East Africa

Capital City:

total: 241,038 sq km
land: 197,100 sq km
water: 43,938 sq km

Land boundaries: 
Total: 2,729 km

border countries (5): 
The Democratic Republic of the Congo 877 km,
Kenya 814 km,
Rwanda 172 km,
South Sudan 475 km,
Tanzania 391 km
Coastline: 0 km
Total: 2729 km

generally rainy with two dry seasons (December to February, June to August);
semiarid in northeast

mostly plateau with rim of mountains

mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Albert Nile 614 m
highest point: Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley 5,110 m

Natural resources:
copper, cobalt, hydropower, limestone, salt, arable land, gold

Land use:
agricultural land: 71.2%
arable land 34.3%; permanent crops 11.3%; permanent pasture 25.6%
forest: 14.5%
other: 14.3% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:
140 sq km (2012)

Population – distribution:
population density is relatively high in comparison to other African nations; most of the population is concentrated in the central and southern parts of the country, particularly along the shores of Lake Victoria and Lake Albert; the northeast is least populated

Natural hazards:

People and Society

Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world; its total fertility rate is among the world’s highest at 5.8 children per woman. Except in urban areas, actual fertility exceeds women’s desired fertility by one or two children, which is indicative of the widespread unmet need for contraception, lack of government support for family planning, and a cultural preference for large families. High numbers of births, short birth intervals, and the early age of childbearing contribute to Uganda’s high maternal mortality rate. Gender inequities also make fertility reduction difficult; women on average are less-educated, participate less in paid employment, and often have little say in decisions over childbearing and their own reproductive health. However, even if the birth rate were significantly reduced, Uganda’s large pool of women entering reproductive age ensures rapid population growth for decades to come.

Unchecked, population increase will further strain the availability of arable land and natural resources and overwhelm the country’s limited means for providing food, employment, education, healthcare, housing, and basic services. The country’s north and northeast lag even further behind developmentally than the rest of the country as a result of long-term conflict (the Ugandan Bush War 1981-1986 and more than 20 years of fighting between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Ugandan Government forces), ongoing inter-communal violence, and periodic natural disasters.

Uganda has been both a source of refugees and migrants and a host country for refugees. In 1972, then President Idi Amin in his drive to return Uganda to Ugandans expelled the South Asian population that composed a large share of the country’s business people and bankers. Since the 1970s, thousands of Ugandans have emigrated, mainly to southern Africa or the West, for security reasons, to escape poverty, to search for jobs, and for access to natural resources. The emigration of Ugandan doctors and nurses due to low wages is a particular concern given the country’s shortage of skilled healthcare workers. Africans escaping conflicts in neighboring states have found refuge in Uganda since the 1950s; the country currently struggles to host tens of thousands from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and other nearby countries.

Ethnic groups:
Baganda 16.5%, Banyankole 9.6%, Basoga 8.8%, Bakiga 7.1%, Iteso 7%, Langi 6.3%, Bagisu 4.9%, Acholi 4.4%, Lugbara 3.3%, other 32.1% (2014 est.)
English (official national language), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili, Arabic
Protestant 45.1% (Anglican 32.0%, Pentecostal/Born Again/Evangelical 11.1%, Seventh Day Adventist 1.7%, Baptist .3%), Roman Catholic 39.3%, Muslim 13.7%, other 1.6%, none 0.2% (2014 est.)

Ugandans continued to take pride in their family histories, and government officials, like many other people, continued to consider ethnic factors in decision making. Moreover, much of Uganda’s internal upheaval traditionally was based in part on historical differences among ethnic groups. The forty or more distinct societies that constitute the Ugandan nation are usually classified according to linguistic similarities. Most Ugandans speak either Nilo-Saharan or Congo-Kordofanian languages. Nilo-Saharan languages, spoken across the north, are further classified as Eastern Nilotic (formerly Nilo-Hamitic), Western Nilotic, and Central Sudanic. The many Bantu languages in the south are within the much larger Congo-Kordofanian language grouping. Lake Kyoga in central Uganda serves as a rough boundary between the Bantu-speaking south and the Nilotic and Central Sudanic language speakers in the north.

