|UGANDA COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Uganda within the Continent of Africa
Map of Uganda
Flag Description of Uganda:six equal horizontal bands of black (top), yellow, red, black, yellow, and red; a white disk is superimposed at the center and depicts a grey crowned crane (the national symbol) facing the hoist side; black symbolizes the African people, yellow sunshine and vitality, red African brotherhood; the crane was the military badge of Ugandan soldiers under the UK
Official name Jamhuri ya Uganda (Swahili); Republic of Uganda (English)
Form of government multiparty republic with one legislative house (Parliament )
Head of state and government President: Yoweri Museveni, assisted by Prime Minister: Ruhakana Rugunda
Official languages English; Swahili
Official religion none
Monetary unit Ugandan shilling (UGX)
Population (2013 est.) 34,759,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 93,263
Total area (sq km) 241,551
- Urban: (2011) 14.9%
- Rural: (2011) 85.1%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 52.2 years
- Female: (2012) 54.8 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2008) 82.4%
- Female: (2008) 66.8%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 510
1Excludes ex officio members appointed by the president; ex officio members do not have any voting rights.
The colonial boundaries created by Britain to delimit Uganda grouped together a wide range of ethnic groups with different political systems and cultures. These differences prevented the establishment of a working political community after independence was achieved in 1962. The dictatorial regime of Idi AMIN (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents; guerrilla war and human rights abuses under Milton OBOTE (1980-85) claimed at least another 100,000 lives. The rule of Yoweri MUSEVENI since 1986 has brought relative stability and economic growth to Uganda. A constitutional referendum in 2005 cancelled a 19-year ban on multi-party politics.
Uganda, country in east-central Africa. About the size of Great Britain, Uganda is populated by dozens of ethnic groups. The English language and Christianity help unite these diverse peoples, who come together in the cosmopolitan capital of Kampala, a verdant city whose plan includes dozens of small parks and public gardens and a scenic promenade along the shore of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake. The Swahili language unites the country with its East African neighbours of Kenya and Tanzania.
“Uganda is a fairy-tale. You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk, and at the end there is a wonderful new world,” wrote Sir Winston Churchill, who visited the country during its years under British rule and who called it “the pearl of Africa.” Indeed, Uganda embraces many ecosystems, from the tall volcanic mountains of the eastern and western frontiers to the densely forested swamps of the Albert Nile River and the rainforests of the country’s central plateau. The land is richly fertile, and Ugandan coffee has become both a mainstay of the agricultural economy and a favourite of connoisseurs around the world.
Uganda obtained formal independence on Oct. 9, 1962. Its borders, drawn in an artificial and arbitrary manner in the late 19th century, encompassed two essentially different types of society: the relatively centralized Bantu kingdoms of the south and the more decentralized Nilotic and Sudanic peoples to the north. The country’s sad record of political conflict since then, coupled with environmental problems and the ravages of the countrywide AIDS epidemic, hindered progress and growth for many years. Yet even so, at the beginning of the 21st century a popularly elected civilian government ruled Uganda, which had attained political stability, had set an example for tackling the AIDS crisis that threatened to overwhelm the continent, and enjoyed one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa.
Geography of Uganda
Uganda is bordered by South Sudan to the north, Kenya to the east, Tanzania and Rwanda to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The capital city, Kampala, is built around seven hills not far from the shores of Lake Victoria, which forms part of the frontier with Kenya and Tanzania.
Most of Uganda is situated on a plateau, a large expanse that drops gently from about 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) in the south to approximately 3,000 feet (900 metres) in the north. The limits of Uganda’s plateau region are marked by mountains and valleys.
To the west a natural boundary is composed of the Virunga (Mufumbiro) Mountains, the Ruwenzori Range, and the Western Rift Valley (see East African Rift System). The volcanic Virunga Mountains rise to 13,540 feet (4,125 metres) at Mount Muhavura and include Mount Sabinio (11,959 feet [3,645 metres]), where the borders of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda meet. Farther north the Ruwenzori Range—popularly believed to be Ptolemy’s Mountains of the Moon—rises to 16,762 feet (5,109 metres) at Margherita Peak, Uganda’s highest point; its heights are often hidden by clouds, and its peaks are capped by snow and glaciers. Between the Virunga and Ruwenzori mountains lie Lakes Edward and George. The rest of the boundary is composed of the Western Rift Valley, which contains Lake Albert and the Albert Nile River.
The northeastern border of the plateau is defined by a string of volcanic mountains that include Mounts Morungole, Moroto, and Kadam, all of which exceed 9,000 feet (2,750 metres) in elevation. The southernmost mountain—Mount Elgon—is also the highest of the chain, reaching 14,178 feet (4,321 metres). South and west of these mountains is an eastern extension of the Rift Valley, as well as Lake Victoria. To the north the plateau is marked on the South Sudanese border by the Imatong Mountains, with an elevation of about 6,000 feet (1,800 metres).
Uganda’s Lake Victoria (26,828 square miles [69,484 square km]), in the southeastern part of the country, is the world’s second largest inland freshwater lake by size after Lake Superior in North America, although Lake Baikal in Siberia is larger by volume and depth. Victoria is also one of the sources of the Nile River. Five other major lakes exist in the country: Edward and George to the southwest; Albert to the west; Kyoga in central Uganda; and Bisina in the east. Together with the lakes, there are eight major rivers. These are the Victoria Nile in central Uganda; the Achwa, Okok, and Pager in the north; the Albert Nile in the northwest; and the Kafu, Katonga, and Mpongo in the west.
The southern rivers empty into Lake Victoria, the waters of which escape through Owen Falls near Jinja and form the Victoria Nile. This river flows northward through the eastern extension of Lake Kyoga. It then turns west and north to drop over Karuma Falls and Murchison Falls before emptying into Lake Albert.
