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Uganda: Zaire
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > External Security Concerns > Zaire


Historically, Ugandan-Zairian relations have been complicated by border problems. Border incidents caused by Zairian rebel groups operating from bases in Uganda have increased the strain between the two countries. Long-standing border tensions appeared to diminish in early 1988, largely because of diplomaticefforts by both nations. In April 1988, Ugandan and Zairian security officials sought met in Goma, Zaire, to resolve problems caused by the Congolese Liberation Party (Parti de Libération Congolaise -- PLC). PLC rebels, opponents of Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko, were active in the Ruwenzori Mountains, which stretch from southwestern Uganda into eastern Zaire. Ugandans in the area accused PLC members of stealing vehicles for resale in Zaire. The talks produced an agreement to retrieve stolen property peacefully, when possible, and to deal with PLC rebels through official means.

In June 1988, Ugandan-Zairian relations again deteriorated when PLC forces mounted a series of attacks in northeastern Zaire. The PLC claimed to have killed 120 Zairian Armed Forces (Forces Armées Zaïroises -- FAZ) troops and wounded many others. When the FAZ launched a counteroffensive, a PLC commander mistakenly led his forces into Ugandan territory. Ugandan troops arrested nineteen members of the PLC at Kasese, incarcerated them at the local military barracks, and registered a complaint that Zaire was failing to control its own political dissidents.

Tensions escalated in November 1988, when FAZ troops raided territory in northwestern Uganda, setting fire to several dozen houses and destroying property. Museveni's protest prompted Zaire to close the border between the two countries. Another confrontation followed when Zairian soldiers again razed several homes in western Uganda, this time in pursuit of fleeing rebels. A third border incident occurred in December 1988, when a FAZ platoon raided military outposts in northwestern Uganda, killing three Ugandan soldiers.

Relations between the two countries were further strained when former Ugandan president Idi Amin Dada appeared in Zaire in January 1989. Holding a false Zairian passport, Amin arrived in Kinshasa on an Air Zaire flight from Libreville, Gabon. He apparently intended to return to Uganda with an estimated 500 armed supporters who were to meet him in northeastern Zaire. Museveni requested the former president's extradition, intending to try Amin for atrocities committed during his eight-year reign. Kinshasa rejected this request because there was no extraditiontreaty between Uganda and Zaire. Instead, the Mobutu regime detained Amin in Kinshasa and expelled him from the country nine days later. Thereafter, relations between Uganda and Zaire were cool, leading to the mutual expulsion of ambassadors; on September 8, 1989, the two countries restored full diplomatic ties.

Throughout 1990 Ugandan and Zairian officials worked to stabilize their common border. In April the two countries agreed to deal peacefully with judicial, security, and defense matters and to apprehend and repatriate runaway criminals. Talks in July dealt with a variety of security, trade, poaching, and smuggling problems, but the failure of these meetings to achieve any progress prompted FAZ units to seal off the Zairian-Uganda border in October 1990. In late 1990, the border between the two countries appeared likely to remain unstable for the foreseeable future.

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

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