a sense of hopelessness and despair; a land that is best avoided. While Indians will move in droves to Europe, USA, Australia and even South East Asia for various reasons, be it tourism, business, education or employment; the thought of going to Africa is often associated with unknown fears.
Adding to these apprehensions are stories of disease, famine and genocides that are known to have afflicted this vast landmass over the years. Uganda is ingrained in the minds of Indians as the country of Idi Amin Dada, the notorious dictator of the 70’s who had unceremoniously evicted all Asians from his country in 1972.
Almost 80,000 people of Indian origin had to flee Uganda and hundreds of thousands Ugandans were killed during his brutal regime. His eccentric behaviour and policies ensured the devastation of the Ugandan economy as well. The Idi Amin period was no doubt a dark chapter in the history of Uganda.
Clearly a lot of water has flown down the river Nile since that period which was tragic for both Indians and Ugandans alike. India and Uganda are now partners in growth in practically all fields of mutual interest and have the best of relations.
Africa is a treasure of natural resources and geographical wonders. The finest diamonds, gold, uranium, timber and rare earth are some of the bounties of mother nature that are found in abundance in the continent. Northern Africa has the largest desert in the world, the Sahara Desert.
Some of the mightiest rivers flow across Africa. Among them are the longest river in the world, the Nile, the deepest river, the Congo and the river with the widest waterfall (Victoria Falls), the Zambezi. Africa boasts of some of the finest wildlife reserves on earth which are a tourist’s delight and a major source of revenue.
It is true that Africa has been subjected to domination by foreign powers for a long time. These included the Americans who took away slaves in thousands from West Africa to work in their cotton farms and generally help in the development of the USA and the Omanis who controlled the eastern seaboard in the eighteenth century.
In the late eighteenth century, almost all major European powers colonized Africa for its mineral wealth, cash crops and timber to fuel the industrial revolution back home. Within twenty years, nearly the entire African continent was possessed by European powers in a mad race for resources, called the “Scramble for Africa”. The French colonized most of western Africa, parts of central Africa and many islands off the east coast including Madagascar, Comoros and Reunion Islands. The Belgians colonized Congo.
The Portuguese retained their control on Guinea Bissau, Angola and Mozambique. The British controlled almost the entire central and eastern regions to include Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa and some islands such as St Helena’s. Germany briefly controlled Tanganyika.
Years of merciless exploitation of a continent rich with natural resources left its people in extreme poverty while their exploiters flourished. An example of this exploitation is the cultivation of coffee in Africa. Without doubt some of the best coffee beans are cultivated in countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia, but mainly as cash crops only to be savoured by the rest of the world.
During this period of colonization, the colonial powers drew arbitrary boundaries to “divide” the region into their respective spheres of influence. These boundaries mostly followed natural barriers such as rivers and lakes but in many cases they were artificially drawn on land. The boundaries between Kenya and Uganda, Uganda and Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda and between Uganda, Rwanda and Belgian Congo (where they were not separated by the lakes) were such examples.
The results were that people of the same ethnicity found themselves on both sides of the boundaries. The Bagisu people living in the eastern district of Uganda also inhabit the region across the border in Kenya. The Luo peoples inhabit the junction of South Sudan, north east Uganda and north west Kenya. The Hutus and Tutsis are found in Rwanda, Burundi, western Uganda as well as eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
These ethnic spillovers have often resulted in more than one nation getting involved in intra state conflicts. A clear example of this is the similar ethnic conflicts between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DR Congo. These conflicts have been among the fiercest in the world resulting in repeated genocides of innocents.
The end of the Second World War had seen the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union as the two Superpowers and the waning of colonial rule worldwide. Leaders such as Nehru of India and Nasser of Egypt provided the impetus to freedom movements in the Third World. After India gained independence in 1947, Egypt rid itself of colonial rule in 1952 and was soon followed by a number of African nations.
Among the East African states, Uganda gained independence in 1962, Kenya in 1963 and Tanzania in 1964. Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana were the most charismatic African leaders at that time who led their countries to independence.
Many newly independent countries however, plunged into civil wars immediately after independence and these soon morphed into proxy wars between the superpowers who vied to retain or enhance their influence in the continent during the Cold War period. Prominent among them were the civil wars in Mozambique and Angola wherein the hand of the superpowers was clearly evident.
The end of the Cold War in 1991 also resulted in the successful resolution of most of the intra state wars in Africa although some irritants remained and continue to do so till today, such as the conflict in DR Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR) as well as the festering war in Somalia.
