Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Local Government Conference, 14–17 May
2013, when delegates called for local government to be fully integrated
with the post-2015 development agenda.
Samuel Kavuma of Uganda was in 2010 appointed to the Commonwealth
Eminent Persons Group, which presented its recommendations for reform in
the Commonwealth to Commonwealth leaders at CHOGM in Australia in
Ugandans won the Commonwealth Essay Competition in 1989 and 2007.
Dorcas Inzikuru took the Commonwealth Games Women’s 3,000 Metres
Steeplechase record in the Melbourne Games in 2006.
Joined Commonwealth: 1962
Population: 37,579,000 (2013)
GDP: 3.3% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: World ranking 164
Official language: English, Kiswahili
Timezone: GMT plus 3hr
Currency: Uganda shilling (USh)
Area: 236,000 sq km including 36,330 sq km of inland water.
Capital city: Kampala
Population density (per sq. km): 159
Uganda is a landlocked East African country lying astride the equator.
It is bordered (clockwise from north) by Sudan, Kenya, United Republic
of Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some 70,750 km of roads radiate from Kampala, 23 per cent of which are
paved. The railway network extends over some 260 km. At the end of 1993,
passenger services between Kampala and Kenya were resumed after a break
of 15 years. Entebbe International Airport is 35 km south-west of
Uganda is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of
States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa,
East African Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic
Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
Uganda was a member, with Kenya and United Republic of Tanzania, of the
East African Community, which from 1967 had a common market and many
shared services but collapsed in 1977. The three countries again
embarked on developing regional co- operation in 1993, bringing about
progressive harmonisation of standards and policies across a wide range
of activities, and launching a new East African Community in January
2001 and East African Customs Union in January 2005. The Community was
enlarged in July 2007 when Burundi and Rwanda became members.
Uganda is also a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on
Development, which was established in 1986 by the six countries in the
Horn of Africa to combat drought and desertification and promote food
security in the region.
Water, with swampland, covers nearly 20 per cent of the surface area.
The largest lakes include Lake George, Lake Kyoga, and parts of Lakes
Victoria, Albert and Edward. From its source in Lake Victoria, the White
Nile flows northwards through the country. Mountains include the high
Rwenzori range in the west (Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley is 5,110
metres) and Mount Elgon (4,253 metres) in the east.
Equatorial, tempered with breezes and showers. Cooler in the higher
areas. Heavy rain from March to May, and in October and November. Little
rainfall in the north-east; though north-east parts of the country
experienced unusually heavy rainfall in the latter part of 2007 with
heavy flooding displacing tens of thousands of people.
The most significant issues are: draining of wetlands for agricultural
use; overgrazing, soil erosion and deforestation; water hyacinth
infestation in Lake Victoria; and poaching.
Much of the country, being so well-watered, is richly fertile; there is
arid semi-desert in the north-east. Most of the country’s vegetation is
savannah with tropical forests in areas of high rainfall.
Drought-resistant bush, grasses and succulents grow in the north-east.
Forest covers 14 per cent of the land area, having declined at 2.3 per
cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises 35 per cent and permanent
cropland 11 per cent of the total land area.
Uganda has 7,200 sq km of national parks and game reserves, reflecting
the extraordinary diversity of the country which comprises lakes,
swamps, dense grassland, woodland, rolling plains, forests and
mountains. There is a rich variety of wildlife, including elephants,
Uganda kobs, buffaloes, lions, rhinos, mountain gorillas and chimpanzees
– 338 species of mammals and 830 species of birds. Some 25 mammal
species and 20 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).
Uganda has a long history, but few records of early settlement, although
the country seems to have been inhabited very early. Bantu peoples were
engaged in agriculture from 1000 BCE and working in iron can be traced
back to about CE 1000.
In the fertile south and west, powerful social and political orders
developed, including the Bunyoro, Buganda, Busoga, Ankole and Toro
kingdoms. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they formed profitable links
with the Sudanese slave trade (which dominated the regional economy) and
formed alliances among themselves. By the 19th century, the Buganda
Kingdom, which was allied to the powerful Shirazis of Zanzibar, gained
the ascendancy. Buganda was ruled by Kabaka (traditional kings) whose
power was circumscribed by a council of nobles. Buganda’s standing army
and well-developed agriculture allowed the kingdom to survive the
decline of the slave trade.
Various Europeans appeared during the 19th century. English Protestant
and French Catholic missionaries came at the request of Kabaka Mutesa I,
and Baganda loyalties split into ‘Franza’, ‘Inglesa’ and Muslim parties.
In 1888 the Imperial British East Africa Company set up in Buganda with
the Kabaka’s permission, and in 1894 Buganda was declared a British
Protectorate. In 1896, protectorate control was extended to Bunyoro,
Ankole and Toro, and the British extended Buganda’s administrative
system to these societies. Cotton- growing for export, by smallholders,
began in 1904.