Bantu-speakers probably entered southern Uganda by the end of the first millennium A.D. and developed centralized kingdoms by the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Bantu-language speakers comprised roughly two-thirds of the population. They were classified as Eastern Lacustrine and Western Lacustrine Bantu, referring to the populous region around East Africa’s Great Lakes (Victoria, Kyoga, Edward, and Albert in Uganda; Kivu and Tanganyika to the south). Eastern Lacustrine Bantu-speakers included the Baganda (people of Buganda, whose language is Luganda), Basoga, and many smaller societies in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. Western Lacustrine Bantu-speakers included the Banyoro (people of Bunyoro), Batoro, Banyankole, and several smaller populations (see fig 5). Nilotic-language speakers probably entered the area from the north beginning about A.D. 1000. They were the first catde-herding people in the area but relied on crop cultivation to supplement livestock herding for subsistence.

The largest Nilotic populations in Uganda in the 1980s were the Iteso and Karamojong cluster of ethnic groups, who speak Eastern Nilotic languages, and the Acholi, Langi, and Alur, who speak Western Nilotic languages. 50 The Society and Its Environment Central Sudanic languages, which also arrived in Uganda from the north over a period of centuries, are spoken by the Lugbara, Madi, and a few small groups in the northwestern corner of the country. One of the most recent major languages to arrive in Uganda is English. Introduced by the British in the late nineteenth century, it was the language of the colonial administration. After independence English became the official language of Uganda; it is used in government and commerce and is the primary medium of educational instruction.


Children usually start at the age of three and complete nursery school by the age of six. Until recently rural areas like Katine sub-county did not have nursery schools. But more and more villagers, inspired by the early start in the education of children in towns, are wanting nurseries for their children. Katine has at least one nursery, located within the premises of a charitable organization.

In Uganda, there are seven primary school years, from primary one to primary seven. With normal annual progression, this means primary school should last seven years, but many pupils drop out partway through and return later, so it is not unusual to find teenagers sitting primary exams. At the end of primary seven, pupils sit their first major national exams – the primary leaving examinations (PLE). Presently PLE has four examinable subjects – English language, mathematics, science and social studies. The best possible mark pupils can achieve is a total of four (which means one point – a distinction – in each subject), while the worst is a total of 36 (nine points for each subject, which means a fail).

Primary school tuition has been free in government schools in Uganda since 1997. Besides government schools, there are many expensive days and boarding private schools at all levels, where wealthier or more ambitious parents send their children. Pupils who pass their PLE can progress to secondary school. This has two stages; the first four years, senior one (S1) to senior four (S4), constitute the O-level period. At the end of S4, students sit the second major national exams known as the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) or simply O-level examinations.

Students who pass their A-levels may choose to progress to university, where they can study for degrees, or to other tertiary institutions that award diplomas and certificates. Some wealthier parents send their children to universities and colleges abroad. The government gives about 4,000 university scholarships each year and sponsors thousands of other students in other tertiary institutions. But tens of thousands of students who do not get the competitive government scholarships depend on their parents and guardians to pay their tuition and upkeep.

The University College of East Africa (founded 1921), became Makerere University in 1970. Situated on the outskirts of Kampala, it prepares students for degrees in the arts, sciences, and agriculture and for advanced diplomas in medicine, education, engineering, law, and veterinary science. Other universities include Mbale Islamic University and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. There are also a number of religious colleges, 5 commercial colleges, 52 technical schools, and 71 colleges for teachers. In 2003, it was estimated that about 3% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 68.9%, with 78.8% for men and 59.2% for women


Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, small deposits of copper, gold, and other minerals, and recently discovered oil. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing more than one-third of the workforce. Coffee accounts for the bulk of export revenues. Uganda has a small industrial sector that is dependent on imported inputs like oil and equipment. Overall productivity is hampered by a number of supply-side constraints, including underinvestment in an agricultural sector that continues to rely on rudimentary technology.

