Details/Information for Canadian Forces (CF) UMIAK

CF Overseas Operations have most often operated within the construct of an international mandate. As such, the International Information is presented first in order to provide the context of the Canadian Operation (displayed second). Eventually, all rotations associated with the particular Canadian operation will also be displayed.

International Information

International Operation Name: Commonwealth Military Training Team – Uganda

International Mission Name: Commonwealth Military Training Team – Uganda

Mission Date: 18 March 1982 - 24 March 1984

Canadian Mission Date: 6 April 1982 - 4 September 1984

Canadian Name: Operation UMIAK

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Africa

Location: Uganda

Mandate: To provide medical support to Commonwealth personnel and the Ugandan soldiers they were training.


In 1972 Idi Amin took power in Uganda, overthrowing Milton Obote. The Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) began to wage a guerrilla was to overthrow Amin. On 11 April 1979 Amin fled Uganda and an interim government organized. The UNLA, which had received substantial assistance from the Tanzanian military in defeating Amin, now became the National army. In the period of the interim government that followed, several leaders within the UNLA began to organize their own private armies. Yoweri Museveni formed the National Resistance Army (NRA), rapidly increasing it in size from 80 to 8,000 soldiers. Obote returned to Uganda and won the disputed election of 10 December 1980.

The UNLA increased from 600 to 24,000 in less than two years. Many of the soldiers were from ethnic groups that had been harshly treated by Amin. With minimal military training and now fighting the NRA, some UNLA soldiers avenged themselves against the inhabitants of Amin's home region. Obote began to re-establish cordial international relations and to rebuild the shattered economy. However, any gains were swallowed by the futile attempts to defeat the NRA. The repression that had been symbolic of Amin's regime began to return.

Faced with the problems of a trying to rebuild the economy and fight the NRA, Obote asked for assistance. In 1982, Great Britain organized the Commonwealth Military Training Team in Uganda (CMTT) to train and organize the UNLA. The Commonwealth Secretariat requested members of the Commonwealth for assistance, with Australia, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and the United Kingdom all providing personnel. The CMTT consisted of 37 members operating from the town of Jinja, 50 kms east of Kampala. The CMTT provided training to officers at various ranks in military skills, small unit tactics and where appropriate in battalion operations and leadership. Warrant officers and sergeant were trained in drill and small unit tactics The organization only lasted from about 18 March 1982 to 24 March 1984.

Despite the work of the CMTT, their efforts were too small given the overall size of the UNLA. Given the continued failure of the UNLA to defeat the NRA, Obote in early 1983 authorized the forced move of over 750,000 civilians in the Luwero area in which the NRA had its greatest support. Civilians not living in the government-organized camps were assumed to be hostile. The police began systematic abductions and torture to find NRA supporters, while the military conducted indiscriminate attacks on alleged supporters of the NRA. Obote also signed agreements with North Korea, one of which allowed North Korean soldiers to deploy thirty officers to Uganda to conduct infantry training in Gulu. During the 1980s, these North Koreans often led UNLA soldiers into combat against the NRA. Obote's regime is estimated to have killed 500,000 people. The regime fell on 27 July 1985.

In early 1982, Canada received a request to participate in the CMTT. A three-person medical team consisting of a medial officer major, and two medical assistants (a warrant officer and a sergeant) was authorized. They left Canada on 6 April, arriving in Jinja on 14 April. Operating from this location, they treated the members of the CMTT, but more frequently provided medical attention to the Ugandan soldiers. The biggest problem they treated was malaria, which during the period they were there could be effectively treated using chloroquine. However, by the time the three Canadians left, chloroquine-resistant malaria was making its debut in the area. Parasites such as hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm were common problems as were venereal disease and tuberculosis. They would also on occasion treat civilians. Their mission lasted to 3 September 1982 after which Canada did not renew its participation.