Lecture by

H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni President of the Republic of Uganda


The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


Fort Leavenworth, Kansas USA September 26,2008

Lt. General William Caldwell and Mrs. B. Caldwell, Officers, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

I thank the leadership of Command and the General Staff College, Leavenworth, for inviting me. The Lecture I intend to present to you, today, is on "The Strategy of the Protracted Peoples' War."

The Protracted

People's war is a strategic instrument

of the

oppressed that they can use to fight and defeat a dictatorial regime or foreign occupation by an aggressor. Its successful use, however, is only possible under the following circumstances:

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War



There must be extreme and widespread oppressIon enough to generate desperation and resentment by a wide cross-section of the population. This oppression

would not only include denial of political rights, which sometimes is a bit remote in underdeveloped societies (e.g. Congo under Mobutu), but more especially, land alienation, extra-judicial killings, desecration of cultural sites, suppression of a People's culture, including

language (e.g. Sudan) and other such measures.


It must be clear to many people in the oppressed community that there is no other peaceful option to get them out of their oppression - that armed struggle is the only option.

The Strategy of the Protracted People :s- War



The other crucial factor is the terrain or the political environment if the areas involved are urban areas.

Terrain is important in negating or mitigating the effects of superIor technology on the side of the repressive forces. (iv) External allies for or against the revolutionary cause may also act as a catalyst to expedite the liberation process or slow it down. The support by the communist Bloc for the War of Resistance in Vietnam played a crucial role in the victory of Vietnamese nationalism and re-unification. The support by the Western

countries for the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan helped to defeat the Soviet occupation.

The Stra.tegy of the Protracted People's War


The rear bases provided by Tanzania and Zambia to the Liberation Movements in Southern Africa enabled our brothers and sisters there to defeat the White racist

regimes in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and South Africa. There are some cases, however,

where revolutionary forces received little or no external aid from outside but they defeated the repressive forces. The examples of Cuba and Uganda stand out in this connection. In Uganda, having started with 27 rifles, we received only 92 rifles and 100 land mines from outside between 1981 and mid-1985. All the other equipment we got

from within Uganda at the expense of the enemy (the regimes).
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s War


The Government forces were our weapons suppliers and Quartermasters - two in one. The regime would import arms and we would capture them. The enemy, agent as far as

therefore, was our weapons procurement importing weapons was concerned.

By 1985, our forces had grown to 20,000 - all armed. The majority of these arms had been captured by

ourselves from the Government

forces. By January

1986, when we captured power, we had received only 5,800 rifles from outside.

The Saategy of the Protracted People's War


It is, therefore, possible for a revolutionary force, with the right conditions, even without external logistical support, to triumph. Even the external weapons supplies we received was on account of the reputation we had built up because of the effectiveness of our operations within Uganda. (v) There must be a revolutionary leadership able to do two things: (a) articulate how much better the future will be when the revolutionary forces win and convince the people by advocacy and actions (blows against the enemy) that it is possible to triumph.

The Strategy of the Protracted People

s War


(b) An intellectual leadership would be very useful so as to deal with both the theoretical issues in the struggle as well as the practical aspects.

The objective conditions for a War of Resistance should, first of all, be in existence as described above ioppression, no hope for a peaceful solution, etc). Subjective conditions must also exist for a revolutionary war to start and be sustained. Subjective conditions include awareness of the people that they are oppressed and that it is possible to liberate themselves by armed struggle.

There are groups that try to launch resistance wars when the conditions that can support such a resistance do not exist. We call such groups adventurists. They telescope their subjective

The Strategy of the Protrscted People's War


views onto a situation that is objectively different. cannot be sustained.

Such a war

Groups emerged in the West in the 1960s

and 1970s that tried to use violence in the name of the masses; for example, the Baader-Meinhof, the Japanese Red Army, etc. Apart from the technological superiority of the Government

forces in the respective countries, the Welfare Social Democratic State that emerged in the Western Countries after the Second World War had ameliorated conditions of life of the poor in these countries. Earlier on, through imperialism, the Western Countries had for almost five centuries looted the colonies of Africa, Asia and Latin America so as to build up capacity that enabled them to tackle the wretched conditions of the peoples of Europe. It was, therefore,

The Strategy of the Protracted People

s War


adventurous objectively

of these change

groups to imagine that that situation by


could some


assassinations (Hans Martin Schleyer of Germany being one example). Therefore, only a just cause can utilize the strategy of a Protracted People's war. A successful Protracted Peoples' war

must, ipso facto, be a Just war. If the conditions are ripe, including a revolutionary leadership, then the strategy of the Protracted Peoples' War centres on the realization that in the short run the oppressive forces are strong and the peoples' forces are weak; but in the long run the people's forces are invincible and the oppressive forces are weak.