Lake Albert is drained to the north by the Albert Nile, which is known as the Al-Jabal River, or Mountain Nile, after it enters South Sudan at Nimule. Rivers that rise to the north of Lake Victoria flow into Lake Kyoga, while those in the southwest flow into Lakes George and Edward.
Except for the Victoria and Albert Niles, the rivers are sluggish and often swampy. Clear streams are found only in the mountains and on the slopes of the Rift Valley. Most of the rivers are seasonal and flow only during the wet season, and even the few permanent rivers are subject to seasonal changes in their rates of flow.
The soils, in general, are fertile (and primarily lateritic), and those in the region of Lake Victoria are among the most productive in the world. Interspersed with these are the waterlogged clays characteristic of the northwest and of the western shores of Lake Victoria.
The tropical climate of Uganda is modified by elevation and, locally, by the presence of the lakes. The major air currents are northeasterly and southwesterly. Because of Uganda’s equatorial location, there is little variation in the sun’s declination at midday, and the length of daylight is nearly always 12 hours. All of these factors, combined with a fairly constant cloud cover, ensure an equable climate throughout the year.
Most parts of Uganda receive adequate precipitation; annual amounts range from less than 20 inches (500 mm) in the northeast to a high of 80 inches (2,000 mm) in the Sese Islands of Lake Victoria. In the south, two wet seasons (April to May and October to November) are separated by dry periods, although the occasional tropical thunderstorm still occurs. In the north, a wet season occurs between April and October, followed by a dry season that lasts from November to March.
- Plant and animal life
Vegetation is heaviest in the south and typically becomes wooded savanna (grassy parkland) in central and northern Uganda. Where conditions are less favourable, dry acacia woodland, dotted with the occasional candelabra (tropical African shrubs or trees with huge spreading heads of foliage) and euphorbia (plants often resembling cacti and containing a milky juice) and interspersed with grassland, occurs in the south. Similar components are found in the vegetation of the Rift Valley floors. The steppes (treeless plains) and thickets of the northeast represent the driest regions of Uganda. In the Lake Victoria region and the western highlands, forest covering has been replaced by elephant grass and forest remnants because of human incursions. The medium-elevation forests contain a rich variety of species. The high-elevation forests of Mount Elgon and the Ruwenzori Range occur above 6,000 feet (1,800 metres); on their upper margins they give way, through transitional zones of mixed bamboo and tree heath, to high mountain moorland. Uganda’s 5,600 square miles (14,500 square km) of swamplands include both papyrus and seasonal grassy swamp.
Lions and leopards are now present mainly in animal preserves and national parks, but they are occasionally seen outside these places. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles inhabit most lakes and rivers, although the latter are not found in Lakes Edward and George. Mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and small forest elephants appear only in the extreme west. Elephants, buffalo, and the Uganda kob (an antelope) are limited to the west and north, while the black rhinoceros and giraffes are confined to the north. Zebras, topis, elands, and roan antelopes live in both the northeastern and southern grasslands, while other kinds of antelopes (oryx, greater and lesser kudu, and Grant’s gazelle) are found only in the northeastern area. Uganda is home to diverse variety of birdlife, including threatened species. Most of the country’s national parks provide excellent bird-watching opportunities. The country’s varied fish life includes ngege (a freshwater, nest-building species of Tilapia), tiger fish, barbels, and Nile perch.
Insects are a significant element in the biological environment. Elevations below 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) are the domain of the female Anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, while the presence of tsetse flies has closed extensive areas of good grazing land to cattle. Butterflies are also very prevalent in Uganda. Many different species, including those which are endemic, can be found in the country.
Much of southern Uganda has been deforested, but a significant portion of the country’s area has been placed in its 10 national parks. Murchison Falls National Park—the largest such park in Uganda, with an area of 1,480 square miles (3,840 square km)—is bisected by the Victoria Nile. Queen Elizabeth National Park is about half the size of Murchison Falls and is in the Lake Edward–Lake George basin. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994, contains about half of the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is also home to this rare mammal. Ruwenzori Mountains National Park (designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994) contains the country’s highest mountain, Margherita Peak. The region was occupied by rebel forces in the late 1990s.
Demography of Uganda
- Ethnic groups
Although Uganda is inhabited by a large variety of ethnic groups, a division is usually made between the “Nilotic North” and the “Bantu South.” Bantu speakers are the largest portion of Uganda’s population. Of these, the Ganda remain the largest single ethnic group, constituting almost one-fifth of the total national population. Other Bantu speakers are the Soga, Gwere, Gisu, Nyole, Samia, Toro, Nyoro, Kiga, Nyankole, Amba, and Konjo. A sizable population of Rwanda (Banyarwanda) speakers, who had fled Rwanda in the late 1960s and early ′70s, also lived in Uganda until the mid-1990s.
Nilotic languages are represented by Acholi (Acoli), Lango (Langi), Alur, Padhola, Kumam, Teso, Karimojong, Kakwa, and Sebei and represent more than one-tenth of the population. Central Sudanic peoples are also found in the north and include the Lendu, Lugbara, and Madi. Together they constitute less than one-tenth of the population.
Under British colonial rule, economic power and education were concentrated in the south. As a result, the Bantu came to dominate modern Uganda, occupying most of the high academic, judicial, bureaucratic, and religious positions and a whole range of other prestigious roles. However, the British recruited overwhelmingly from the north for the armed forces, police, and paramilitary forces. This meant that while economic power lay in the south, military power was concentrated in the north, and this imbalance has to a large extent shaped the political events of postcolonial Uganda.