Since 1990, economic reforms ushered in an era of solid economic growth based on continued investment in infrastructure, improved incentives for production and exports, lower inflation, and better domestic security.T he global economic downturn in 2008 hurt Uganda’s exports; however, Uganda’s GDP growth has recovered due to past reforms and a rapidly growing urban consumer population. Oil revenues and taxes are expected to become a larger source of government funding as production starts in the next five to 10 years. However, lower oil prices since 2014 and protracted negotiations and legal disputes between the Ugandan government and oil companies may prove a stumbling block to further exploration and development.

Uganda faces many economic challenges. Instability in South Sudan has led to a sharp increase in Sudanese refugees and is disrupting Uganda’s main export market. High energy costs, inadequate transportation and energy infrastructure, insufficient budgetary discipline, and corruption inhibit economic development and investor confidence. Between 2015 and 2017, the Uganda shilling depreciated 50% against the dollar. The budget is dominated by energy and road infrastructure spending, while relying on donor support for long-term drivers of growth, including agriculture, health, and education. The largest infrastructure projects are externally financed through low-interest concessional loans. As a result, debt servicing for these loans is expected to rise.

Uganda has a large diaspora, residing mainly in the United States and the United Kingdom. This diaspora has contributed enormously to Uganda’s economic growth through remittances and other investments (especially property). According to the World Bank, Uganda received in 2016 the estimated US $1.099 billion in remittances from abroad, second only to Kenya $1.574 billion in the East African Community. Uganda also serves as an economic hub for a number of neighboring countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Rwanda.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$88.61 billion (2017 est.)
$84.84 billion (2016 est.)
$82.91 billion (2015 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$26.39 billion (2017 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:
4.4% (2017 est.)
2.3% (2016 est.)
5.7% (2015 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$2,400 (2017 est.)
$2,300 (2016 est.)
$2,300 (2015 est.)

Gross national saving:
19.8% of GDP (2017 est.)
20.1% of GDP (2016 est.)
17.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 24.5%
industry: 23.2%
services: 52.3% (2017 est.)

Agriculture – products:
coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, cassava (manioc, tapioca), potatoes, corn, millet, pulses, cut flowers; beef, goat meat, milk, poultry, and fish

sugar processing, brewing, tobacco, cotton textiles; cement, steel production

Population below poverty line:
19.7% (2013 est.)

revenues: $4.019 billion
expenditures: $5.268 billion (2017 est.)


Agriculture is a core sector of Uganda’s economy and the largest employer. Over 80 percent of women are employed in the sector and contribute about 75 percent of agricultural production. Plantains, cassava, sweet potato, and maize are major subsistence crops. The major export crop is coffee, but tea, tobacco, and cotton are also important.

Despite the enormous progress in poverty reduction, about 40 percent of all rural people still live below the poverty line; the poorest regions being in the north and north-east, where civil conflict has severely disrupted the lives and agricultural production of small farmers. With many people returning to their homes and finding that boundaries have been moved and entire swathes of land have been grabbed, resolving conflict is also a major challenge.

Livestock is an important element of the livelihoods of many Ugandan households. But despite increasing livestock numbers of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry, livestock productivity has declined due to cattle rustling, disease outbreaks and lack of pasture. The dairy sector has also been hampered by low prices for milk, high costs for veterinary drugs and transportation problems. Having attained high quality and safety standards for production and export, fish exports are the second largest export earner for Uganda.

Uganda is one of the world’s major Robusta coffee producers but some Arabica is also grown, primarily on the slopes of Mount Elgon and Mount Rwenzori, and coffee contributes between 20-30 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. The sector is also almost entirely dependent on smallholder farmers, who generally intercrop coffee with food crops such as bananas and beans.

According to Uganda’s latest National Development Plan, sustainable economic and social development largely depends on the exploitation of the country’s environmental and natural resources. But the increasing degradation of these resources, coupled with climate change, is seriously impacting Uganda’s development and the livelihoods of millions of people. The government has therefore concluded that investing in agriculture to achieve higher growth rates is the most effective way of reducing poverty.