The Strategy of the Protracted People

s War


This is what Mao Tse Tung meant when he said: "In the long-run

all imperialists are paper Tigers. Strategically, we must despise the enemy; tactically, however, we must take him seriously'.
It is this process of gradual mutation in the balance of forces between the protagonists that constitutes the Protracted People's War. At the beginning, therefore, the revolutionary forces must avoid head-on collision with the oppressive forces. In fact, they would start with propaganda and agitation. The aim of this

agitation is to expose to the broad sections of the people the repressive character of the regime or the aggressor. Secondly, the agitation aims at explaining to some elements, not to everybody, that it is possible to resist this bad situation using armed struggle. It is these fewer elements that form the secret cells of the resistance.
The Strategy of the Protracted People

s War


The general population will be gripped with discontent but they will not know what to do; how to deal with the oppressor. It is

the smaller groups, guided, in fact created by the revolutionary leadership, that will have the clear way forward. It is these small

groups that will start secret military training (if they do not have foreign bases) in forests or even in houses in the urban centres or isolated farms. Who trains who? The political, ideological and organizational

training could be done by the revolutionary leadership itself. The military training, for the revolutionary leaders who do not have a military background, can be done by elements that served in the military before but who now belong to the revolutionary


The strategy of a protracted people's war, however, by the revolutionary leadership.

must be properly understood
The Strategy oithe Protracted People's War

Soldiers in conventional neo-colonial armies cannot easily grasp it. Acquisition of military knowledge by the revolutionary

, leadership has proved beneficial as is shown by the experience of Uganda, Cuba and Guinea Bissau. A combined political-military leadership served us well. A parallel leadership (political and military) sometimes leads to power struggle between the two, which is injurious to the process of liberation beginning); Mocembiquei beginning. (ZANU of Zimbabwe had such problems at the even FRELIMO (Frente had such de Libertsciio de

of Mozambique


at the

The Saategy of the Protracted People's War


The war of popular Resistance went through 4 phases: • Agitation and clandestine operations (1971-78); • Guerrilla warfare (1981-1984); • Mobile warfare (1984-1985); and • Conventional warfare (September 1985 up to the capture of Kampala). I think other wars of popular Resistance may have gone through similar phases. I have, however, not studied them closely. Once some of the cells of resistance have been transformed into armed squads, then attacks on the enemy start. The cells divide jobs: those who carry out attacks, those who steal supplies from the enemy or bring them from well-wishers, propaganda, etc. those who spread

Many of the cells are within the oppressors'

The Strategy of the Protracted People S Will"


structures: government,

Army, etc.

One of the people who barracks where we

helped us to attack a major Government

captured 765 rifles and a lot of other equipment was a person who used to cut grass in the barracks who would just observe the routine during the day.

I had, using our soldiers from the bush, to fill in the gaps with night reconnaissance to get a complete picture. the picture for the dawn attack. This completed

These cells should not know

each other at all. Inquisitiveness about structures and events that do not directly concern you is totally discouraged. This is insurance for the struggle. In case one of the cells is

exposed and destroyed or forced to flee into exile, the others

The Strategy olthe Protracted People's W.u



The principle of "Need to know" served us very well.

In fact, even in the leadership, very few people should have the overall picture of the cells and plans of the struggle. It is, again, a form of insurance. In case one of the leaders is captured or

betrays the struggle, he/she should not be in a position to compromise the whole struggle. Once the armed phase starts, the struggle should target soft enemy targets: police stations, policemen on duty, intelligence staff, blowing up infrastructure, etc. As far as enemy military

units are concerned, in these early stages, apart from surprising units that are at stand-down (which is normally the case in peace time before hostilities), the main form of operations should be ambushes and mine-laying.

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War



an enemy

on the move is safer than attacking defences. Attacking enemy troops in In

enemies in deliberate

vehicles is even better than attacking enemy troops on foot.

fact vehicles, if they are not well built, are actually coffins for the repressive troops. The South Africans built mine-resistant

vehicles that somehow helped them when they were fighting SWAPO in Namibia.

These vehicles mitigated the effects of ATM (Anti-tank mines) blowing the vehicle upwards because they were Vvshaped. The

bombs blowing from the side (road side bombs) or the Explosive Formed Penetrators you have been experiencing in Iraq may need a different solution. The troops in vehicles are more vulnerable.