South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis) came to Uganda largely in the 19th and 20th centuries and by 1969 numbered more than 50,000. Although Ugandan citizenship was made available to them when Uganda became independent, most Asians chose not to accept this offer. The population declined drastically when Idi Amin, head of government from 1971 to 1979, ordered the expulsion in 1972 of all noncitizen Asians and later even those Asians who held Ugandan citizenship. Although the latter group’s expulsion order was eventually rescinded, the majority still left the country. By the end of the year, only a small number of Asians remained in Uganda. Amin commandeered both the businesses and personal goods of the expelled Asian community and redistributed them to the remaining African population. For a relatively short time, his actions proved immensely popular with most Ugandans, but the country has recovered slowly from the economic consequences of the expulsions. In the early 1990s, the Ugandan government formally invited the expelled Asian community to return; thousands did so, and some had their property returned to them.
There are at least 32 languages spoken in Uganda, but English and Swahili—both official languages—and Ganda are the most commonly used. English is the language of education and of government, and, although only a fraction of the populace speaks English well, access to high office, prestige, and economic and political power is almost impossible without an adequate command of that language. Swahili was chosen as another official national language because of its potential for facilitating regional integration, although Ugandans’ command of Swahili falls substantially below that of Tanzania, Kenya, and even eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, Swahili is unpopular with a large proportion of Ugandans who consider it the language of past dictators and armies.
Uganda’s indigenous languages are coextensive with its different ethnic groups. In addition to English, French, and Swahili, Radio Uganda broadcasts in more than 20 indigenous languages including Alur, Ganda, Lugbara, Masaba, Rwanda, Nyankole, Nyole, Soga, and Teso (Iteso). Most Ugandans can understand several languages.
Uganda’s religious heritage is tripartite: indigenous religions, Islam, and Christianity. About four-fifths of the population is Christian, primarily divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants (mostly Anglicans). Other Christian denominations include the Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Greek Orthodoxy, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Presbyterians. About one-tenth of the population is Muslim, and, of the remainder, most practice traditional religions. As in other parts of Africa, Islam and Christianity have been combined with indigenous religions to form various syncretic religious trends.
Islam was the first of the exogenous religions to arrive, and it became politically significant in the 1970s. Christianity came during the colonial period through spirited missionary activity—especially in the south, where Catholics were called bafaransa (“the French”) and Protestants bangerezza (“the British”). Rivalry and even hostility between adherents of these two branches of Christianity, which have always been sharper and deeper than those between Christians and Muslims, are still alive today. In the early 1930s a breakaway group of Anglican missionaries together with several Ugandans initiated the balokole (“born again”) revival, which spread throughout eastern Africa and beyond and has remained a powerful force of Pentecostalism in Uganda.
A small number of Abayudaya Jews live in communities in eastern Uganda, the descendants of converts to Judaism in the 1920s. Until 1972, when Asians were expelled from Uganda, large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus lived throughout the country; in recent years, with returning South Asian practitioners, Sikhism and Hinduism have been reestablished in the country. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the 1995 constitution.
- Settlement patterns
Uganda’s population remains basically rural, although the number of urban dwellers, constituting about one-tenth of the total population, is growing. A few northern societies, such as the Karimojong, are mainly pastoralists, but most northern societies combine cattle keeping with some cultivation. Between the mid-1970s and late ’80s the cattle population declined significantly because of disease, rustling, and malnutrition; restocking projects were subsequently initiated. In the south, sedentary agriculture is widely practiced. Most cultivators keep some livestock in the form of goats, chickens, and occasionally ducks and even rabbits and geese. The prosperous farmers keep one or two local-breed cattle, while the more wealthy own imported breeds. In central, eastern, and southern Uganda, well-spaced homesteads have farms surrounding them.
Kampala, the capital, is the largest city; others include Jinja, Mbale, Masaka, Entebbe, and Gulu, all except for Gulu located in the south. Urban centres have grown because of a rural-urban movement within the south itself as well as a migration from the north to southern towns. During colonial times, the British were not encouraged to settle widely in what was then the Uganda Protectorate (as they were in the settler colony of Kenya), and British and Asian immigrants generally lived in towns. Only gradually did a minority of black urbanites begin to emerge.
Since 1986, urban centres in Uganda have been rehabilitated and expanded, especially in the eastern, central, and western portions of the country. In addition, numerous small trading centres have emerged along major routes, serving as important points for trade and access to information.
Urban areas often contain large numbers of mainly younger people—usually many more men than women—who have come to town seeking whatever work they can find. Many are engaged in manual labour or service-related jobs such as food preparation, while a good many are jobless or are only occasionally employed. There are also, however, a growing middle class of Ugandans and visible signs of urban progress, such as good housing around the outskirts of towns. Yet, these improvements notwithstanding, since about the mid-1990s there has been a noticeable increase in the number of street children and other impoverished individuals in Kampala. Several agencies have established programs to resettle and educate the children who have no homes or whose families refuse to care for them.
- Demographic trends
The Ugandan population has grown rapidly since independence, when it was approximately seven million, to now total more than three times that number. Like many other African countries, the population is predominantly young, with roughly half under 15 years of age and more than one-fourth between the ages of 15 and 29. Uganda’s birth rate is about twice that of the world average, and the death rate is also higher than the world average. Life expectancy in Uganda, while higher than or similar to that of most neighbouring countries, is below the world average.
The number of Ugandans residing in cities or towns has grown slowly since the 1980s. Kampala, the political and commercial capital, contains nearly one-third of the country’s urban population. Uganda’s other major cities have considerably smaller populations, among them Jinja, which contains a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. The most densely populated areas are in the south, especially around Lake Victoria and Mount Elgon.
Economy of Uganda
The economy is basically agricultural, and it occupies some four-fifths of the working population. Uganda’s moderate climate is especially congenial to the production of both livestock and crops.
