The War That Sealed The Fate of Uganda

Even after Obote's failure in September of 1972, Tanzania remained on the watch for a time when they could strike at Amin's defenses. After the "Mogadishu Agreement" of October, 1972, the Tanzanian-Ugandan front was left undefened on the Tanzanian side. Amin, seeing his army's restlessness, decided to blame Tanzania for all of Uganda's problems and then invade the undefended border. On October 9, 1978, Ugandan troops invaded the Tanzanian border while Radio Uganda declared a state of emergency claiming that Tanzania was invading Uganda. Then, after Uganda claimed a small strip of land along the border and Lake Victoria, Tanzania saw its chance and beat back Ugandan troops. On October 12, 1978, Tanzania invaded Uganda. Radio Uganda still claimed that Tanzania was the root of all of Uganda's problems, and promised that troops were winning, calling for all young men to join the front. At the same time, Tanzania was ripping through the Ugandan countryside. Amin's troops, while well-supplied, where not trained, and so after firing a few shots, the troops retreated, leaving all of their unused ammunition behind them. Within five months, Tanzanian troops claimed almost all of southern Uganda. After cutting the railway in an attempt to isolate the capital, Tanzanian President Nyerere called for a halt of military advancement to let the political treaties and conferences catch up to the military victories. The world held it's breath as Nyerere called the final conference to decide the fate of Uganda.

The Moshi Conference was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from March 23-25, 1979. Several important resolutions came from this conference about the taking of Kampala and Entebbe, Amin's large military base, and the government that was to be installed in Amin's place. The first decision was that the forces of Tanzania and Obote, who had been fighting separately during the war, were to merge and attempt to cut off Entebbe and Kampala from the rest of Uganda before taking them. Next, a message was to be sent to Kampala that all embassy officials, dual citizenship holders, government officials, and civilians could leave Uganda through the North without opposition. This was set up mainly for the Libyans in the Kampala area to leave, because Tanzania did not want to start an Arab-African conflict. The hope was that Amin would be cornered at Entebbe, but instead he too fled through this northern passage.

 The next important resolution was about the new government to be installed in Amin's place. After numerous years of repression and violence, the Ugandans wanted a free democracy. But even after years of harsh rule, old grudges and conflicts between tribes and political parties were sure to come up, so the countries at the conference decided that the government should be made up of refugees and international delegates. Obote was not to be put in as president because he had a history of turmoil behind him and would not be universally recognized by the Ugandan population. The government, in the end, had no president, and instead consisted of a chairman, a secretary, and three main representative bodies, one of which was thirty person National Consultative Council, who had more power than even the chairman. This government was set up specifically so that no one person was the head. The job of the first set of delegates and representatives was to prepare for the elections, which were scheduled to happen some time before 1981. This new government body was called "the Front," and while it functioned quite successfully in the short term spectrum, in the long run, the government was no more effective than Obote's unstable democracy.

After the Moshi Conference, Nyerere ordered the now united troops to storm Entebbe and take Kampala. On April 8, 1979, the powerful base of Entebbe fell into Tanzanian hands. For a well-prepared fort and air base of that size, Entebbe fell remarkably easily due to the disloyalty of the troops. Now it was only a matter of time before Amin's regime collapsed. On April 10, 1979, Kampala, the capital of Uganda, fell to the Tanzanian army, and the last of Amin's troops were chased out of the country. In the next few months, while Tanzania trudged south, sweeping out potholes of resistance as it went, Amin would seek political asylum in the distant Saudi Arabia, where he would spend the rest of his life, still gloating about his once unchallengable power and self-awarded metals.

Pictures From the Front



return to top

return to main page