The Strategy oIthe Protracted People

s W.aT


If the repressive forces have motorized infantry vehicles (IFVS), we must make sure that we have got enough anti-tank capacity and mines (or road-side bombs). The main point here is to

preserve and develop our forces while we degrade the enemy's forces, infrastructure, confidence, etc. Preserve and develop

yourself as you weaken the enemy.

The mere survival of the resistance fighter in the battlefield is victory for him. However, for the resistance fighter to merely of numbers, weapons

survive but not grow in terms


organization may convert him into a mere bandit;

if he retains

the noble character and discipline of a resistance fighter, into a lonely wolf type that will eventually fizzle out. General Grivas who, I think, was fighting The Cypriot

for Enosis, the

The Saategy of the Protracted People

s War


unification with Greece, may have been in this category. Why would the fight for the good cause not grow? If it does not grow, it means there is something missing. Therefore, in the first phase of military operations, start with the following actions: (i) (ii) Attack police stations; Attack policemen on duty because they are not In great numbers; (iii) Blow up infrastructure (railways, power lines, waterworks etc); (iv) (v) Attack intelligence staff; Scare away Government administrators so that they run from their stations and leave the area to you;

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War



Ambush Army vehicles so that they are forced into convoys, which slows down their tempo; and,


At the very beginning

select one unit which


relaxed and attack it to get arms as we (National Resistance Army) did with Kabamba Training School.

It was a lightly guarded unit with 2,000 rifles in store.
On the first occasion we did not get to the rifles because a Tanzanian armoury Corporal with rushed into the


a machine

gun and

nobody could enter. However, on the next attempt a Ugandan soldier tried to repeat this tactic without success because we were ready this time. electrically detonated Using an

mine (ATM) , we killed the The

soldier by concussion and entered the Armoury.
The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


oppressive forces could not guard this Armoury with greater strength because our operations had

overstretched their forces.

In the case of the National Resistance Army (NRA), these attacks were deliberately concentrated in an area that came to be called the LuweroTriangle, thousand, six hundred an area of about 3,600 sq. miles (three square miles) - i.e. between Kampala-

Mubende Road and Gulu-Kampala Road; there was also another base area to the east of Gulu road - Kiwanguzi.

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


After three years (1981-84) of grinding the oppressive Army in this Triangle in the manner described above, we had raised our rifles from the 27 we started with, to about 600 rifles. We, then, started mobile warfare whereby a mobile Brigade made a longjump operation when, by means of rapid, concealed, day and night movements, we attacked instructors a big artillery training unit

manned by Tanzanian

and Ugandan trainees. The

purpose was to grab the 765 rifles in the stores. In the process we captured 122mm howitzers and other arms for which we had no use at that stage. We simply abandoned them. Hitherto, we had

been in the Guerrilla stage - the small attacks described above. The mobile phase, successor to the guerrilla phase, is expanded effort in gun-raising and also increasing our manpower resources.

The Strategy of the Protracted People $ War


By 1984 (after 3 years of warfare), we had 4,000 fighters; but only 600 of them were armed. We jokingly called the other 3,400 "Commandoes" because they would go into battle unarmed. The

use of mobile warfare was, therefore, to raise arms for these fighters so that we create more units and cover more territory in terms of operations. Mobile warfare meant jumping out of our by now operational area, where both our forces and the enemies were concentrated, to the lightly- guarded rear of the enemy that was rich in supplies (rifles, ammunition, money and clothing). As far as food was concerned, our supplies were from villages near our operational areas.

All this creates a dilemma for the enemy: when he concentrates forces, like he did in the Luwero Triangle to deliver a crushing

The Strategy ofthe Protracted People's War


blow to us, he depletes his forces in the rear, rendering them vulnerable to our long-jump attacks. When he scatters forces to cope with our long-jump operations, then he loses concentration of force in fighting us and makes the forces more vulnerable.

In the phase of Guerrilla warfare, you should fight battles not lasting more than 20 minutes - ambushing, attacking Police stations, etc. In the mobile warfare stage, the approach to the target must be concealed. The battle should not last more than 3 hours including dealing with the enemy counter-attacks, If you are

evacuation of captured materials and withdrawal.

dealing with enemy with faster means of reaction (aircrafts, motorized columns etc), you must adjust accordingly - reduce time of battle, utilizing the forest or built-up areas.