As has been the case with most African countries, economic development and modernization have been enormous tasks that have been impeded by the country’s political instability. In order to repair the damage done to the economy by the governments of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, foreign investment in agriculture and core industries, mainly from Western countries and former Asian residents, was encouraged. The 1991 Investment Code offered tax and other incentives to local and foreign investors and created the Uganda Investment Authority, which made it easier for potential investors to procure licenses and investment approval.
The economy improved rapidly during the 1990s and early 2000s, and Uganda has been acclaimed for its economic stability and high rates of growth. It is one of the few African countries praised by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the international financial community for its economic policies of government divestiture and privatization and currency reform. Uganda has been particularly successful in soliciting international support and loans. In 1997 it was selected as one of the few countries to receive debt relief for its successful implementation of stringent economic reform projects and has continued to qualify for significant debt relief since then. Because of this, Uganda has been able to focus on eradicating poverty and expanding resource exploitation, industries, and tourism.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Agriculture accounts for a large share of Uganda’s export earnings and its gross domestic product, as well as providing the main source of income for the vast majority of the adult population. Farmers, working an average of less than 3 acres (1 hectare), provide more than half of the agricultural production. They are largely based in the south, where there is more rainfall and fertile soil. Significantly, a considerable number of women own the land on which they work. Small-scale mixed farming predominates, while production methods employ largely rudimentary technology; farmers rely heavily on the hand hoe and associated tools and have minimal access to and use of fertilizers and herbicides. Two important cash crops for export are coffee and cotton. Tea and horticultural products (including fresh-cut flowers) are also grown for export. Food crops include corn (maize), millet, beans, sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains, peanuts (groundnuts), soybeans, and such vegetables as cabbages, greens, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and numerous peppers.
Livestock include cattle, both indigenous varieties and those known as exotics (mainly Fresians), plus experimental cross-breeds, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. There have been several projects to introduce rabbits. Cattle ranching has been encouraged in the western region of the country. The average Ugandan consumes a modest amount of meat, mainly in the form of poultry. Dairy farming is another expanding sector with Uganda producing pasteurized and “long-life” milk, butter, yogurt, and cheeses.
While Uganda contains adequate timber reserves, exports were banned in 1987 until legislation could be put in place to regulate forestry. In addition to concerns over exports, the domestic use of timber for firewood and charcoal was rapidly depleting reserves. Projects financed by the United Nations beginning in the late 1980s attempted to rehabilitate the sector. Exports of forest products had resumed by the mid-1990s, although the domestic use of timber was not totally under control.
Because lakes and rivers cover nearly 20 percent of Uganda, fishing holds considerable potential for the country. Foreign investment in fish processing centres, begun in the late 1980s, was halted amid concerns over the depletion of fish stocks. Some lakes became clogged with water hyacinth. Herbicides used to destroy the plant apparently also contaminated the fish, and most fish exports were banned into the beginning of the 21st century. The bans were subsequently removed, and fish and fish products are now an important export.
- Resources and power
Uganda’s reserves include copper, tungsten, cobalt, columbite-tantalite, gold, phosphate, iron ore, and limestone. Gold, cobalt, and columbite-tantalite are mined. Gold is an important export, but it is complicated by the fact that gold has been smuggled into Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Exploration for petroleum, which had long showed geological potential, particularly under Lakes Albert and Edward, proceeded slowly until 2006, when oil was struck. Significant quantities of petroleum were discovered in the Lake Albertine rift basin in 2008 and 2009.
The majority of the country’s power is provided by the Nalubaale (formerly Owens Falls) and Kiira hydroelectric stations on the Victoria Nile at Jinja, in the southern part of Uganda. Under an agreement signed in the mid-1950s, a portion of the power generated was exported to Kenya. By the early 21st century, however, Uganda faced severe power shortages and was not only unable to honour the agreement but had to begin importing power from Kenya when it was available. Plans to expand hydroelectric capacity by adding more power plants are under development. Firewood and charcoal still provide a significant amount of power.
Manufacturing contributes only a small portion of the gross domestic product. The major industries are based on processing such agricultural products as tea, tobacco, sugar, coffee, cotton, grains, dairy products, and edible oils. Also important are beer brewing and the manufacture of cement, fertilizers, matches, metal products, paints, shoes, soap, steel, textiles, and motor vehicles.
Industrial production grew dramatically in the years following independence but then declined precipitously from the early 1970s. Since 1990, with the return of stability to the country, foreign companies and lending institutions have invested in such businesses as textile and steel mills, a car assembly plant, a tannery, bottling and brewing plants, and cement factories.
There are a number of cottage industries, which produce a wide variety of domestic and commercial iron and wooden products ranging from security doors, household and farm goods, numerous spare parts, and furniture. Ugandans are creative and manage to utilize iron and other waste materials in the manufacture of useful implements.
- Finance and trade
Uganda’s central bank, the Bank of Uganda, was founded in 1966. It monitors Uganda’s commercial banks, serves as the government’s bank, and issues the national currency, the Uganda shilling. The government sets the shilling’s official exchange rate against foreign currencies.
The Uganda Commercial Bank and the Uganda Development Bank serve most of the commercial and financial needs of the country. There are also commercial banks owned by Ugandan, British, South African, Indian, Egyptian, and Libyan firms. There is a stock exchange in Kampala.
Uganda has participated in several regional economic organizations, including the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Cotonou Convention, the Kagera Basin Organization, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and the East African Community Customs Union. Its principal exports are coffee, fish and fish products, gold, tobacco, cotton, and tea. The main imports are machinery and transport equipment, basic manufactures, food and live animals, and chemicals. Its principal trading partners are Kenya, South Africa, The Netherlands, Japan, India, and the United States. Uganda has had an annual trade deficit since the late 1980s.