Although control of the country passed to the British Colonial Office in
1905, Uganda was never fully colonised, as non-Africans were not allowed
to acquire freeholds. By 1913, with the completion of the Busoga Railway
the cotton industry was well established, though it suffered from World
War I and the Great Depression of 1932–33. In the 1920s, commercial
production of coffee and sugar began. After World War II, high prices of
coffee and cotton brought an economic boom.
The gradual transfer of power to the local people began in 1921, when a
legislative and an executive council were set up. By 1955, half the
membership of the legislative council were Africans, a party political
system was developing and the executive council was developed into a
ministerial system. In 1961 a general election returned Benedicto
Kiwanuka’s Democratic Party. In 1962 Uganda became internally
self-governing, with Kiwanuka as first Prime Minister. However, the
general election of April 1962 returned Milton Obote’s Uganda People’s
Uganda became fully independent in October 1962 and joined the
Commonwealth. The Kabaka of Buganda, Sir Edward Mutesa (Kabaka Mutesa
II), became the first (non-executive) President in 1963.
Milton Obote abrogated the 1962 constitution in 1966 and in 1967 the
country became a unitary republic. The kingdoms were abolished and the
President became head of the executive as well as head of state. (The
kingdoms were restored in 1993, and the 1995 constitution has a
provision on traditional leaders.)
Obote remained in power until January 1971, when a military coup was
staged by former paratroop sergeant Idi Amin Dada. At first very
popular, Amin moved quickly into a brutal authoritarianism. Under his
orders, the authorities expelled Uganda’s Asian community in 1972 and
seized their property; they expropriated the property of the Jewish
community, and terrorised intellectuals, destroying such symbols of
‘intellectual’ status as possession of books, spectacles and chess sets.
Public order rapidly deteriorated, and murder, destruction of property,
looting and rape became hallmarks of the regime. Amin declared himself
President-for-life and, in 1978, invaded the United Republic of
Tanzania’s northern territories. Tanzania, which had long opposed Amin’s
regime, took this for a declaration of war.
Supported by the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF, exiled
Ugandans), the United Republic of Tanzania army marched into Uganda.
Kampala was taken in April 1979, but Amin escaped and fled the country.
Professor Yusuf Lule, a former Commonwealth Assistant Secretary-General
and Chairman of UNLF, became President for two months, and was then
replaced by Godfrey Binaisa who was himself replaced a year later in
1980 by a Military Commission led by Paulo Muwanga, which organised
elections in December that year. Commonwealth and other observers were
The elections returned Dr Obote’s UPC and were disputed. Obote was
unable to restore economic and political stability to the devastated
country, and the government became bogged down in fighting the National
Resistance Army (NRA), led by Yoweri Museveni. The NRA had launched a
protracted bush struggle in 1981 after accusing the government of
rigging the 1980 elections. Obote was overthrown by his own Uganda
National Liberation Army in a coup led by General Tito Lutwa Okello in
July 1985, who then became President. However, this did not satisfy the
NRA and its allies.
The NRA occupied Kampala in January 1986. Okello’s government was ousted
and Museveni became President, with Dr Samson Kisekka as Prime Minister
and a broad-based cabinet of civilians. Civil war continued in the
north, and the first three years of the new regime were dogged by
continuing instability in the region. Museveni and the National
Resistance Movement (NRM) took over a country in which conflict had
resulted in one million deaths, two million refugees, more than 500,000
seriously injured people, and ruin of the economy and physical
infrastructure. The NRM governed the country through a National
Resistance Council (NRC) which functioned as a parliament. After
elections in 1989 based on universal adult suffrage, 8,096 village
resistance councils were set up. Museveni sought democratic structures
based on a non-party democracy, rather than a multiparty system, to
avoid reviving the ethnic divisions which had so prolonged the civil
war. Political party activities were suspended, though party structures
were not made illegal.
Elections under the ‘movement system’ (see Constitution) were held in
May and June 1996 (presidential and parliamentary) and June 1998 (local
government). Museveni was returned as President with 75 per cent of the
votes. The national assembly of 276 members, sitting as individuals
(although many of them with known political affiliations), was formed in
In June 2000, as required by the constitution, a referendum was held on
the movement system and 91 per cent of voters supported its
continuation; voter turnout was 47 per cent. In the presidential
election in March 2001, Museveni took 69 per cent of the votes to win a
further five-year term. Though the result was decisive, the election had
been vigorously contested between Museveni and a former NRM colleague,
Dr Kizza Besigye (28 per cent). In the parliamentary elections in June
2001, more than 50 members were defeated – including ten cabinet
After 20 years of conflict along the country’s northern border,
abduction of more than 20,000 children and displacement of some two
million people, a ceasefire between the Uganda Government and the Lord’s
Resistance Army (LRA) – a rebel group led by Joseph Kony – came into
force on 29 August 2006. The truce opened the way for peace talks in
Juba, mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan. With only
intermittent minor skirmishes the ceasefire was maintained until June
2007, when the Uganda Government reached agreement with the LRA on a
roadmap for long-term peace, reconciliation and accountability.
Life in Uganda 40 Years On
Uganda - TV Eye -
Documentary - 1979
Life in Uganda is a
documentary was made in 2011, to show life in Uganda
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