Few fortunate countries such as Tanzania, however, have experienced continued peace and stability after independence. Most other African countries have also seen political stability and economic resurgence over the last few decades after the return of peace. The information revolution has empowered the population who themselves are aspirational and demand better governance from their leaders.
Africa comprises 54 countries with a collective population of approximately equal to that of India. These countries represent an influential voting bloc in international fora. The spirit of ‘Pan Africanism’ runs strong in the continent and has manifested itself in the form of the African Union, a continental grouping supported by the United Nations which espouses the philosophy of “African solutions to African problems”.
Functionally due to its vast expanse, the continent is further subdivided into four regions viz Western, Southern, Eastern and North Africa. Countries of these regions have organized themselves into various groupings such as the Economic Cooperation between West African States (ECOWAS), South African Development Cooperation (SADC), and the East African Community (EAC) to name a few. The thought process of promoting such regional groupings is manifold.
These include promotion of the overall cause of Pan-Africanism, regional security and economic cooperation. In relation to economic cooperation, it has been realised by most African countries that individually with their small populations they are no match to the vast markets offered by India, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia etc. The only viable option for them therefore is economic integration. Integration also allows them to engage in seamless regional trade and movement, thus ensuring stability.
Modern day Africa has thus come far from its turbulent past and is widely perceived to be the continent of the future. Many countries where peace and stability has returned since the 90s have embarked on a positive economic growth journey. Today Africa is home to over half a dozen of the fastest growing countries of this decade.
Most of the countries in Africa are experiencing moderate to healthy economic growth rates, which is leading to declining poverty and increase in demand for goods and services. Countries such as Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Botswana and Angola to name a few, are among the economic success stories of the century. Not surprisingly, all major powers across the globe have recognized this significant positive change across most of sub-Saharan Africa.
There exists a competition for influence in the continent and its resources among the major powers of the world. While China, Japan and the EU are major supporters of infrastructure, the USA, UK and EU/NATO have a major influence in the military field apart from general capacity building.
Prevailing instabilities due to ethnic as well as religious fault lines and continuing influence of colonial powers even after their departure has placed a premium on peace support operations in the continent. Resultantly the AU is being steadily empowered and is presently playing a defining role in Somalia, CAR and Mali. It is also slated to make inroads into DR Congo in the form of a neutral intervention force to be headed by Tanzania.
In addition, regional rapid response capabilities are being developed as part of the western, southern and eastern regions of Africa. In the Eastern African Region, Uganda plays a pivotal role in the East African Rapid Deployment Force. Uganda is also spearheading the peace support operations in Somalia under the aegis of the AU. The Nordic countries play a major role in training for peace support operations (PSO). Increasing importance is being ascribed to joint training exercises at the regional level on Peace Support Operations.
India plays a lead role in capacity building in the continent apart from its unmatchable contribution to peace support operations. Principally the Indian approach has been to capitalize on its soft power and historical trade relations with African countries. Indian military operations in Africa have been mainly under the aegis of the UN, dating back to the fifties.
India has actively participated in military operations as part of the UN in Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola. As part of training assistance, India has been sending military training teams of varying compositions to Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya and Nigeria in the past.
Although India is making inroads on the continent, China will remain Africa's leading trading partner for a long time to come because of its economic might. However, there is a major difference in India’s approach to business vis a vis that of China. China brings in its own workforce and sets up its own colonies while expanding business or developing infrastructure.
In Africa one can see small pockets of Chinese residential colonies near their developmental projects. They also use their own transport, brought from China to ferry the workforce. This practice is resented by the locals as it does not give any employment benefits to them.
In contrast, India utilises local labour as also contributes in major way towards social uplift of the communities. Most of the Indian industrialists in Uganda run schools, colleges and hospitals for the locals in large numbers. This practice is favoured by the Africans.
India's commitment to Africa also reflects its political aspiration to be the voice of countries of the Global South. India encourages multilateral relations with the regional economic groupings in Africa. Countries such as Uganda would wish to use India’s influence to give them a voice in global platforms. More so they would also like to benefit from India’s model of growth.
Some very interesting phenomena which amaze the African countries are: India’s ability to repeatedly conduct national elections in a free and fair manner and also manage to count millions of votes and announce results which are not disputed within a few days of the polls; India’s initiative of introducing the Aadhar Card among more than a billion people in a relatively short span of time and the vast cell phone density among its population. The common African looks at such issues longingly and hopes India’s success stories will benefit him as well.