With its numerous national parks that contain a wide variety of animals, Uganda is a natural tourist destination. From independence until the early 1970s, tourism was a major part of the economy and ranked third after coffee and cotton in producing foreign exchange. Under President Amin, however, tourism ceased and the national parks were neglected. Since the mid-1980s tourism has slowly increased, and foreign investment in new hotels has also expanded. However, Uganda’s tourist industry was affected by political instability in surrounding regions during the 1990s, although it rebounded in the early 21st century.
- Labour and taxation
The government is the country’s largest employer. Attempts to decrease the number of government workers in the early 1990s met with failure. The Museveni government attempted to increase the status of wage labourers after it took power in the mid-1980s. Cooperative societies, largely focused on agricultural export products, numbered in the thousands at the beginning of the 21st century.
Tax revenue in the form of customs duties, sales taxes, and income taxes provides the majority of Uganda’s budget, and grants provide the remainder. The majority of the budget goes to capital expenditures, wages and salaries, education and security, with health receiving less than 5 percent.
- Transportation and telecommunications
Being a landlocked state, Uganda relies heavily on Kenya and Tanzania (particularly the former) for access to the sea. The country has more than 620 miles (1,000 km) of rail line, but rail travel is now infrequently used by the public. Linking Kampala with Kilindini Harbour at Mombasa, Kenya, is a rail line that passes via Jinja, Tororo, Leseru, Nakuru, and Naivasha. Kampala is also connected to the north by a rail line that crosses the Pakwach bridge and to the western parts of the country by a line that reaches the border town of Kasese.
The main international airport is at Entebbe, Uganda’s former capital, about 20 miles (30 km) west of Kampala. By the end of the 20th century, air travel had expanded to include major international carriers as well as numerous local air companies, which serviced the interior of the country. Kisoro in the far southwestern corner of the country, bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, gained an airstrip in 1999.
There are about 16,650 miles (26,800 km) of roads in Uganda, but only a small fraction of them are paved. A number of road-repair projects are under way, but much of Uganda’s road system is in great need of repair. There is limited shipping service on the Kagera River and on Lakes Albert and Victoria.
The number of telephone lines is being expanded under foreign consortium agreements and has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. Much more prevalent, however, is cellular service; in existence in Uganda since the mid-1990s, cell phone use had rapidly expanded by the early 21st century, as did the number of Ugandans using the Internet.
Government and Society of Uganda
- Constitutional framework
Until 1967 Uganda was a quasi-federal polity that included five subregional monarchies, non-monarchical districts, and a central government. The republican constitution adopted in 1967 abolished the monarchies and assigned ultimate political power to an elected president. The president was to be aided by a ministerial cabinet drawn, in the British tradition, from among members of the unicameral National Assembly. In theory, the judiciary, legislature, and executive were to be autonomous, if coordinate, institutions of governance, but in reality the powers of the different branches of government have varied widely with each president. Under Idi Amin’s presidency (1971–79), representative institutions were abolished altogether, and, with the first of several military coups in 1985, the constitution was suspended.
Under the new constitution promulgated in October 1995, the president is the head of state, government, and the armed forces and is assisted by a prime minister and cabinet. Legislative power is vested in a unicameral parliament. Most members of parliament are directly elected to five-year terms; the remaining seats are reserved for one female representative from every district and representatives of specific groups, such as the army, youth, labour, and persons with disabilities. The constitution also recognizes the right of ethnic groups to pursue their own cultural practices. Uganda had a “no-party” political system until a 2005 referendum overwhelmingly supported a return to multiparty politics. The next year the country held its first multiparty elections since 1980.
- Local government
Uganda is divided into districts. Each district is administered by an elected chairperson and a district council. Subdistrict administrative units are governed by a tiered structure of elected councils. Each council consists of elected members with the political and judicial power to manage local affairs.
The Supreme Court is the court of highest appeal; it also acts as a constitutional court. Below the Supreme Court is the Court of Appeal and the High Court. The Magistrates’ Courts were established in 1970 and decide criminal and civil matters. Islamic and customary law also exist in the country.
- Political process
Nonparty elections were held in May 1996, the first popular election since 1962. Lieutenant General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni came to power in 1986 as the leader of the National Resistance Movement (NRM). He was elected president in 1996, although he ostensibly represented no political party. The country does have many parties, however, such as the Democratic Party, the Uganda People’s Congress, and the Forum for Democratic Change. Women played a significant role in the formulation of the 1995 constitution, and the NRM government has assisted them in a number of ways. The Ministry of Women in Development was established in 1988 to formulate and implement women’s programs and especially to make the public aware of women’s issues. By 1990 eight women held ministerial posts in the government, and the first woman vice president in sub-Saharan Africa, Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, was appointed in 1994. In the early 21st century, women held about one-fourth of the seats in parliament and about one-fourth of the cabinet positions.
Uganda’s armed forces, named the Uganda People’s Defense Forces, consist of air force, marine, and army contingents as well as paramilitary forces. Security problems in the north of the country have kept them active, as have foreign engagements in such countries as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Border disputes with Kenya (in the 1980s) and The Sudan (in the 1990s) have also occupied Uganda’s military. Ugandan troops have participated in United Nations-led international peacekeeping missions and are part of the African Union’s standby peacekeeping force.
- Health and welfare
Only about half of the population has access to medical facilities, though since 1986 an internationally funded program has been under way to improve health-care infrastructure, training, and supplies. There are more than 100 hospitals; slightly more than one-half are government-operated. In addition, numerous health centres provide medical care throughout the country. Malaria, measles, anemia, acute respiratory infections and pneumonia, gastrointestinal diseases, sleeping sickness, venereal diseases, schistosomiasis, guinea worm (dracunculiasis), tuberculosis, chicken pox, and typhoid are all serious problems in Uganda. At the root of many of these diseases is a lack of clean water.
