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Uganda: Early Development
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Internal Security Services > Early Development


Ugandan police history began in 1900 when Special Commissioner Sir Harry Johnston established the Armed Constabulary with 1,450 Africans under the command of British district officers. In 1906 the Protectorate Police replaced the constabulary, and the colonial government appointed an inspector general as the commanding officer of all police detachments.

Although created as a civilian force, the police frequently carried out military duties. In 1907, for example, police detachments participated in internal security operations in the western kingdom of Toro and the eastern district of Bugisu. To support this expanded role, colonial authorities enlarged the Protectorate Police, and in 1908 they opened a fingerprinting bureau in Kampala. By 1912 the police operated fifteen stations and possessed a small criminal investigation division, a countrywide heliograph signal system, and a small bicycle pool for transport. The police continued their paramilitary functions, patrolling border areas between Uganda and German East Africa (later Tanzania) during World War I and patrolling Karamoja District to suppress cattle raiding and border skirmishes.

After 1918 the police became a more traditional internal security force. Most of their work involved homicide investigations; traffic control; and supervision of vehicle, bicycle, and trade licenses. Worldwide economic depression caused the colonial government to reduce the size of the police force from its 1926 level of 33 officers and inspectors with 1,368 in the rank and file to 37 officers and inspectors with 1,087 rank and file.

At the outbreak of World War II, the police again undertook military duties. In 1939 the protectorate police dispatched a garrison to Lokitaung, Kenya; arrested German nationals in Uganda; and provided security at key installations. In addition, the police assumed responsibility for operating and guarding camps for detained aliens. Many members of the police force also served in British army units in East Africa and in overseas operations. After World War II, the colonial authorities expanded the police force, and in July 1954, the Legislative Council established new police stations and posts throughout Uganda. The government also formed a specially recruited Internal Security Unit that subsequently became the Special Force Units. By the mid-1960s, there were eighteen Special Force Units, each comprising fifty police trained in commando tactics, normally assigned to crowd control duties and border patrols.

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

Uganda Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 162 of 169


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