Perspective on Uganda
"India and Uganda share common concerns and interests. Uganda looks forward to Indian assistance in all fields as well as trade. India seeks greater influence in Africa, access to raw materials and oil to meet its growing needs and security."
A Glimpse into East Africa
East Africa lies astride the Equator. The countries in the region are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. The last two are geographically biased towards Central Africa but are economically closer to East Africa. The western flank of the sea lines of communication in the Arabian Sea between the Middle East and India also rests on the shores of East Africa, making it strategically immensely important.
Some of the major geographical features in the region are the East African Rift which runs from Ethiopia in the north, through Kenya to Tanzania in the south; the two tallest peaks in Africa (Mounts Kilimanjaro and Kenya); the Nile river and the Great Lakes which include the world's second largest freshwater body Lake Victoria, and the world's second deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika.
The region is a mix of dense rainforests, low hills, grasslands and dry plains. The temperatures are generally moderate and suitable for farming. The region abounds with wildlife which has become the mainstay of the tourism industry in the region. It boasts of world famous game parks such as the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya, the Serengeti and Girongoro reserves in Tanzania and the Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth game reserves in Uganda.
The “Big Five” among the wild animals, the African lion, the elephant, leopard, rhinoceros and the wild buffalo are found in abundance in these reserves. The areas of the Rwenzori mountains between Uganda and Rwanda are few of the remaining homes of the African Gorilla which is on the verge of extinction because of relentless poaching. The Bwindi Impenetrable Park in Western Uganda is among the very few conservation reserves for this rare species. Chimpanzees are also found in abundance in these areas.
The two main ethnic groups in the region are the Bantu (Ba + Ntu, or Ntu people) and the Nilotics (inhabitants of the Nile). The Bantu are short and squat in appearance and mainly agriculturists who have migrated into many parts of east Africa including as far south as Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa. The Nilotics on the other hand are those who have been moving along with their cattle in search of grazing grounds.
Primarily they come from the Nile valley region of South Sudan (hence the name) but today they are manifested in the form of many tribes such as the Dinka of South Sudan, Masai of Kenya, Luo of Uganda and the Tutsi of Rwanda. They are tall and lanky and possess great physical stamina.
The Nilotics traditionally moved in search of grazing grounds for their cattle based on seasonal variations and in the process would come into contact with the more static Bantus over land, leading to power struggles and conflicts. These two reasons, land and struggle for supremacy, have been the primordial reasons for the intra state wars that East Africa has historically been subjected to.
The Swahili language which is widely spoken along the East coast is known to have been created as a result of the African communicating with the Arab trader and later on with the White explorer as well as the Indian merchant. Swahili language thus has many words derived from the languages spoken by these people. The word Swahili itself is derived from Arabic meaning “from the coast”.
Friday is called “Ijumma” and dawn is “alfajiri” to quote a few similarities. Hindi words also have many uses in Swahili. For example, pineapple is called “nanasi” from the Hindi “ananas”, shop is “duka” from the Hindi “dukaan” and medicine became “dawa” from the same Hindi word (derived from “aldiwa” in Arabic). Similarly, words such as “gari” for vehicle, “pesa” for money and “mesa”for table will also ring a bell with Hindi speakers.
The countries of East Africa have undertaken a major initiative towards regional integration, by forming the East African Community (EAC). It is a regional intergovernmental organisation of the six east African countries to include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
The combined population of the Community is 177 million, the land area is 2.5 million square kilometres and the combined Gross Domestic Product is US$ 193 billion (EAC Statistics for 2019). The EAC Treaty was signed on 30 November 1999 and entered into force on 7 July 2000 among the original three partners Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Rwanda and Burundi became full members of the Community with effect from 1 July 2007 and the last addition was South Sudan who joined on 15 August 2016.
Efforts are on to include DR Congo as well into the grouping. The EAC is one of the fastest growing regional economic blocs in the world and is striving to enhance co-operation among the Partner States in political, economic and social spheres for mutual benefit. The common goal of the EAC is economic wellbeing by promoting economic integration leading to an East African federation of states in the long term.
The regional integration process is proceeding well as reflected by the progress of the East African Customs Union, the establishment of the Common Market in 2010 and the implementation of the East African Monetary Union Protocol. Already a common passport exits for all members of the community. Efforts are on to have a common currency as well. However, there are problems due to economic inequity between Kenya, the economic powerhouse of the region and the other countries and problems of national identity in agreeing to a political federation.