The Strategy of the Protracted People

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You should do damage and withdraw before enemy marshals his superior forces. In both guerrilla and mobile phases, you should fight quick-decision battles, never battles of long duration. Battles lasting many hours or days are not appropriate in these phases. Another important principle the Resistance Command must

observe is not to attack entrenched enemies; only attack enemies on the move or rear units that are in stand-down posture. You should also attack those units where you are sure to capture rifles, support arms and, certainly, more ammunition than what you expect to expend. Otherwise, you should avoid head-an-battles from which you

will not get replenishments. A successful war of resistance must be one business where the highest return on investment must be

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


ensured before any venture is authorized. We cannot afford a net loss compared to what you expend; nor are marginal returns acceptable. You can expend some ammunition inflicting damage (killing, wounding and capturing) on the enemy at river

crossings, in close country, in built-up areas, etc. However, the general principle should be to avoid battles from which you do not expect to reap profitably in terms of additional weapons and ammunition. Clothing in the Tropics is completely

optional; a half-naked fighter can shoot you as well as a wellclothed one. It is weapons, food, recruits and, to some extent,

medicine that are crucial. During the phase of mobile warfare, we must ensure tactical superiority within strategic inferiority - although, overall, our

The Strategy of the Protracted People 's War


forces are weak, we strive to achieve superiority at the point of attack. We then must move away before our superiority is diluted by the enemy reinforcements. By repeating such attacks, you

gradually deplete the enemy's ability to wage war. In this phase, we also use operations on interior lines, the ability to rapidly move forces from one sector to create that tactical superiority at one point, achieve your objective and then disperse. One of the results of successful mobile warfare operations was opening the 2nd front - in the Rwenzori Mountains in April, 1985. This was a strategic move on our part. It marked the boundary between phase III of the war to phase IV (between mobile warfare and conventional warfare).

The Strategy of the Protracted Peoples War


Opening the


front marked the beginning

of our strategic forces,


Ever since 1971, the revolutionary

without taking into account the actions of our temporary allies, the Tanzanians, had been strategically on the defensive. We now entered the phase of strategic counter-offensive Resistance. In this phase we used conventional, by the


operations that included sieges (Masaka and Mbarara - lasting three months), the River Katonga battle, the battle for Kampala that involved a division attack, the battle for Hoima, the battle for Masindi (Biiso) etc. Here we used rifles, artillery and even some infantry fighting vehicles. We had captured all these from the enemy. Never discuss inside buildings because they may be

bugged, etc.

The Strategy o/the Protracted People's War


I should also mention the question of Command, Control and Communication. How are the resistance forces commanded

during the different phases of the struggle? In stages one and two (clandestine operations and guerrilla warfare), the Command and Control should be wholly decentralized. Before the war starts,

you could have a secret conference, agree on the mode of operations, code of conduct, targets etc; then disperse to your respective areas of operations. Thereafter, you should operate

autonomously, each one attacking a target in the categories agreed before hand if the opportunity presents itself. You could communicate through couriers who physically move and bring information, taking a lot of precautions. Never communicate

through military radios or telephones because they can be intercepted by the enemy.

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


You could keep records of what is captured.

You should,

however, never have written records of future plans or contacts .. I just laughed when, recently, I heard, through CNN, that the Colombian rebel group had information in computers etc. That is infantile amateurism for a group calling itself revolutionary. All

future plans must be in the Commander's head; never on paper.

Once the operation is over, you could have a record provided you do not reveal those who helped you. In our case, however, we kept all this in our heads. That is why all the intelligence services in the World were surprised when we defeated the dictatorship. In the modern media driven world, you will learn what your colleagues are doing through the free medium of BBe radio (not TV) or other local radios.
The Strategy of the Protracted People's War

You can, then, get the details from

your couners.

News bulletins will be, at no cost to yourself,

blaring out that "Guerrillss on this date at that place blew up a military vehicle': Even if it is in a closed society, enemy soldiers will, themselves, spread the information in bars etc. The

commanders can then meet like once a year to agree on the way forward. During the Guerrilla phase, we had the following guerrilla zones:

• Abdul Nasser (Matugga area); • Mondlane (Makulubita area); • Lutta (Semuto area); • Kabalega (Kapeeka area); • Nkrumah (Kyenkwanzi-Mayanja area); • Ngoma (Ngoma-Wakyato area); • Mwanga (Kiwanguzi-Kikyusa area).

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


The guerrilla zones were operating independently

but according

to a prior agreed cluster of activities: ambushes, mine-laying, recruiting, training and doing reconnaissance.

The Mobile Brigade created in 1982, on top of the zonal forces mentioned above, would assist in the zonal battles to repulse zone. However, the

enemy incursions into our semi-liberated

main purpose of the Mobile Brigade was offensive, long-jump operations into the enemy's rear to capture more weapons and change the balance of forces. The Mobile Brigade only engaged in operations approved by the Chairman of the High Command (myself) although it had a Commander and Deputy Commander (Rwigyema and Saleh, initially). Saleh, later on, became the

commander of the Mobile Brigade when I appointed Rwigyema,

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


Deputy Army Commander.

