National Geographic : 1988 Apr
soon ousted President Sir Edward Mutesa, the hereditary Baganda king, and made himself president. Obote's corrupt regime was over- thrown in 1971 by another northerner, Idi Amin, who embarked on an orgy of bloodshed in which an estimated 300,000 Ugandans were shot, tortured, and battered to death. In 1979 Amin was driven out by the army of neighboring Tanzania and the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), and Obote returned. But the UNLA did not liberate Ugan- dans from savagery. Things got worse. In 1981 the UNLA sought revenge on Amin's Kakwa people and other groups living in Nile Province. Obote's soldiers laid waste the land, slaughtered untold thousands of people, and drove almost 450,000 more into Sudan and Zaire as refugees. In 1982 the UNLA was drawn into the Ba- ganda heartland in force by southerners fight- ing to overthrow Obote's regime. In what must rank with the worst atrocities in human history, men of the UNLA ravaged the country- side and slaughtered between 200,000 and 500,000 people before they were defeated by the National Resistance Army (NRA) , whose leader, Yoweri Museveni, is now president. The scene of this carnage was the Luwero triangle, a wedge of rich farmland that points at Kampala, a few miles to the south. It is hard to imagine that the massacres went on there, a 30-minute drive from the foreign diplomatic missions, for more than two years before the outside world knew about them or would be- lieve they were occurring. But the evidence is there for all to see, as I discovered when I visit- ed the town of Nakaseke . JOSEPH KARIANGO, an old Baganda farm- er, crouched to stare at something in his field that was not visible from where I stood. I went nearer. Lying in the dirt was a small pile of bones. Joseph looked up at me. "It is my wife," he said. Joseph pointed to a pair of rusty shock absorbers lying next to the skeleton . "The soldiers killed her. The men of Obote beat her with those things ." Joseph motioned me to follow him to the edge of the field . He pushed aside some of the tall elephant grass with his hoe . There was another skeleton. "This is my daughter. They shot her when she tried to run. And my son was killed when the soldiers caught him in my shop. I myself 474 UGANDA THE VERDANT HILLS around Lake Victoria were" darkest Africa" to Europeans in 1862, when British explorer John Speke came seeking the source of the Nile. Here lived linguistically and culturally distinct peoples, often at war with one another. These were gathered into uneasy alliance by the British in 1894 as the Uganda Protectorate . When independence came in October 1962, Uganda was filled with promise - raising cotton, coffee, tea, and sugar for export - and an optimistic, if culturally divided, populace. Euphoria was short- lived as tribal hatreds were rekindled in the give-and-take of national politics . By 1966 Prime Minister Milton Obote of the Langi had driven into exile President Edward Mutesa of the Baganda. Gen. Idi Amin, of the Kakwa, seized power in a 1971 military coup and un- leashed his thugs on all who opposed him. By 1979, when invading Tanzanians and Ugandans forced him into exile, Amin had slaughtered some 300,000 . Obote regained power in 1980 and sought to exterminate guerrillas led by Yoweri Museveni . The Luwero triangle became an unimaginable killing ground as the army slaughtered hundreds of thousands . Obote was overthrown in July 1985, and six months later Museveni's forces took control. Although President Museveni seeks tribal reconciliation, his once disciplined army now appears out of control in the fight against rebels in the north. The area has been closed at times to foreigners, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, and reports in the capital indicate widespread atrocities . AREA: 236,036 sq km (91 , 134 sq mi). POPULATION: 15, 500 ,000. CAPITAL: Kam- pala, pop . 500,000 . RELIGION: Christian, traditional , Muslim . LANGUAGE: English, Bantu , Nilotic . LITERACY: 52 %. LIFE EXPECTANCY: 50 years . ECONOMY: Food processing, mining, textiles . Export crops: coffee, cotton , tea.