To tackle these challenges, the government is working to strengthen the national agricultural research system, provide farmers with quality advice, improve detection and control of pests and diseases and encourage more sustainable land use and better management of soil and water resources. Plans are also underway to rehabilitate and establish irrigation schemes, rehabilitate rural infrastructure, improve access to markets, strengthen farmers’ organizations, and improve regulation and enforcement of food and safety standards to enable greater levels of export.


Industrial growth is impeded by high-costs due to poor infrastructure, low levels of private investment, and the depreciation of the Ugandan shilling. Since 1986, the government – with the support of foreign countries and international agencies – has acted to rehabilitate and stabilize the economy by undertaking currency reform, raising producer prices on export crops, increasing prices of petroleum products, and improving civil service wages. The policy changes were especially aimed at dampening inflation while encouraging foreign investment to boost production and export earnings.

Uganda holds the 123rd most competitive economy in the world (2012–13, World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report) with manufacturing contributing 8.2% of GDP in 2011 (value added figure, World Bank). It is classified first out of 120 countries by the World Bank for ease of doing business, a ranking based on how conducive the regulatory environment is to the opening and operation of a local firm. Industry workers made up 6% of total employment in 2009 (World Bank) and industrial production was estimated to be growing at a rate of 3% in 2012 (CIA World Factbook). The majority of the labor force is employed within the agricultural sector.

Uganda’s main industries include steel production, cement, cotton, tobacco, sugar, and breweries. The industry sector overall is small in relation to more developed countries, dominated by multinational corporations through subsidiaries. Intermittent power supplies and the high cost of electricity make production difficult, and the size of the industry had suffered as a result. High levels of poverty impact negatively on the domestic market’s purchasing power. The government is constantly in the process of implementing long and short-term projects to tackle challenges facing the industry.

Exports are estimated to have contributed US$2.804 billion to the Ugandan economy in 2012, up from $2.519 billion in 2011 (CIA World Factbook). Main exports include coffee, tea, fish products, gold and horticultural products. The country’s main export partners are Kenya and Rwanda, although many products and services are also exported to the United Arab Emirates and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2012, Uganda was estimated to be the 131st largest exporter in the world (CIA).

The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report gives Uganda a production process sophistication value of 2.8 out of 7 where 7 is the most sophisticated, ranking it 122 out of 144 countries.

Electricity access:
population without electricity: 32,100,000
electrification – total population: 15%
electrification – urban areas: 55%
electrification – rural areas: 7% (2013)

Electricity – production:
3.235 billion kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – consumption:
2.936 billion kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – exports:
121 million kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – imports:
48 million kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – installed generating capacity:
922,000 kW (2015 est.)

Electricity – from fossil fuels:
14.8% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 368,243
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (July 2016 est.)

Telephones – mobile cellular:
total: 22,838,486
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 58 (July 2016 est.)

Internet country code:

Internet users:
total: 18,148,923
percent of population: 45.9%; note – more than 80% are mobile Internet subscribers (September 2017)

Banking and Finance

The Bank of Uganda was established on 16 May 1966 as the bank of issue, undertaking the function previously served by the East African Currency Board in Nairobi. The government-owned Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) provided a full commercial banking service, complementary to and in competition with other commercial banks in the country. Uganda was rocked by a banking scandal in 1989. Lack of public confidence in the system was compounded by a prolonged period of high inflation, which caused rapid erosion in the value of money, and by the liquidity and insolvency problems of some banks. These problems remained unresolved through the 1990s.

In 1998, the financial sector included the Bank of Uganda together with 18 commercial banks and 2 development banks. In addition to the UCB, major commercial banks included Crane Bank Limited, Stanbic, Bank of Baroda, Standard Chartered Bank, Nile Bank, and Barclays Bank. The Uganda Development Bank is a government bank that channels long-term loans from foreign sources to Ugandan businesses. The East African Development Bank, the last remnant of the defunct East African Community, obtains funds from abroad for Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate is commonly known as M1—were equal to $517.6 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $938.8 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 9%.

