1962 to 1971 - Uganda`s Independence and The Rise of Trade Unions 1962-1971

Ugandan got her independence in 1962 and was officially named the Sovereign State of Uganda between 1963 and 1967 and had President King Muteesa 1 as her first President with Dr. Milton Obote as his Prime Minister, before becoming the Republic of Uganda upon the enactment of the 1967 constitution under the leadership of the Uganda People’s Congress Party (UPC).

After her independence, Uganda saw more trade unions emerge with the formation of the Uganda African Motor Drivers’ Association in 1939. However, it should be noted that the Uganda Trade Union Congress (UTUC), founded in 1955, was the country’s first national centre.

The growth of trade unions led to the creation and fostering professionalism in trade as persons that intended to pursue particular areas of trade could not if they were not registered with the trade union concerned with the trade they are interested in. Industries like cotton growers, coffee growers, cocoa growers, tea growers all had unions to which they belonged. These unions were primarily used as training hubs and also market control centers where prices for labour and costs of products were discussed and agreed upon between producers and buyers.

As trade unions grew in the late 1950s and early 1960s, workers from outside Uganda became involved. This was especially the case of Kenyan workers fleeing British repression during the Mau Mau Uprising. The newly independent government was fearful of the infusion of Kenyan workers who were perceived to be militant and framed trade union law in ways which were considered more draconian than during the colonial period. For example, at the time, non-Ugandans were banned from holding any position within a trade union.

The UPC had had no effective urban organization before independence, although it was able to mobilize the trade unions, most of which were led by non-Ugandan immigrant workers from Kenya (a situation which contributed to the independent Uganda government’s almost immediate hostility toward trade unions).

In addition, the leadership of Dr. Milton Obote ushered in an era of severe repression as he abolished kingdoms, consolidated all political, economic and social power with himself and created a strong sense of fear among highly qualified Ugandans and for private investors. This led to many educated Ugandans leaving the country and investing their skills and resources in other markets considered more stable and profitable. And thus Uganda started its steady economic decent.

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