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Wars and Insurgencies of Uganda 1971-1994

Wars and Insurgencies of Uganda 1971-1994 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2016 Title Wars and Insurgencies of Uganda 1971-1994
Author Peter Baxter Publisher Helion
Published 2016 ISBN 9781910294550
Format 64 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


In the 1970s, Idi Amin symbolized dictatorial decadence in Anglophone Africa.

Now his brutality, bigotry and buffoonery forge the fulcrum of Wars and Insurgencies of Uganda 1971-1994 – 23rd installment in Helion’s splendid “Africa@War” series.

Available in North America from Casemate, Tom Cooper’s and Adrien Fontanellaz’s lavishly illustrated study spans 72 pithy pages. Contents sport dozens of rare photos. Maps and tables tincture text. And author Cooper’s brilliant color profiles sample the swath of local aircraft and armor warpaint.

The absorbing, annotated account begins with key background factors: geography, natural resources, colonial matters and political tensions – among others. Contents then swiftly segue to Milton Obote’s tumultuous tenure.

Enter Idi Amin Dada – and contents competently course through Uganda’s military expansion, protean partnerships and regional provocations.

The last targeted Tanzania. And the two nations fought an eight-month “Liberation War” in 1978-79. Helion’s authors mostly, but accurately, marshal secondary sources to reconstruct those events. Domestic rivalries, factionalism, mismanagement, corruption and conflict in the wake Amin’s overthrow conclude coverage.

A convenient glossary covers key acronyms. But not all acronyms – especially those associated with the bewildering array of post-Amin power blocs – appear in the list. And endnotes with a selected bibliography neatly wrap things up.

“Le superflu, chose très nécessaire”, Voltaire once wrote: “The ‘superfluous’ is very necessary”. And text reveals a number of detail issues.

No Ugandan MiG-21, for instance, carried a “U600” range serial. That MiG-21MF wreckage at Entebbe bore the bort “U916”, Tanzanian RPGs not only “incarcerated” Libyans in that C-130, but “incinerated” them, as well. And I’m reasonably sure that UAAF MiG-17s and MiG-15UTIs carried roundels identical in design to those on Ugandan Delfins.

Ugandan L-29s were also re-camouflaged in Uganda. The original Czech ventral color – complete with vestigial red ID stripes – was masked and retained. The lower right photo on page 17 was taken at Gulu in 1972 – not “in Kampala” – by future Ugandan Air Force commander, Brig Gad Wilson Toko.

But I quibble!

This slim study remains the best available English-language chronicle of Ugandan military operations before the country’s Congo adventures. And it perfectly compliments Helion’s outstanding Great Lakes Holocaust: The First Congo War, 1996–1997 (Africa@War 13) and Great Lakes Conflagration: The Second Congo War, 1998–2003 (Africa@War 14).

I loved it. And I eagerly await its sequel.

With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!