The government supported the establishment of a stock exchange in Kampala, and it inaugurated the Capital Markets Authority in 1995/96. The initial stage of capital market development concentrated on the interbank market and the sale of treasury bills, which the Bank of Uganda started selling in 1992 at weekly auctions. The exchange was officially opened in 1997, but in 1999, had not been active since inception.

As of 1997, the government-owned National Insurance Corp. of Uganda, the Uganda American Insurance Co., and the East Africa General Insurance Co. were doing business in Uganda. Some 27 insurance companies were operating in Uganda in 1998.


Uganda is the place, where the safari holiday takes place floating down the crocodile-flanked Nile, fishing on Lake Victoria, wandering among the elephant herds of Queen Elizabeth National Park or listening to the roar of mighty Murchison Falls.

UGANDA, “THE PEARL OF AFRICA” As a tourism destination, Uganda is blessed with natural advantages. Located at the heart of Africa, the country is rich in wildlife, nature, culture, heritage, and history. Its biological and cultural diversity is unmatched for a country the size of Great Britain or the US state of Oregon.

Eleven percent of all birds in the world can be found in Uganda. In fact, Uganda has more species of birds per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world. It is a bird’s haven for bird enthusiasts. Uganda is the home of the world’s largest population of gorillas and other primates as well as a range of other wildlife including the Big Five, reptiles and over 1,000 species of birds (50 percent of Africa’s birds and butterfly species).

With almost 40 percent of its land mass is covered by water, rivers, and wetlands, it is little wonder that Uganda is home to the source of the Nile, the world’s longest river. Temperatures all year round average 25-30c. And for those who like to socialize, this is the land of some of the friendliest people anywhere. Kampala is known for it entertainment earning it the title entertainment capital of East Africa.

What Uganda lacks in volume (it’s about the same size as Oregon or Cambodia) it more than makes up with variety, an incredible array of landscapes that range from the snowcapped Mountains of the Moon and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the semi-desert northeast and water-spangled lake district.

Major Attraction

With more than 1.6 million people, Kampala is one of the fastest growing cities on the continent.

Nearby Entebbe, set on a peninsula stretching into Lake Victoria, is about as laid back as it gets in Africa.

Queen Elizabeth National Park nurtures healthy populations of elephant, lion, hippo and other large mammals, and is a major stop on the migratory bird route up the Great Rift Valley.

Home to 13 different primate species, Kibale National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see chimpanzees in the wild.
Murchison Falls National Park is flush with hippo, crocodile and other animals that live in or near the water.
The holy grail of Uganda wildlife watching is Bwindi Forest, where roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas reside.



Uganda’s strategic position along the Great Rift Valley, its favorable climate at an altitude of 1,200 meters and above, and the 5 Uganda: A Country Study reliable rainfall in the Lake Victoria Basin made it attractive to African cultivators and herders as early as the fourth century B.C. Core samples from the bottom of Lake Victoria have revealed that dense rainforest once covered the land around the lake. Centuries of cultivation removed almost all the original tree cover.

The cultivators who gradually cleared the forest were probably Bantu-speaking people, who, with their slow but inexorable expansion gradually populated most of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Their knowledge of agriculture and use of iron technology permitted them to clear the land and feed ever larger numbers of settlers. They displaced small bands of indigenous hunter-gatherers, who relocated to the less accessible mountains. Meanwhile, by the fourth century B.C., the Bantu-speaking metallurgists were perfecting iron smelting to produce medium-grade carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces. Although most of these developments were taking place southwest of modern Ugandan boundaries, iron was mined and smelted in many parts of the country not long afterward

As the Bantu-speaking agriculturalists multiplied over the centuries, they evolved a form of government by clan (see Glossary) chiefs. This kinship-organized system was useful for coordinating work projects, settling internal disputes, and carrying out religious observances to clan deities, but it could effectively govern only a limited number of people. Larger polities began to form states by the end of the first millennium A.D., some of which would ultimately govern over a million subjects each.

