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Uganda, a landlocked East African state, situated on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, with a surface area of 240,000 square kilometres, has a population of slightly more than 25,000,000 inhabitants (in 2003), made up of several ethnic groups.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Uganda, which had been a kingdom for four hundred years, was evangelized and witnessed three bloody religious wars. Thereafter, the country became a British protectorate.
At the end of the Second World War, pro-independence movements emerged. The long negotiations that followed culminated, in 1962, in the creation of an independent federal state.
Before long, the country was beset with a series of conflicts due to linguistic, tribal and religious differences, notably between the Protestants, Muslims and Catholics. Government after government came up. Corruption was rife, thus undermining the economy of the country. On January 25, 1971, General Idi Amin Dada, a megalomaniac, blood-thirsty illiterate, seized power in a coup d'état.
That was the beginning of several years of military dictatorship, characterized by real terror - the civilian population suffered massive executions, acts of brutality and all sorts of despoliation. This deadly machine wiped out hundreds of thousands of people. The country had been drained dry, by November 1978, when part of the army mutinied and escaped to Tanzania. Accusing this neighbouring state of complicity in the rebellion, Field Marshal, President Idi Amin Dada, declared war against Tanzania ordering his troops to invade and annex part of the country. As huge as he was, the Ugandan president challenged his Tanzanian counterpart to a boxing match to resolve their conflict…
The Tanzanian president, of course, turned down this fist conflict-settling invitation, but did not dither a minute to retaliate militarily. Backed by the Ugandan dissidents, the Tanzanian army launched a counter-attack and conquered Kampala. Idi Amin Dada fled to Libya and later sought exile in Saudi Arabia.
Upon the withdrawal of Tanzanian troops from Uganda in 1981, bloody confrontations broke out between supporters loyal to the ousted dictator, the new president, Milton Obote, and several other factions. Many civilians were massacred in these clashes exacerbated by deadly famine.
Upon taking office in 1986, President Yoweri Museveni instituted a period of reforms. He also ruled with an iron fist, maintaining the army as an instrument of power to quell several rebel movements. In this situation of an unending civil war, part of the hunger-stricken Ugandan population relied solely on international aid for survival.
France intervened on several occasions in Uganda, within the framework of international humanitarian assistance. These operations, during which aircrafts chartered by the air force were used to transport food aid, were carried out under the protection of marine infantry parachute detachments.