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The history of NAM and how Uganda was admitted to the global political grouping

KAMPALA, January 13, 2024 – The Non-Aligned Movement [ NAM ] which Uganda will be hosting next week has its origins from what has been referred to as the first large-scale Asian–African or Afro–Asian Conference, held on April 18-24, 1955. It is popularly known as the Bandung Conference [taking on the name of the City where it was held – Bandung, Indonesia]. The Conference was attended by delegations from 29 governments, mostly from Asia – owing to the fact that most of present-day African states were still under colonial control.

The Bandung Conference was convened to discuss peace and the role developing countries in the face of the raging cold war, as well as economic development and the decolonisation of countries under colonial occupation. In other words, Bandung was convened out of a desire by the convening countries not to be involved in the East-West ideological confrontation of the Cold War, but rather to focus on national independence struggles and their economic development.

In 1961, drawing on the principles agreed at the Bandung Conference, NAM was formally established at the First Summit held on September 1-6, 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The 25 countries that attended the First Summit were: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma [Myanmar], Cambodia, Ceylon [Sri Lanka], Congo-Leopoldville [DRC], Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen and Yugoslavia.

Today, the work of NAM has been guided by the Bandung Principles – which caters mostly for the Movement’s political agenda. Over the years, however, economic cooperation and social and humanitarian issues have become central to the work of NAM.

Since has its founding, in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter, NAM has been instrumental in championing international peace and security. Its Members have been a strong voice in the calls for: nuclear disarmament and the establishment of nuclear free zones; condemning and fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; and supporting United Nations’ efforts towards peacekeeping and peacebuilding. NAM also played a important role in leading international efforts  towards addressing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic for a steady global recovery.

Unlike other regional and international organisations, such as the United Nations or the African Union, NAM neither has a formal founding Charter, Act or Treaty, nor a permanent secretariat. Coordinating and managing the affairs of the Movement, therefore, is the responsibility of the country holding the Chairmanship.

Uganda in the NAM

Uganda was admitted to the membership of the NAM at the Second  Summit of Heads of State and Government, held on October 5-10, 1964 in Cairo, Egypt. This was only three years since the founding of the Movement in Belgrade in 1961, and two years since Uganda attained her independence from the British, on October 9, 1962. Uganda was one of the 47 Member States to attend the Summit.

Uganda’s decision to join NAM was inspired in great part by the Bandung Principles which the Movement stood for. These principles have served and continue to serve the movement and its membership well. Since Uganda joined the Movement, it has been an active member, and will use its chairmanship of the Movement for the period 2023 – 2026 to further contribute to the aspirations of NAM. Uganda will pay attention to all issues on the NAM agenda, including those outlined in the Vision statement.

Over the last 27 years, the relevance of Uganda’s membership to NAM can be traced from “National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”, objective XXVIII, of the 1995 Constitution (as amended). Among other things, these principles provides for:

  • Respect for international law and treaty obligations;
  • Peaceful co-existence and non-alignment;
  • Settlement of international disputes by peaceful means; and
  • Opposition to all forms of domination, racism and other forms of oppression and exploitation.

They also provide that, Uganda shall actively participate in international and regional organizations that stand for peace, and for the well-being and progress of humanity.

These constitutional provisions are clearly in sync with, and speak to the Movement’s Bandung Principles.

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