Nilotic-speaking pastorals were mobile and ready to resort to arms in defense of their own cattle or raids to appropriate the cattle of others. But their political organization was minimal, based on kinship and decision making by kin-group elders. In the meeting 6 Historical Setting of cultures, they may have acquired the ideas and symbols of the political chiefship from the Bantu-speakers, to whom they could offer military protection. A system of patron-client relationships developed, whereby a pastoral elite emerged, entrusting the care of cattle to subjects who used the manure to improve the fertility of their increasingly overworked gardens and fields.

Early States

The earliest of these states may have been established in the fifteenth century by a group of pastoral rulers called the Chwezi. Although legends depicted the Chwezi as supernatural beings, their material remains at the archaeological sites of Bingo and Mubende have shown that they were human and the probable ancestors of the modern Hima or Tutsi (Watutsi) pastorals of Rwanda and Burundi. During the fifteenth century, the Chwezi were displaced by a new Nilotic-speaking pastoral group called the Bito. The Chwezi appear to have moved south of present-day Uganda to establish kingdoms in northwest Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

From this process of cultural contact and state formation, three different types of states emerged. The Hima type was later to be seen in Rwanda and Burundi. It preserved a caste system whereby the rulers and their pastoral relatives attempted to maintain strict separation from the agricultural subjects, called Hutu. The Hima rulers lost their Nilotic language and became Bantu-speakers, but they preserved an ideology of superiority in political and social life and attempted to monopolize high status and wealth. In the twentieth century, the Hutu revolt after independence led to the expulsion from Rwanda of the Hima elite, who became refugees in Uganda. A counterrevolution in Burundi secured power for the Hima through periodic massacres of the Hutu majority.

The Bito type of state, in contrast with that of the Hima, was established in Bunyoro, which for several centuries was the dominant political power in the region. Bito immigrants displaced the influential Hima and secured power for themselves as a royal clan, ruling over Hima pastoralists and Hutu agriculturalists alike. Although some of these ambitions might be fulfilled by the Bunyoro king’s (omukamd) granting his kin offices as governors of districts, there was always the danger of a coup d’etat or secession by overambitious relatives. Thus, in Bunyoro periods of political stability and expansion were interrupted by civil wars and secession.

The third type of state to emerge in Uganda was that of Buganda, on the northern shores of Lake Victoria. This area of swamp and hillside was not attractive to the rulers of pastoral states farther north and west. Kimera seized the initiative in this trend and became the first effective king (kabaka) of the fledgling state. Ganda (root word and adjective for Buganda) oral traditions later sought to disguise this intrusion from Bunyoro by claiming earlier, shadowy, quasi-supernatural kabakas.

The Outside Contact

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, Uganda remained relatively isolated from the outside world. The central African lake region was, after all, a world in miniature, with an internal trade system, a great power rivalry between Buganda and Bunyoro, and its own inland seas. When intrusion from the outside world finally came, it was in the form of long-distance trade for ivory.

Ivory had been a staple trade item from the East Africa coast since before the Christian era. But growing world demand in the nineteenth century, together with the provision of increasingly efficient firearms to hunters, created a moving ” ivory frontier ” as elephant herds near the coast were nearly exterminated. Leading large caravans financed by Indian moneylenders, coastal Arab traders based on Zanzibar (united with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania) had reached Lake Victoria by 1844.

By the 1860s, Buganda was the destination of ever more caravans, and the Kabaka and his chiefs began to dress in cloth called mericani, which was woven in Massachusetts and carried to Zanzibar by American traders. It was judged finer in quality than European or Indian cloth, and increasing numbers of ivory tusks were collected to pay for it. Bunyoro sought to attract foreign trade as well, in an effort to keep up with Buganda in the burgeoning arms race.

Bunyoro also found itself threatened from the north by Egyptian- sponsored agents who sought ivory and slaves but who, unlike the Arab traders from Zanzibar, were also promoting foreign conquest. Khedive Ismail of Egypt aspired to build an empire on the Upper Nile; by the 1870s, his motley band of ivory traders and slave raiders had reached the frontiers of Bunyoro. The khedive sent a British explorer, Samuel Baker, to raise the Egyptian flag over Bunyoro. The Banyoro (people of Bunyoro) resisted this attempt, and Baker had to fight a desperate battle to secure his retreat. Baker regarded the resistance as an act of treachery, and he denounced the Banyoro in a book that was widely read in Britain. Later British empire builders arrived in Uganda with a predisposition against Bunyoro, which eventually would cost the kingdom half its territory until the ” lost counties ” were restored to Bunyoro after independence.