AIDS, known locally as “slim” because of its debilitating effects, spread widely in the early 1980s and has placed stress on families and an already frail health-care infrastructure. However, there has been a vigorous campaign to educate and inform the public about AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and in 1998 Uganda became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to report a significant decrease in the rate of HIV infection.
The government has sponsored housing development projects in urban areas such as Kampala, where there is a tremendous need to provide new housing units in order to keep up with the rising population. Rural houses are often made of mud and wattle. For the Nyoro, houses were traditionally built around a central courtyard. Ganda settlements, usually located on hillsides, can include as many as 40 to 50 homes.
Primary education begins at six years of age and continues for seven years. Secondary education begins at 13 years of age and consists of a four-year segment followed by a two-year segment. In early 1997 Uganda revolutionized education policy by introducing an initiative called Universal Primary Education, under which the government would pay tuition fees for all orphans and for up to four children per family. The policy, aimed at rapidly expanding literacy throughout the population, resulted in an increase in school attendance. A similar program for post-primary education was initiated in early 2007. Many of the oldest schools in Uganda were established by Christian missionaries from Europe. Since independence their role has been superseded by that of the government, but, because of the limited number of secondary schools, private schools have remained an important component of Uganda’s educational system.
Makerere University in Kampala, which began as a technical school in 1922, was the first major institution of higher learning in East and Central Africa. In addition to its medical school, Makerere’s faculties include those of agriculture and forestry, arts, education, technology, law, science, social sciences, and veterinary medicine. A number of new institutions of higher learning have opened since the late 1980s, including Mbarara University of Science and Technology (1989), Uganda Christian University (founded as Bishop Tucker Theological College in 1913; present name and university status conferred in 1997), Uganda Martyrs University (1993), and Islamic University in Uganda (1988). In addition to these, there are primary-teacher training colleges, technical schools and colleges, and business colleges.
Culture Life of Uganda
History of Uganda
Around 500 B.C., Bantu-speaking people migrated into SW Uganda from the west. By the 14th cent. they were organized in several kingdoms (known as the Cwezi states), which had been established by the Hima. Around 1500, Nilotic-speaking Luo people from present-day E South Sudan settled the Cwezi states and established the Bito dynasties of Buganda (in some Bantu languages, the prefix Bu means state; thus, Buganda means "state of the Baganda people"), Bunyoro, and Ankole. Later in the 16th cent., other Luo-speaking peoples conquered N Uganda, forming the Alur and Acholi ethnic groups. In the 17th cent. the Langi and Iteso migrated into Uganda.
During the 16th and 17th cent., Bunyoro was the leading state of S Uganda, controlling an area that stretched into present-day Rwanda and Tanzania. From about 1700, Buganda began to expand (largely at the expense of Bunyoro), and by 1800 it controlled a large territory bordering Lake Victoria from the Victoria Nile to the Kagera River. Buganda was centrally organized under the kabaka (king), who appointed regional administrators and maintained a large bureaucracy and a powerful army. The Baganda raided widely for cattle, ivory, and slaves. In the 1840s Muslim traders from the Indian Ocean coast reached Buganda, and they exchanged firearms, cloth, and beads for the ivory and slaves of Buganda. Beginning in 1869, Bunyoro, ruled by Kabarega and using guns obtained from traders from Khartoum, challenged Buganda's ascendancy. By the mid-1880s, however, Buganda again dominated S Uganda.
European Contacts and Religious Conflicts In 1862, John Hanning Speke, a British explorer interested in establishing the source of the Nile, became the first European to visit Buganda. He met with Mutesa I, as did Henry M. Stanley, who reached Buganda in 1875. Mutesa, fearful of attacks from Egypt, agreed to Stanley's proposal to allow Christian missionaries (who Mutesa mistakenly thought would provide military assistance) to enter his realm. Members of the British Protestant Church Missionary Society arrived in 1877, and they were followed in 1879 by representatives of the French Roman Catholic White Fathers; each of the missions gathered a group of converts, which in the 1880s became fiercely antagonistic toward one another. At the same time, the number of Baganda converts to Islam was growing.
In 1884, Mutesa died and was succeeded as kabaka by Mwanga, who soon began to persecute the Christians out of fear for his own position. In 1888, Mwanga was deposed by the Christians and Muslims and replaced by his brothers. He regained the throne in 1889, only to lose it to the Muslims again after a few weeks. In early 1890, Mwanga permanently regained his throne, but at the expense of losing much of his power to Christian chiefs.
- The Colonial Era
During the period in 1889 when Mwanga was kabaka, he was visited by Carl Peters, the German colonialist, and signed a treaty of friendship with Germany. Great Britain grew alarmed at the growth of German influence and the potential threat to its own position on the Nile. In 1890, Great Britain and Germany signed a treaty that gave the British rights to what was to become Uganda. Later that year Frederick Lugard, acting as an agent of the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA), arrived in Buganda at the head of a detachment of troops, and by 1892 he had established the IBEA's authority in S Uganda and had also helped the Protestant faction defeat the Roman Catholic party in Buganda.
In 1894, Great Britain officially made Uganda a protectorate. The British at first ruled Uganda through Buganda, but when Mwanga opposed their growing power, they deposed him, replaced him with his infant son Daudi Chwa, and began to rule more directly. From the late 1890s to 1918, the British established their authority in the rest of Uganda by negotiating treaties and by using force where necessary. In 1900 an agreement was signed with Buganda that gave the kingdom considerable autonomy and also transformed it into a constitutional monarchy controlled largely by Protestant chiefs. In 1901 a railroad from Mombasa on the Indian Ocean reached Kisumu, on Lake Victoria, which in turn was connected by boat with Uganda; the railroad was later extended to Jinja and Kampala. In 1902 the Eastern prov. of Uganda was transferred to the British East Africa Protectorate (Kenya) for administrative reasons.