We, therefore, made a distinction

between zona] operations (carried out by the zonal forces) and national operations carried out by the Mobile Brigade with my approval and, sometimes, under my direct leadership. I was

mostly with the Mobile Brigade which was later upgraded to a division.

I would,


occasionally move between

zones for

inspection and politicization.

We created a protection unit of,

initially, a section, later upgraded to a company, that would escort me as I moved from zone to zone without encroaching on the resources of the zonal forces or the Mobile Brigade. We used to call it High Command unit. It later became the Presidential

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


Guard Brigade (PGB). The movement between zones was either on foot or on bicycles. At one time, I used a scooter until intensified enemy activities made this unwise. Therefore, Command and Control was

dispersed but according to prior agreed plan in respect of the zonal forces. As far as national operations were concerned, they were decided on by the Chairman of the High Command (CHe) with the commanders of the mobile forces after reconnaissance directly controlled by eRC. Communication was by courier. Although

we had radios (Racal) captured from the enemy, we never used them to issue orders. We instead used them to monitor the It was only later (1985) that

enemy movements (interception).

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


we started using the man-packs (using diple antenna) to issue orders. Even then we were cautious not to be very explicit. We could use them particularly in case of speed to supplement the couners. In conclusion, a successful war of Resistance must go through the four phases:

• Clandestine operations and agitation; • Guerrilla warfare; • Mobile warfare; and conventional warfare in the phase of the strategic counter-offensive.

The Protracted Peoples War can only succeed if it is a Just war fighting for justice, not for greed, sectarianism or hunger for

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


power. Successful people's wars have been against colonialism (e.g. Portuguese in Africa) or local tyrants (Amin, Obote).

The Resistance Army must be very disciplined - "Do not take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses' (Mao Tse Tung); you must respect the people's culture (we had to participate in indigenous religious practices although some of us were Any

Christians or Moslems). Never bark at the people.

indiscipline e.g. homicide must be punished in the very place it was committed and in public. When our forces were operating in Congo, we executed our soldiers in the villages where some of them had killed people. A resistance fighter must move amongst the masses like a fish in water.

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


At the beginning of this lecture, I talked of conditions that must be there for a Protracted Peoples War to be launched with prospects of success. I can now summarize the factors that will make that war successfully prosecuted .. These are: (i) Concentrate on soft military, security and infrastructure targets at the beginning (police stations, policemen on duty, intelligence staff, scare away administrators, blow up power lines, railway tracks etc) in order to raise rifles, disrupt the enemy's line of communication, degrade the enemy's forces and erode his confidence; (ii) Do not attack entrenched enemies; attack enemies on the move;

The Strategy of the Protracted People sWill"



Attack units with stores to replenish and increase our supplies;

(iv) (v) (vi)

Fight battles of short duration, within a protracted war; Achieve tactical superiority within strategic inferiority; Use interior lines of operations to achieve that tactical superiority within strategic inferiority;


Our fighters should never take "even a needle" from the people without paying for it and those who misbehave must be punished publicly at the point where the misbehaviour took place;

(viii) Respect the people's culture;

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The principle of «Need to know' must be ensured all the time;


When conditions permit, internal democracy must be ensured; free discussion of all issues - then the leader summarizes and concludes after listening to everybody; this is important to avoid blames in case things go wrong; the minority view must be heard, but the minority must abide by the majority decision;


Control of territory is not the primary aim of war but, rather, the destruction of the enemy's means and will to make war;


In the



stage, the



destroying the enemy's means of making war must be

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of our



territory is a consequence of defeating the enemy and not its precursor except for some ground of tactical Importance. During this phase, you should fight battles of annihilation, merely routing the enemy. not

Mao Tse Tung pointed out that

cutting off one finger of the enemy is better than merely injuring all the ten. All the ten will heal and you will not be any better off. Annihilation means getting means killing, injuring or taking prisoner. It

that unit out of action permanently

for the

duration of the war.

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War


I would like to conclude that National Resistance Army (NRA) adopted the strategy of the Protracted Peoples' War and

successfully defeated the oppressive regimes of former leaders: Iddi Amin and Milton Obote (deceased), twenty two years ago, and it has since then formed the backbone of our National Army, Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces (UPDF). I thank you all for listening to me.

September 26, 2008, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas USA

The Strategy of the Protracted People's War