Colonial British

Although momentous change occurred during the colonial era in Uganda, some characteristics of late-nineteenth-century African society survived to reemerge at the time of independence. Colonial rule affected local economic systems dramatically, in part because the first concern of the British was financial. Quelling the 1897 mutiny had been costly units of the Indian army had been transported to Uganda at considerable expense.
Johnston ‘s Buganda Agreement of 1900 imposed a tax on huts and guns, designated the chiefs as tax collectors, and testified to the continued alliance of British and Baganda interests. The British signed much less generous treaties with the other kingdoms without the provision of large-scale private land tenure. The smaller chiefdoms of Busoga were ignored.

The Baganda immediately offered their services to the British as administrators over their recently conquered neighbors, an offer that was attractive to the economy-minded colonial administration. Baganda agents fanned out as local tax collectors and labor organizers in areas such as Kigezi, Mbale, and, significantly, Bunyoro. This sub-imperialism and Ganda cultural chauvinism were resent- ed by the people being administered. Wherever they went, Baganda insisted on the exclusive use of their language, Luganda, and they planted bananas as the only proper food worth eating.

Two important principles of precolonial political life carried over into the colonial era: clientage, whereby ambitious younger officeholders attached themselves to older high-ranking chiefs, and generational conflict, which resulted when the younger generation sought to expel their elders from office in order to replace them. After World War I, the younger aspirants to high office in Buganda became impatient with the seemingly perpetual tenure of Sir Apolo and his contemporaries, who lacked many of the skills that members of the younger generation had acquired through schooling. Calling themselves the Young Baganda Association, members of the new generation attached themselves to the young kabaka, Daudi Chwa, who was the figurehead ruler of Buganda under indirect rule. But Kabaka Daudi never gained real political power, and after a short and frustrating reign, he died at the relatively young age of forty- three.

Nationalism Movement

Two issues continued to create grievances through the 1930s and 1940s. The colonial government strictly regulated the buying and processing of cash crops, setting prices and reserving the role of intermediary for Asians, who were thought to be more efficient. The British and Asians firmly repelled African attempts to break into cotton ginning. In addition, on the Asian-owned sugar plantations established in the 1920s, labor for sugarcane and other cash crops was increasingly provided by migrants from peripheral areas of Uganda and even from outside Uganda.

In 1949 discontented Baganda rioted and burned down the houses of pro-government chiefs. The rioters had three demands: the right to bypass government price controls on the export sales of cotton, the removal of the Asian monopoly over cotton ginning, and the right to have their own representatives in local government replace chiefs appointed by the British. They were critical as well of the young kabaka, Frederick Walugembe Mutesa II (also known as Kabaka Freddie), for his inattention to the needs of his people. The British governor, Sir John Hall, regarded the riots as the work of communist- inspired agitators and rejected the suggested reforms.

Far from leading the people into a confrontation, Uganda ‘s would be agitators were slow to respond to popular discontent. Nevertheless, the Uganda African Farmers Union, founded by I.K. Musazi in 1947, was blamed for the riots and was banned by the British. Musazi ‘s Uganda National Congress replaced the farmers union in 1952, but because the Congress remained a casual discussion group more than an organized political party, it stagnated and came to an end just two years after its inception.

Meanwhile, the British began to move ahead of the Ugandans in preparing for independence. The effects of Britain ‘s postwar withdrawal from India, the march of nationalism in West Africa, and a more liberal philosophy in the Colonial Office geared toward future self-rule all began to be felt in Uganda. The embodiment of these issues arrived in 1952 in the person of a new and energetic reformist governor, Sir Andrew Cohen. Cohen set about preparing Uganda for independence. On the economic side, he removed obstacles to African cotton ginning, rescinded price discrimination against African- grown coffee, encouraged cooperatives, and established the Uganda Development Corporation to promote and finance new projects.

