Uganda has a rich and varied military history. Many of
country's precolonial societies possessed complex military
organizations. One of the most powerful traditional
Kabarega, king (omukama) of Bunyoro from 1870 to
transformed his personal guard into a standing army
(see Early Political Systems
, ch. 1). This force used a variety of
weapons, including Remington rifles, percussion muskets,
breech and muzzle loaders. Mutesa I, king (kabaka)
Buganda from 1852 to 1884, also raised a standing army,
led by a
general and several captains. At the height of its power,
Mutesa's army of several thousand warriors had more than
After Britain became interested in Uganda's economic
potential in the nineteenth century, a group of British
created a small military force to protect their interests.
1890 the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA),
administered the territory that would become Uganda,
an army to defend British investments there. This force of
included Sudanese soldiers (most of whom were recruited in
who were organized into a Zanzibar Levy. The following
Selim Bey, who commanded a military unit for the German
Emin Pasha, agreed to allow about 100 of his Sudanese
join the British force in East Africa.
After Britain declared a provisional protectorate over
in 1893, the colonial authorities formed a military unit
regulars and 300 reservists, most of whom were Sudanese.
Arabic-speaking British officers assumed responsibility
training. In December 1893, Colvile led a force of several
thousand Baganda fighters and 420 Sudanese in a campaign
Bunyoro, Buganda's arch-rival. This "pacification"
subduing Bunyoro and secured for Buganda a politically
role in the protectorate.
Sudanese soldiers provided the mainstay of the Ugandan
whose task was to preserve British interests and to launch
punitive expeditions against those who rebelled against
crown. In 1895 the colonial authorities organized these
into rifle companies, which became known as the Uganda
Despite the good reputation they achieved at riflery, many
Sudanese became disillusioned with the rigors of military
in a foreign country under British command. Their
included loneliness, low pay, poor food, bad officers, and
frequent reassignments, often to remote areas.
When the colonial government failed to resolve these
problems, the Uganda Rifles mutinied in 1897, killing the
commander of the force and five other European officers.
Discontent spread rapidly through Uganda's Muslim
which was sympathetic to the Sudanese soldiers, and
erupted in several regions. Finally, Britain dispatched
from India to suppress the mutiny.
To prevent another revolt, the colonial government
diversified the composition of the military. It reduced
number of Sudanese recruits, increased recruiting among
Indians and Ugandan Africans, and increased the overall
European officers to soldiers. The government also granted
percent military pay raise. But by December 1900, military
expenses were eroding the profitability of the colonial
enterprise, so Special Commissioner Sir Harry H. Johnston
organized a lower-paid constabulary of 1,450 armed
following year, to further reduce costs, British officials
consolidated all military forces in East Africa and
Somaliland into the King's African Rifles (KAR). In 1903
Uganda Armed Constabulary Ordinance and the Uganda Prisons
Ordinance separated the police and prisons from the KAR.
The colonial authorities maintained racial separation
military by assigning Africans to the Fourth Battalion and
Indians to the Fifth Battalion. In 1913 the authorities
the Fifth Battalion and supplemented the Ugandan unit with
Uganda Volunteer Reserve and Uganda Rifles Corps, both
forces that could be used to quell domestic disturbances.
The Fourth Battalion took part in several punitive
expeditions and armed patrols in Uganda and neighboring
territory. The best documented among these were against
Lumbwa and other peoples of western Kenya between 1902 and
a mission to Lake Kivu, southwest of Uganda, in 1909; the
campaign against Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah Hassan (dubbed
Mullah" by foreigners) in British Somaliland in 1909 and
patrols against cattle raiders in northeastern Uganda and
northwestern Kenya each year from 1910 to 1915; and an
into southern Sudan (then Jubaland) in 1914.
Data as of December 1990