143. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Directorate of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency1
Uganda: The Immediate Consequences of a Successful Effort to Topple President Amin
The assassination or overthrow of President Amin is likely to touch off a long period of unrest in Uganda, especially in the military, the major prop of the Amin regime. The Ugandan army, traditionally an ill-disciplined force, has become even more unruly during Amin’s six years of maladministration. Military excesses have been a product of:
—the privileged position of the armed forces and its virtually unlimited police powers.
—the army’s fragmented, chaotic, or nonexistent lines of authority resulting in part from Amin’s frequent tribally-inspired purges of the officer corps.
—aggravation of serious tribal, ethnic and religious frictions in the army stemming from Amin’s heavy recruitment and favored treatment of his fellow Muslims and Sudanic tribesmen.
Military indiscipline and turmoil is likely to intensify when what little control Amin exercises by loyalty, obeisance, or terror is removed with his departure from the scene.
Fighting in the immediate post Amin era is likely to erupt along tribal and ethnic lines and among individual units as new loyalties are sorted out. Those who have suffered at the hands of Amin and his Muslim troops are likely to take the opportunity to settle old scores. Recognizing their precarious position without Amin, some of the president’s followers may take advantage of the confusion immediately following his downfall to take pre-emptive action against their opponents. Others fearing for their lives, will probably melt away to remote tribal areas such as the region straddling the Uganda-Sudan border. In any event, without a cohesive military, whatever individual or group succeeds Amin will have considerable difficulty gaining control of the situation.
In addition to military turmoil, Amin’s successors may have to contend with unrest among segments of the civilian population seeking to preserve or reassert the interests of the country’s disparate tribal groups. Members of Uganda’s traditional kingdoms, such as Buganda, [Page 377] never fully resigned to the kingdom’s dissolution under Amin’s predecessor, could try to revive their once privileged position.
Uganda’s neighbors, especially Kenya and Tanzania, which have been supporting anti-Amin groups, are also likely to try to influence events in the immediate post-Amin period. Long concerned about Amin and his threats to their security, Kenya and Tanzania may see the confusion following Amin’s death as an opportunity to ensure the rise of a more compatible government in Kampala by insinuating into Uganda elements they have supported.
Despite any efforts by Kenya and Tanzania, it is unlikely that a civilian government would emerge on top in Kampala in the immediate post-Amin period. There are a number of civilian groups plotting against Amin, some with extensive contacts in the military. The latter groups probably have a good chance of toppling Amin and playing a role in a successor government, but little chance of dominating such a government.
As a result of Amin’s purges, there appears to be a dearth of widely respected Ugandan civilians capable of bridging Uganda’s ethnic and tribal divisions and wielding sufficient authority to control the situation without relying heavily on the army. Most civilian leaders, either in Uganda or in exile, are not well known or—like former President Obote—command little respect in Uganda. One possible exception is Paul Etiang, an outstanding and widely respected member of Amin’s cabinet. Although opposed to Amin and not trusted by the president, Etiang has managed to survive and maintain a position in the government.
It’s always possible that some unknown junior officer or group of lower level officers could come out on top after a period of instability. This scenario would be more likely if a large part of Amin’s hierarchy were wiped out in his downfall. Such a government would be marked by considerable maneuvering for loyalties and positions of leadership and might find it necessary to call on a senior exiled or currently out of favor military figure to assume leadership.
It appears, however, that senior military officers—possibly those in Amin’s hierarchy who survive his downfall—would have the best chance of bringing some stability to the situation, but again only after a period of bloodshed. The cast of characters in the upper level of the military has changed frequently since Amin came to power. Many senior officers have been killed, disappeared, or lost favor with Amin. Little is known of the current military leadership except that most are Muslims from Sudanic related tribes in northern Uganda and are members of the shadowy Defense Council that is purported to advise Amin.
Most of these military figures presumably have some following in the army, but none appears to have any significant advantage over the [Page 378] others in this area. Among those mentioned as possible successors to Amin are:
—Brigadier Moses Ali who is said to be close to Amin. He reportedly warned Amin of a coup plot in 1973.
—Colonel Juma Sabuni, Minister of Industry and Power and another adviser to the president. Sabuni is in his mid-thirties and has represented Amin abroad.
—Colonel Juma Oris, Minister of Foreign Affairs, a Muslim and a member of Amin’s Kakwa tribe. He is about 40 and poorly educated. He is loyal to Amin and enjoys his trust.
—Major General Mustafa Adirsi, Vice President and Defense Minister. Apparently loyal to Amin, Adrisi was named vice president early this year. He belongs to Amin’s Kakwa tribe.
—Colonel Issac Maliyamungu, a powerful member of the Defense Council. Reported at one time to be Amin’s personal hatchetman, he may now be plotting against the president.
—Major General Issac Lumago, Army Chief of Staff. He is the most senior Christian on active duty. It is rumored that opposition to Amin in the army is coalescing around Lumago. He is reported to be Western oriented and to have a popular following in the army.
—Major General Francis Nyangweso, a former Army commander and one of the few Christians in the upper ranks. He was once close to Amin, but has since fallen out of favor and has been rusticated to an ambassadorial post in the Central African Empire. He still appears to have a following in the army.
We cannot gauge with certainty the foreign policy to be followed by Amin successors. It seems likely, however, that a successor government will be inclined to follow a moderate nonaligned course with some traditional African socialist trappings. Amin’s successors will probably reason that the country will need help from all quarters in order to revitalize the economy and domestic institutions devastated by Amin’s misrule. As a result, they may seek closer ties to the West.
A military government will probably maintain ties to the Soviet Union, Uganda’s principal arms supplier, at least over the short run. None of the prominent leaders, however, seems closely aligned with the Soviets. In fact the apparently heavy-handed Soviet advisory and supply role in the military has probably created considerable suspicion and mistrust of Moscow in the army hierarchy. In any event, the policies of a successor government will almost certainly be more consistent than those of the erratic Amin.
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North-South, Box 116, Uganda 4/77–3/80. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. Prepared in the Office of Regional and Political Analysis in coordination with the Directorate of Operations.↩