"Uganda is home to the source of the River Nile which originates from Lake Victoria at Jinja and empties itself into the Mediterranean while forming the fertile Nile Delta near Alexandria in Egypt."
Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa”, is a small country on the Equator in Central Africa approximately the geographical size of Uttar Pradesh and a population roughly equal to Delhi and Mumbai combined. It is landlocked and shares borders with Kenya in the East, Tanzania in the south, Rwanda to the southwest, DR Congo to the West and South Sudan to the North. The only major ports of access to the rest of the world are Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
An arterial road runs from Mombasa through Nairobi in Kenya to the major cities in Uganda, ie, Jinja, Kampala and Entebbe and extends into Rwanda as well as DR Congo and South Sudan. A metre gauge railway line also runs from Mombasa to DR Congo however it is functional only till Entebbe. There is only one international airport at Entebbe. Another one is now under construction in western Uganda.
Uganda is home to the source of the River Nile which originates from Lake Victoria at Jinja and empties itself into the Mediterranean while forming the fertile Nile Delta near Alexandria in Egypt. Southern and Central Uganda has low hilly areas with lush green flora interspersed with marshlands. The regions to the north and northeast are dry. There are a number of lakes in the country including Lake Victoria to the south, Lakes Albert and Edward to the west and Lake Kyoga in the centre.
Ethnicity and History
"Uganda is essentially a conglomerate of tribal kingdoms united into one political entity. The tribes in the south and centre of Uganda belonging to the Bantu group constitute the majority."
Uganda is essentially a conglomerate of tribal kingdoms united into one political entity. The tribes in the south and centre of Uganda belonging to the Bantu group constitute the majority. These are the Banyoro and the Baganda. In the northern regions the tribes generally belong to the Nilotic group.
Among them are the Acholi, Toro and Karamajong, to name a few. In the areas East of the River Nile the dominant tribe are the Basoga. The Bantu people are known to have come into contact with the white explorers (known as Ba zungu), Arab sailors (Ba arabu) and Indian migrants (Ba hindi).
Historically the people of Uganda have been tribal agriculturists and hunters. From the 17th century the Arabs and Europeans entered the region along with Indian traders. Uganda became a British protectorate in 1894 and gained independence in 1962. The leader at the time of independence was Milton Obote. The initial ruling dispensation was an experiment of rule by a coalition of parties led by Milton Obote as inter tribe rivalries eluded a consensus.
However, the ruling coalition fell apart in 1966 due to the inabilities of various stake holders to agree on a power sharing arrangement and Milton Obote seized power. Obote was overthrown by Idi Amin in 1971. The expulsion of Indians from Uganda took place in 1972.
Although Amin was responsible for the ouster of Indians from Uganda, the process of alienation had started early during the rule of Milton Obote. He followed a policy of “Africanisation” which led to segregation of the Indian community. Amin followed up the policy and ensured that the Indians were expelled from Uganda when he came to power.
Amin let loose a reign of terror in Uganda resulting in widespread deaths and imprisonments. The economy crashed and there was general chaos till the latter half of the seventies. In 1978 he attempted to capture the Tanzanian province of Kagera, prompting a war with Tanzania. Tanzanian forces along with Ugandan exiles captured Kampala in 1979 and Amin fled to Saudi Arabia where he died later in 2003.
After the downfall of Amin in 1979 Uganda was governed ineffectively by Yusuf Lule, resulting in Milton Obote again seizing power in 1981. In February 1981, a young and charismatic leader, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched the National Resistance Army (NRA) from Luwero and commenced a resistance movement.
This ultimately resulted in the overthrow of Obote after the NRA captured the Ugandan capital Kampala. Museveni came to power in 1986. He renamed the NRA as the National Resistance Movement (NRM), gave it a political identity and appointed himself President.
Since then onwards some stability has arrived in the country, although threats to national security remain. Mr Museveni brought in a new constitution with provisions for elections every five years and converted the country into a republic. This period has seen opening up of the economy and its consequent resurgence.
Uganda however remains mainly dependent on imports and foreign aid and its dependence on the port of Mombasa (and Dar es Salaam to some extent) is critical to the economy. In Uganda the northern region is afflicted by insurgent groups such as Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army which have taken to arms against the perceived discrimination by the more influential southern ethnic groups.