In 1904 the commercial cultivation of cotton was begun, and cotton soon became the major export crop; coffee and sugar production accelerated in the 1920s. The country attracted few permanent European settlers, and the cash crops were mostly produced by African smallholders and not on plantations as in other colonies. Many Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and Goans) settled in Uganda, where they played a leading role in the country's commerce. During the 1920s and 30s the British considerably reduced Buganda's independence.
In 1921 a legislative council for the protectorate was established; its first African member was admitted only in 1945, and it was not until the mid-1950s that a substantial number of seats was allocated to Africans. In 1953, Mutesa II was deported for not cooperating with the British; he was allowed to return in 1955, but the rift between Buganda and the rest of Uganda remained. In 1961 there were three main political parties in Uganda—the Uganda People's Congress (UPC), whose members were mostly non-Baganda; the Democratic party, made up chiefly of Roman Catholic Baganda; and the Kabaka Yekka [Kabaka only] party, comprising only Baganda.
- An Independent Nation
On Oct. 9, 1962, Uganda became independent, with A. Milton Obote, a Lango leader of the UPC, as prime minister. Buganda was given considerable autonomy. In 1963, Uganda became a republic, and Mutesa was elected president. The first years of independence were dominated by a struggle between the central government and Buganda. In 1966, Obote introduced a new constitution that ended Buganda's autonomy. The Baganda protested vigorously and seemed on the verge of taking up arms when Obote captured the kabaka 's palace at Mengo, forced the kabaka to flee the country, and ended effective Baganda resistance.
In 1967 a new constitution was introduced giving the central government—especially the president—much power and dividing Buganda into four districts; the traditional kingships were also abolished. In 1969, Obote decided to follow a leftist course in the hope of bridging the country's ethnic and regional differences through a common social policy.
- Amin's Reign of Terror
In Jan., 1971, Obote, at the time outside the country, was deposed in a coup by Maj. Gen. Idi Amin. Amin was faced with opposition within the army by officers and troops loyal to Obote, but by the end of 1971 he was in firm control. Amin cultivated good relations with the Baganda. In 1972–73 he initiated severe diplomatic wrangles with the United States and Israel, both of which had provided Uganda with military and economic aid and were now accused of trying to undermine the government. Amin purged the Lango and Acholi tribes and moved against the army. In Aug., 1972, he ordered Asians who were not citizens of Uganda to leave the country, and within three months all 60,000 had left, most of them for Great Britain. Although a small minority, Asians had played a significant role in Ugandan business and finance, and their expulsion hurt the economy. From 1971 to 1973, there were border clashes with Tanzania, partly instigated by exiled Ugandans loyal to Obote, but, in early 1973, Amin and Julius Nyerere, president of Tanzania, reached an agreement that appeared to head off future incidents.
Amin's rule became increasingly autocratic and brutal; it is estimated that over 300,000 Ugandans were killed during the 1970s. His corrupt and arbitrary system of administration exacerbated rifts in the military, which led to a number of coup attempts. Israel conducted a successful raid on the Entebbe airport in 1976 to rescue passengers on a plane hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. Amin's expulsion of Israeli technicians won him the support of Arab nations such as Libya.
In 1976, Amin declared himself president for life and Uganda claimed portions of W Kenya; the move was diverted by the threat of a trade embargo. In 1978, Uganda invaded Tanzania in an attempt to annex the Kagera region. The next year Tanzania launched a successful counterinvasion and effectively unified disparate anti-Amin forces under the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). Amin's forces were driven out and Amin himself fled the country.
- Uganda after Amin
Tanzania left an occupation force in Uganda that participated in the looting of Kampala. Yusufu Lule was installed as president but was quickly replaced by Godfrey Binaisa. The UNLF, suffering from internal strife, was swept out of power by Milton Obote and his party, the Uganda People's Congress. The National Resistance Army (NRA) conducted guerrilla campaigns throughout the country and, following the withdrawal of Tanzanian troops in 1981, attacked former Amin supporters. In the early 1980s, approximately 200,000 Ugandans sought refuge in neighboring Rwanda, Congo, and Sudan. In 1985, a military coup deposed Obote, and Lt. Gen. Tito Okello became head of state.
When it was not given a role in the new regime, the NRA continued its guerrilla campaign and took Kampala in 1986, and its leader, Yoweri Museveni, became the new president. He instituted a series of measures, including cutbacks in the civil service and army and privatization of state-owned companies, in a generally successful effort to rebuild the shattered economy. Many former government soldiers who had fled to the north when Museveni came to power formed a rebel force there, and in 1987 they mounted an unsuccessful attack on the new government. The rebels, however, were not crushed. AIDS became a serious health problem during the 1980s and has continued to claim many lives in Uganda; at the same time, however, the country has had greater success than many other African nations in slowing the spread of the disease.
In 1993, Museveni permitted the restoration of traditional kings, including King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, the kabaka of the Baganda people, but did not grant the kings political power. In 1994 a constituent assembly was elected; the resulting constitution, promulgated in 1995, legalized and extended a ban on political party activity, although allowing party members to run as independents. In May, 1996, Museveni was easily returned to office in the country's first direct presidential elections. A new parliament, chosen in nonpartisan elections in June of the same year, was dominated by Museveni supporters.
In the late 1980s and 90s rebel militias based in Sudan and Congo (Kinshasa) staged intermittent attacks on border areas of Uganda. Fighting with northern rebels, mainly the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), continued into the next decade. In 2002, after Sudanese officials permitted Ugandan forces to attack rebels bases in Sudan, the conflict intensified, but the army failed to achieve any significant success.
