Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Uganda
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 1003-1004
UGANDA: The Party System in 1952-1957 and 1958-19621
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Unlike most other African colonies, Uganda did not generate much indigenous pressure toward self-government after World War II. It remained for Sir Andrew Cohen, appointed governor of Uganda in 1952, to introduce on his own initiative some constitutional reforms. His initiatives were resisted by some of the traditional authorities, notably the Kabaka of Buganda. But, by 1955, a type of ministerial system was formed, giving Africans three of the eleven seats and increasing their representation in the Legislative Council. In 1957, the Buganda representatives withdrew from the Legislative Council, presumably because the constitutional development seemed to be proceeding too quickly.

In 1958, the first elections were held for seats on the Legislative Council, but Buganda refused to fill its seats. Thus, only ten of the alloted seats were filled by election. Of these, the Uganda National Congress (UNC) won five and the Democratic Party (DP) one, and four were won by independents. The independents later in 1958 joined with some UNC members to form the Uganda People's Union (UPU), an anti-Buganda force. The UNC split in 1959, and the dissidents along with the UPU legislative councillors joined Obote's Uganda People's Congress (UPC). In 1960, membership in the Legislative Council was made almost entirely elected, and in 1961 elections were held. But again the Kabaka ordered the Baganda to boycott the elections, and the Democratic Party won 20 of the 21 seats in Buganda as the Baganda followed the instructions of their Lukiiko (legislative assembly) and did not register to vote. The new UPC received most of the vote but only 35 seats, compared with the total of 43 won by the DP in Buganda and the rest of the country out of 91 seats. Kiwanuka of the DP took office in March 1962 as the first prime minister, with a cabinet of twelve Africans, one European, and one Indian. But his government lasted for only two months before new elections in April 1962 gave 37 seats to the UPC outside of Buganda's 21 seats in the 91-member National Assembly, and, supported by the new Kabaka Yekka (roughly, "Only the King") Party, Obote became the new prime minister. Independence came on October 9, 1962.

Continuity and Change since 1962

Uganda has undergone many changes since in 1962 in its leadership, party system, and, even constitutional structure. None of our three original parties still exists, yet no new parties qualified for study.

Original Parties, Terminated

983 Only the King. The Kabaka Yekka ended around 1966, when its members were absorbed by the governing People's Congress through defection. The Kabaka, who was elected president in 1963, found himself deposed in 1966, and his Buganda region lost its autonomous status. Confronted by an armed attack, he fled the country the same year.

982 Democratic Party. The DP functioned as the opposition party until late 1969, when opposition parties were banned following an attempted assassination of President Obote.

981 Uganda People's Congress. The governing party since 1962, President Obote's UPC was declared the only party in Uganda in December 1969, when Obote announced his socialist program, the Common Man's Charter. The UPC's ruling status was short-lived, however, for the party was dissolved in January 1971, when Major General Idi Amin Dada led a coup, deposed Obote, and dissolved the National Assembly.


From 1971 through 1978, Uganda was ruled in an erratic and ruthless fashion by Idi Amin, whose style of leadership did not give rise to the development of a party-state. Threatened by internal coups and fighting against invasion from Tanzania, Amin nevertheless managed to stay in power until April 1979, when he was ousted by an invasion of Tanzanian soldiers and Ugandan exiles. Yusufu K. Lule headed a provisional government following Amin's fall, but he was forced to resign in June. Godfrey L. Binaisa replaced him as president.

[For party politics in Uganda since 1962, go to the essay by Christina A. Nyström]

1. Our study of party politics in Uganda is based on a file of 967 pages from 94 documents, all of which are in English (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Gilbert E. Rotkin. Rotkin coded the Ugandan parties on all but the last two clusters of variables in the ICPP conceptual framework, which were coded by Mary Welfling. Kathleen Lockard was our consultant.