Uganda is among the poorest countries in the world with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 33.9 billion in 2019, however it has made significant strides in reducing poverty. Real gross domestic product grew at an average of 6.1% annually in 2019. Uganda’s current population growth rate is 3.3%, which is amongst the highest in Africa.
The Indian Rupee is equal to approximately 50 Ugandan Shillings. Uganda relies heavily on subsistence farming, the basis of livelihood for most of the population. Bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes and maize are major subsistence crops and individual land holdings are small. Agriculture for commercial purposes is witnessed only in case of sugarcane farming by industrialists owning sugar mills, pineapples and coffee.
The major export crop is coffee followed by tea, tobacco and cotton. Uganda is the second largest exporter of coffee in Africa after Ethiopia. There is a modest manufacturing and tourism sector. Uganda however remains mainly dependent on imports and foreign aid whichaccounts for nearly 10% of the national budget.
In 2006, oil was discovered in the western lake Albert region of Uganda. The total oil reserves are estimated to contain approximately 2.2 billion barrels of oil as per estimates of the International Monetary Fund. The Ugandan government has set up a Petroleum Authority to ensure necessary regulation and monitoring of oil related issues.
The discovery of oil has generated a wave of optimism as it will have significant benefits for the economy. The direct benefit will be rise in employment and revenues. A 1445 km long pipeline has been planned from Hoima in western Uganda to Tanzania. This will be the longest electrically heated pipeline in the world. Uganda is also building an oil refinery along with a consortium led by General Electric of USA with a capacity of 60,000 barrels per day.
Factors Influencing Uganda’s Strategic Outlook
"Uganda has been continuously involved in military operations in Central African Republic (CAR), DR Congo, South Sudan and Somalia."
Small Geographical Size: Uganda is a small country whose total area is just 2,41,551 sq km. Out of this, Lake Victoria territory constitutes approximately 16% of the total geographical area. The total boundary with her neighbours is 2729 km. The major towns, such as the capital Kampala, Jinja and the international airport town of Entebbe, industrial areas and strategic roads, railways and bridges are all in the southern part of the country closer to Lake Victoria.
Other important towns are Gulu and Lira in the North, Mbarara in the West and Mbale in the East. The ‘strategic depth ratio’ of 93 km² of territory to every km of border reduces her defensive options in the event of external attack as space cannot be traded for time if the strategic depth is shallow.
This requires pro-active strategies to promote regional cohesion, manage the borders better and deter potential adversaries, in short, a proactive military approach to deal with military threats outside the country. Consequently, Uganda has been continuously involved in military operations in Central African Republic (CAR), DR Congo, South Sudan and Somalia.
Geographical Location: Uganda abuts the faultline between Black Africa and the Maghreb. Prior to the creation of South Sudan as an independent nation, Uganda was in direct conflict with Sudan which actively encouraged the spread of radical Islam into Uganda as also assisted Joseph Kony, the leader of the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army of North Uganda.
South Sudan has now become a buffer between Sudan and Uganda however, its continuing instability compels Uganda to get actively involved in its stabilization. The conflict in Somalia also has a direct bearing on the stability in Uganda. It is no surprise that Uganda is the main contributor of forces in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The mission force commander is also from Uganda.
Landlockedness: Being a landlocked country, Uganda has to perforce depend on other countries (mainly Kenya and to some extent Tanzania) for trade, military supplies, foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. Security of the main arterial highway and the international airport are critical elements in Uganda’s security. In addition, good relations with Kenya are a strategic compulsion to ensure uninterrupted trade, international aid and supplies.
Nile River Waters: The Nile river has a fascinating background. It has been revered by the ancient Egyptians as a divine blessing. It flows over a distance of over 6600 km, originating from Lake Victoria at Jinja in Uganda. It then flows northwards across Uganda and South Sudan to Khartoum in Sudan where it joins the Blue Nile and thereafter it flows into Egypt.
As it enters Egypt, its waters are harnessed in Lake Nasser created by the Aswan Dam which is the main source of water and electricity for Egypt. The Nile then flows to Cairo and then enters the Mediterranean Sea. The sharing of the Nile river waters between Egypt and the upper riparian states is governed by the Nile River Treaty of 1929 signed between Egypt and the UK on behalf of Sudan and her other African dependencies.