Ugandan troops also became involved in ongoing civil unrest in the Congo (then called Zaïre), first (1997) helping rebel groups to oust Mobutu Sese Seko and install Laurent Kabila as president, and then (1998) backing groups who sought to overthrow Kabila. Conflicts also erupted with Rwandan troops in the Congo in 1999. Uganda claimed its only interest was in securing its own borders. In early 2000, Ugandan officials discovered the bodies of nearly 800 people who had died by mass murder and mass suicide; they had been members of the Ugandan millennialist Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. In May, 2000, new fighting between Rwandan and Ugandan forces in the Congo led to tense relations with Rwanda.
In June a referendum was held in which Ugandans could vote for Museveni's "no-party" system or a multiparty democracy. Museveni argued that Uganda was not ready for political parties, which he said had divided the nation by tribe and religion. Opposition leaders, calling Museveni's system a one-party state, called for a boycott of the referendum. Museveni secured the voters' approval, but by a narrower margin than in 1996; although 88% voted yes, the turnout was only 51%.
In the presidential election in Mar., 2001, Museveni was reelected, but his margin of victory was inflated by apparent vote fraud. His popularity was, in part, diminished by discontent with Uganda's intervention in Congo's civil war and signs of corruption in the government. Uganda's forces were largely withdrawn from Congo by the end of 2002, but there was fighting in 2003 between the remaining Ugandan forces and Congolese rebels allied with Rwanda shortly before the last Ugandan troops withdrew. In 2005 the International Court of Justice ruled that Uganda had engaged in human rights abuses while in Congo, and had to pay compensation to Congo for looting by its forces.
Early in 2004 LRA rebels massacred perhaps as many as 200 civilians in N Uganda. The attack prompted a renewed government offensive that achieved some successes against the LRA; late in 2004 there was a brief truce with the LRA. In Oct., 2005, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for LRA leader Joseph Kony in connection with atrocities committed by the LRA. Meanwhile, in July, 2005, voters approved a return to a multiparty system, This time Museveni supported the abandonment of Uganda's "no-party" politics, in part because of international and internal pressure for the change. He also subsequently signed into law a constitutional amendment that eliminated the presidential term limit.
In Oct., 2005, Kizza Besigye, a former colonel who had been Museveni's doctor and confidant and who had run against the president in the 2001 election and received almost 30% of the vote, returned to Uganda from self-imposed exile to challenge Museveni again for the presidency. In November Besigye was arrested on treason and rape charges that his supporters denounced as trumped up to keep him for running against Museveni, who subsequently announced he would seek a third term. The arrest sparked riots and was criticized internationally, including by the African Union's fledgling Pan-African parliament. (Besigye was acquitted of the rape charge in Mar., 2006, and the constitutional court ordered the treason charges dismissed in Oct., 2010.) The campaign was also marred by army attempts to influence the vote in favor of Museveni and other irregularities. Museveni was reelected in Feb., 2006, with 59% of the vote. The results, which were challenged by Besigye's party, were upheld (April) by Uganda's supreme court, which said that the irregularities were not significant enough to have affected the outcome.
Talks with the LRA that began in July, 2006, led to an August agreement that called for a cease-fire, for rebels to assemble at camps in S Sudan, and subsequent peace negotiations. Kony and other LRA leaders, fearing ICC warrants for their arrest, remained in Congo along the Sudan border, and in late September the LRA pulled out of the talks, accusing the Ugandan army of trying to surround the camps. Uganda, on its part, accused LRA forces of violating the agreement by leaving the camps. In late October, Museveni won Congo's agreement to oust the LRA from its camps there, and subsequently Uganda and the LRA signed a new cease-fire agreement that called for buffer zones around the assembly camps. The cease-fire was extended several times, but otherwise the negotiations progressed with difficulty, and the cease-fire was marred by occasional violence.
In Feb., 2008, a peace agreement, including a permanent cease-fire, was finally reached with the LRA. It was scheduled to be signed in early April, but a number of issues, including the nature of procedures for trying rebels accused of crimes and whether ICC warrants against LRA leaders would be dismissed, led Kony (who had moved from Congo to the Central African Republic in March) to fail to sign the accord as planned. Subsequently there were signs that the LRA was rearming and recruiting. In June Uganda, Sudan, and Congo (Kinshasa) agreed to mount a joint offensive against the LRA if the talks failed, while Kony said that he would engage in further negotiations. The ICC warrants remained a sticking point, however. In Sept.–Oct., 2008, there were LRA attacks against villages in NE Congo that led the ICC's prosecutor to once again demand Kony's arrest.
In Dec., 2008, after Ugandan rebels based in Congo failed in November to sign a peace agreement with Uganda, Ugandan, Congolese, and South Sudanese forces mounted a joint campaign against the rebels' Congolese bases that lasted until Mar., 2009. Subsequently, Ugandan forces fought LRA that had moved into the Central African Republic, and Ugandan forces continued small-scale anti-LRA operations in the three neighboring countries in subsequent years. In 2012 the African Union announced plans for a regional military force led by Uganda and including Central African, Congolese, and South Sudanese troops to capture Kony.
In Sept., 2009, some of the worst riots in more than two decades occurred in Kampala when the government refused to allow the Baganda king to visit Kayunga, a district that had declared its secession from Buganda, the traditional Baganda kingdom. In November, passage of a land law that strengthened tenants rights was denounced by Bagandan traditional chiefs, who control large tracts of land. Tensions between the government and the Baganda continued into 2010, and were aggravated in March when a fire destroyed the tombs of the Buganda kings.
In June, 2010, Kampala suffered two suicide-bomb attacks; mounted by hardline Somali Islamists, they were in retaliation for the presence of Ugandan peacekeeping troops in Somalia. In the Feb., 2011, presidential election Museveni's primary challenger was again Besigye. The president was reelected with 68% of the vote in an election marred by some irregularities; Besigye again accused the ruling party of fraud, and subsequently mounted recurring protests against Museveni's government. In 2013, the parliament enacted legislation that gave officials increased powers to limit and disperse public political gatherings.
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