Independent Uganda

Uganda ‘s approach to independence was unlike that of most other Obote ‘s long-term goal was to build a strong central government at the expense of entrenched local interests, especially those of Buganda. The first major challenge to the Obote government came not from the kingdoms, nor the regional interests, but from the military. In January 1964, units of the Ugandan army mutinied, demanding higher pay and more rapid promotions. The military then began to assume a more prominent role in Ugandan life. Obote selected a popular junior officer with minimal education, Idi Amin Dada, and promoted him rapidly through the ranks as a personal protege.

Later in 1964, Obote felt strong enough to address the critical issue of the ” lost counties, ” which the British had conveniently postponed until after independence. The combination of patronage offers and the promise of future rewards within the ruling coalition gradually thinned opposition party ranks, as members of parliament ” crossed the floor ” to join the government benches. After two years of independence, Obote finally acquired enough votes to give the UPC a majority and free himself of the KY coalition.

The turning point came when several DP members of parliament (MPs) from Bunyoro agreed to join the government side if Obote would undertake a popular referendum to restore the ” lost counties ” to Bunyoro. The Kabaka, naturally, opposed the plebiscite. Unable to prevent it, he sent 300 armed Baganda veterans to the area to intimidate Banyoro voters. In turn, 2,000 veterans from Bunyoro massed on the frontier. The civil war was averted, and the referendum was held.

This triumph for Obote and the UPC strengthened the central government and threw Buganda into disarray. KY unity was weakened by internal recriminations, after which some KY stalwarts, too, began to ” cross the floor ” to join Obote ‘s victorious government. Paradoxically, however, as the perceived threat from Buganda diminished, many non-Baganda alliances weakened. And as the possibility of an opposition DP victory faded, the UPC coalition itself began to come apart. The one-party state did not signal the end of the political conflict, however; it merely relocated and intensified that conflict within the party. The issue that brought the UPC disharmony to a crisis involved Obote ‘s military protege, Idi Amin.

Idi Amin Dada

Amin was born either in Koboko or Kampala to a Kakwa father and Lugbara mother. In 1946 he joined the King’s African Rifles (KAR) of the British Colonial Army. Initially a cook, he rose to the position of lieutenant, taking part in British actions against Somali rebels in the Shifta War and then the Mau Mau rebels in Kenya. Following Uganda’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, Amin remained in the armed forces, rising to the position of major and being appointed Commander of the Army in 1965. Aware that Ugandan President Milton Obote was planning to arrest him for misappropriating army funds, Amin launched a 1971 military coup and declared himself President.

By January 1971, Obote was prepared to rid himself of the potential threat posed by Amin. In the early morning hours of January 25, 1971, mechanized units loyal to him attacked strategic targets in Kampala and the airport at Entebbe, where the first shell fired by a pro-Amin tank commander killed two Roman Catholic priests in the airport waiting room. Amin ‘s troops easily overcame the disorganized opposition to the coup, and Amin almost immediately initiated mass executions of Acholi and Langi troops, whom he believed to be pro-Obote.
The Amin coup was warmly welcomed by most of the people of the Buganda kingdom, which Obote had attempted to dismantle. They seemed willing to forget that their new president, Idi Amin, had been the tool of that military suppression.

During his years in power, Amin shifted from being a pro-western ruler, enjoying considerable Israeli support to being backed by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, the Soviet Union, and East Germany. In 1975, Amin became the chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), a Pan-Africanist group designed to promote solidarity among African states.

When Amin attempted to annex Tanzania’s Kagera Region in 1978, Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere had his troops invade Uganda; they captured Kampala and ousted Amin from power. Amin then went into exile, first in Libya and then in Saudi Arabia, where he lived until his death on 16 August 2003. Amin’s rule was characterized by rampant human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement. The number of people killed as a result of his regime is estimated by international observers and human rights groups to range from 100,000 to 500,000.