This treaty recognized the historical right of Egypt on the waters of the Nile and prohibited all upper riparian states from obstructing the flow of the river to Egypt in any way. This has prevented Uganda from harnessing the river waters of the Nile for agriculture and power generation to keep up with the growth in its population and its development needs. Egypt on its part would consider any violation of the treaty as an act of war. As a result, there are repeated calls among opinion makers in Uganda to abrogate the treaty and start using the Nile waters for Uganda’s development needs.
Relations with Sudan: The concerns of Uganda about Sudan are twofold. First is the unresolved insurgency movement led by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), abetted by Sudan that affects Ugandan security. This group is active in north western Uganda with sanctuaries in Sudan as well as CAR. Second and more importantly, is the issue of stability of Southern Sudan which provides a buffer between Uganda and the more radical North Sudan (now known as Sudan) which is supported by Saudi Arabia and Egypt and has hostile relations with South Sudan and most of Black Africa including Uganda.
Situation in Somalia: Somalia is the main source of instability in the Horn of Africa. A failed state with no effective central government since 1991, Somalia’s problems range from massive humanitarian crises, clan based civil strife, piracy on its coasts, border disputes with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and increasing Islamic radicalism. Consequently, Somalia has become a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militants such as the Al Shabaab and is attracting increasing numbers of foreign jihadists.
Uganda believes that the threat of terrorism emanating from Somalia and abetted by Sudan is real and unless controlled, this menace could reach the African Heartland. Uganda is thus a major stakeholder in Somalia. The geostrategic spin off for Uganda from its commitment could also be the access to the port facilities of the Somali capital Mogadishu and priority in exploiting the mineral resources of Somalia once stability returns in the country.
Rwanda: Rwanda has had a very turbulent and bloody past due to deep rooted hostility between the two main ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis. 1994 saw the climax of hostilities when Hutu militia murdered approximately 750,000 Tutsis in a span of one month. Sadly, the world came to know of the scale of the genocide only when the deed had been done. United Nations had maintained a presence in the country but was unable to control the situation due to mandate restrictions.
These massacres of Tutsis by dominant Hutu community still haunt the national psyche. Attempts at reconciliation continue as also efforts to bring the main perpetrators to justice. Meanwhile, Rwanda has also embarked on an ambitious economic development programme and today it is one of the fastest growing economies of the region. Rwanda shares extremely close links with Uganda due to shared geostrategic, economic and cultural interests although some differences do arise occasionally.
DR Congo: This is one of the oldest and largest conflict zones in the world. The country is very rich in minerals resources but with an ineffective government. This has led to regional warlords controlling various parts of the country for its natural wealth and for ethnic reasons. Uganda and Rwanda share their western borders with DR Congo and are actively involved in the conflict.
The eastern border regions of DR Congo have become safe havens for ethnic groups hostile to Uganda and Rwanda. The discovery of oil in the Lake Albert region has the potential to transform the economies of both DR Congo and Uganda.
Relations with Kenya and Tanzania: Kenya is the economic powerhouse of the EAC. Mombasa, in Kenya, serves as the main port for the East African Countries in general and for Uganda in specific. Uganda’s relations with both Kenya and Tanzania are very close and stable. Tanzania is a member of both the EAC and the South African Development Council (SADC) and enjoys the benefits of both groupings.
Relations with Global Powers: Uganda seeks assistance from all major powers. The interest of the USA lies in having stability in East Africa; especially in view of the threat of radical Islam from the North and Uganda is playing the role of a frontline state. Russia is providing substantial financial assistance, primarily with a view to revive its sphere of influence in Africa. It is also a major military equipment supplier to Uganda.
China is the largest investor in Uganda, emerging as the most prominent trading partner of Uganda. China’s interests are primarily economic; however, in the process it is also expanding its influence in East Africa. China is also providing substantial financial assistance to Uganda and in return expects to get a stake in the emerging oil sector in Uganda. Japan is largely involved in infrastructure development. UK assists Uganda in military training and donations.
In Africa the incidences of interstate wars have significantly reduced over the past few decades. However, competition for resources such as the discovery of oil in the Albertine Rift of the Great Lakes region and the dispute over sharing of waters of the River Nile among the upper and lower riparian states, most notably Uganda and Egypt, do provide the potential for future interstate conflicts in the region.
This has resulted in Uganda acquiring six state of the art SU 30 air dominance fighters in 2012, thus dramatically altering the military balance in air power in its favour. Its deployment in Somalia has also resulted in acquisition of a large amount of modern military equipment from the West to include armoured vehicles, night vision devices, communication and electronic warfare equipment and surveillance equipment such as micro unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
All these accretions and continued combat experience has made Uganda a force to reckon with in the region.
