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Uganda: Britain
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Foreign Relations > Britain

BRITAIN


By virtue of its former imperial relationship with Uganda, Britain had special economic and political links with its former territory, although these connections eroded over the quarter century of upheaval after Uganda's independence. As British officials struggled to maintain ties, they chose to support the Amin and second Obote regimes long after most Ugandans and most other foreign governments had rejected them. Relations with Britain also depended on the attitude of different Ugandan governments, which balanced their need for loans and technical assistance against their desire to project an image of a nonaligned foreign policy. At independence Britain had been Uganda's chief trading partner and the queen its head of state. Irritated by President Obote's "move to the left" in the 1960s and by his vocal criticism of British arms sales to South Africa, the British government was delighted when Amin overthrew Obote in January 1971. Britain was the first country to recognize the new Ugandan regime and within a few months provided Amin with military assistance. However, relations were strained to the breaking point in 1972 when without consultation or warning, Amin expelled Uganda's Indian population (about half of whom held British passports), forcing Britain to accept a large number of refugees despite its own restrictive immigration legislation. Britain responded by halting all aid to Uganda and imposing an economic embargo. In January 1973, Amin recalled his high commissioner from London, nationalized British tea estates and other firms (but not British banks), and threatened to expel the 7,000 British residents of Uganda. By March the following year, 6,000 British had left Uganda, and Britain broke diplomatic relations in July 1976 when Amin's soldiers killed a woman hostage holding British and Israeli citizenship in revenge for the Israeli rescue of the other hostages captured by the Palestinians and held at the airport at Entebbe. Nevertheless, despite the revelations of atrocities carried out by state officials, the British government allowed private firms to supply Amin with luxury goods paid for with Ugandan coffee until 1979.

Immediately after the Amin regime was overthrown, Britain recognized the interim government and promised aid and technical assistance. Later in the interim period, the British government sent a team to train the police, a controversial initiative which it has continued ever since. British authorities responded cautiously to Obote's claimed success in the 1980 elections, but once he convinced them of his pro-Western economic policies, they supported him to the bitter end. Despite Western governments' criticism of the Obote regime, as the behavior of the army throughout the country -- particularly in the Luwero Triangle -- became known, British authorities at first either disputed the allegations or kept silent, as they had during the latter years of the Amin regime. Then in 1986, despite their former support for Obote, the British immediately established close relations with the NRM. In November 1987, Museveni visited London, where he held talks with the queen and the prime minister, but at the same time, he continued to criticize their government for its failure to impose trade sanctions on South Africa.

Data as of December 1990




Last Updated: December 1990


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Uganda was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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