"Indians play a leading role in the Ugandan economy, especially in manufacturing, trade, agro-processing, banking, sugar, real estate, hotels, tourism, and information technology."
The Idi Amin era did a play a role in shaping India’s foreign policy perceptions towards Uganda till the 80s but now the relations between India and Uganda are excellent. These include the political, diplomatic, economic, cultural and military dimensions. Mutual bilateral visits between Ugandan and Indian dignitaries have become a common feature.
The Indian government has a large number of schemes and agreements for enhancing bilateral cooperation and further improving mutual relations. India is one of the major trading partners of Uganda. Indian businessmen have vast interests in the country and the region. There is also a large expatriate Indian community in Uganda operating major economic enterprises and contributing handsomely to the economy of the country.
Indians play a leading role in the Ugandan economy, especially in manufacturing, trade, agro-processing, banking, sugar, real estate, hotels, tourism, and information technology. They employ tens of thousands of Ugandans and are amongst the biggest taxpayers in the country. Most of the shops and business establishments are owned by Indians.
The cumulative investments of Indians in Uganda run into hundreds of millions of dollars across all sectors of the economy. At the same time, it is also true that Indians in Uganda are also primarily seen as businessmen and there are simmering underlying tensions due to vast financial disparity between the Indian community and the local Ugandans.
ITEC Assistance: India offers varied assistance towards capacity building under the Indian Technological and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. These include scholarships in Indian institutions and presence of training teams of experts in various fields including military training, arts, IT, audit, medicine, English teaching, telecommunications and agricultural research.
ITEC experts have taught at the University of Mbarara in western Uganda. Ugandans also recognise the soft power of India and our contribution in the fields of education, training and the role of ITEC experts.
Education and Medical Treatment: Over the years thousands of Ugandans have studied in Indian colleges and universities and continue to do so, especially in Pune, Bangalore and Delhi. There is an APTECH franchise and a branch of Sikkim-Manipal University in Kampala. Delhi Public School International is among the prominent schools in Kampala.
Ugandans are also increasingly travelling to India for medical treatment, especially complex surgery. An e-link on telemedicine and education was commissioned on 16 Aug 10 between India and Uganda. The link is wholly funded by the Govt of India.
"India has deployed a training team called the Indian Military Training Team in the SCSC in Uganda since Feb 2010 which marked the first footprint of Indian Armed Forces in Uganda."
In the Eastern African Region, the armed forces of most countries except Kenya and Tanzania are in a state of transition, converting into professional armed forces from a guerilla background. As such, institutional and organisational military structures are either not in place or are still evolving. Coherent doctrines and policies on training, institutional development and human resource management within the armed forces are still a long way off.
At the same time, armed forces of Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan are also involved in dealing with immediate national security concerns and have also to contend with emerging threats such as the influx of Pan Islamic terrorist groups in the region. The Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF) is actively involved in operations in Somalia, Central African Republic (CAR), DR Congo and South Sudan.
Rwandan armed forces are involved in DR Congo as well as in maintaining internal harmony within the country. The South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) is actively deployed on its unsettled border with Sudan. There is thus a sense of urgency among the affected countries to professionalize their armed forces at the earliest with help of other global powers.
Training of the armed forces is currently multi sourced in most countries and this has highlighted the need for harmonization of doctrines. In Uganda, Training Teams from the European Union are involved in training Ugandan military contingents prior to their deployment in Somalia.
US and British Military Training Teams are regular visitors in training institutions, most notably the Senior Command and Staff College (SCSC) at Kimaka which trains middle and senior ranking military officers from all East African Countries in the art and science of warfare, international relations, policy and strategy. Militaries of the East African countries have mutual exchange arrangements for instructors and students in each other’s training institutions.
India has deployed a training team called the Indian Military Training Team (IMTT) in the SCSC in Uganda since Feb 2010 which marked the first footprint of Indian Armed Forces in Uganda. The establishment of Indian military presence in Uganda since 2010 also put in place the first building block of future Indo-Uganda Defence Cooperation. The team consists of a Brigadier and three Colonel rank officers from the Army and Air Force.
This team is rotated after three years of duty. SCSC, Kimaka is the seat of highest military learning in Uganda after the newly established National Defence College. The induction of the IMTT is aimed to enhance the quality of training in this prestigious institution and bring it at par with the contemporary military training institutions in the world. Having experienced the success of this venture, all countries in the region are desirous of seeking assistance from India in this respect.
Indian military diplomatic presence in the entire Eastern African Region is restricted to just one Defence Attaché from the Indian Navy in Kenya. He is not accredited to the landlocked countries of the region, viz Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan. There is a dire need to depute a Defence Attaché in Uganda and a military advisor at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
"India stands to gain support from all the African countries in international fora such as the UN and access to the vast natural resources as well as the fast-emerging markets of the continent."
India and Uganda share common concerns and interests. Uganda looks forward to Indian assistance in all fields as well as trade. India seeks greater influence in Africa, access to raw materials and oil to meet its growing needs and security of its major lines of communication in the Arabian Sea.
India stands to gain support from all the African countries in international fora such as the UN and access to the vast natural resources as well as the fast-emerging markets of the continent. As is evident, Indian military influence in the region is mainly in the field of training assistance; however, there is a vast scope for greater collaboration in this field.
While African countries seek to professionalise their armed forces by better training, infrastructure and institutions, they wish to obtain the same at the lowest cost and with the least preconditions. They also seek cheaper weaponry, telecommunication equipment and electronics as well as spares for their aircraft, tanks and other equipment.
In this regard India is the most suited destination for them. After the hiatus of the previous century, mutual relations between India and Uganda have seen an upswing in all fields. This momentum needs to be continued in the future.
“However long the night, dawn will break”
- African Proverb -
1. Packenham Thomas, The Scramble for Africa, Random House Publications, New York, 1990.
2. Debnath Shaw Why Africa? January 13, 2016, http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/why-africa_dshaw_130116, accessed 20 Dec 16
3. East African Community, https://www.eac.int/overview-of-eac, accessed 23 Mar 2020
4. World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019". IMF.org. International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 27 February 2020
5. "World Development Indicators” https://data.worldbank.org/country/uganda, accessed 14 March 2020
6. Nakaweesi, Dorothy (25 October 2017). "Uganda posts highest coffee export volumes at 4.6 million bags". Daily Monitor. Kampala. Retrieved 8 June 2018
7. Olingo, Allan (14 April 2018). "Uganda signs $4 billion refinery plant deal". The EastAfrican. Nairobi. Accessed 8 June 2018
8. "2014 Statistical Abstract", Uganda Bureau of Statistics, accessed 16 July 2015" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2015, accessed 27 Mar 2020.
9. White Paper on Defence Transformation in Uganda, June 2004, https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/155172/uganda2004.pdf, accessed 27 Mar 2020
About The Author
Major General Vijay Pande, Vishisht Sewa Medal (Retired) has served in the Indian Army for 37 years. He has been part of frontline combat soldiers and has extensively served in active formations along both the Pakistani and Chinese borders in junior as well as senior ranking positions. He has also served for four and a half years in Africa as a United Nations’ Military Observer and as a trainer of forces.
Among the important assignments he held in the Army are GOC 39 Mountain Division, Major General in Charge Logistics, HQ Western Command and Head of Training in the Senior Command and Staff College in Uganda. The General is a Postgraduate and M Phil in Defence and Strategic Studies and is currently pursuing a PhD in International Relations.
For more defence related content, follow us on Twitter: @MVictoryIndia and Facebook: @MissionVictoryIndia
 Packenham Thomas, The Scramble for Africa, Random House Publications, New York, 1990
 Debnath Shaw Why Africa? January 13, 2016, http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/why-africa_dshaw_130116, accessed 20 Dec 16
 https://www.eac.int/overview-of-eac, accessed 23 Mar 2020
 "World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019". IMF.org. International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 27 February 2020
 https://data.worldbank.org/country/uganda, "World Development Indicators” accessed 14 March 2020
 Nakaweesi, Dorothy (25 October 2017). "Uganda posts highest coffee export volumes at 4.6 million bags". Daily Monitor. Kampala. Retrieved 8 June 2018
 Olingo, Allan (14 April 2018). "Uganda signs $4 billion refinery plant deal". The EastAfrican. Nairobi. Accessed 8 June 2018
 "2014 Statistical Abstract", Uganda Bureau of Statistics, accessed 16 July 2015" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2015, accessed 27 Mar 2020.
 White Paper on Defence Transformation in Uganda, June 2004, https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/155172/uganda2004.pdf, accessed 27 Mar 2020