Uganda is a country in East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Famously called the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, it is home to one of the most diverse and concentrated ranges of African fauna including the highly endangered mountain gorilla and the endangered common chimpanzee.
During Uganda’s era of British colonialism, settlement by Europeans was not allowed, and today there are few Caucasians in Uganda. The term for whites is muzungu (plural wazungu or bazungu), and non-African visitors should get used to hearing the word shouted out by children in every corner of the country. It is not a derogatory term, but originates from a Swahili word meaning ‘looking dizzy or confused and wandering about aimlessly’ as the first white people did when they first arrived in East Africa. Generally the word muzungu refers to a white person but it can be anyone who is not Ugandan. Even visiting Ugandans (from the diaspora) are called the term on occasion. You can choose to ignore it, or wave back, depending on the situation.
Most travellers come for the gorilla safari, but other major draws are the chimpanzees, ornithology, trekking the Rwenzoris and visiting the source of The Nile river.
The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago. Bantu-speaking populations, who were probably from central and western Africa, migrated to the southern parts of the country. The Empire of Kitara in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries represents the earliest forms of formal organization, followed by the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, and in later centuries, Buganda and Ankole.
Arab traders moved inland from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s. They were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879. The United Kingdom placed the area under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888, and ruled it as a protectorate from 1894. As several other territories and chiefdoms were integrated, the final protectorate called Uganda took shape in 1914. From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic killed more than 250,000 people. (Sleeping sickness has since been eradicated from Uganda).
Uganda won independence from Britain in 1962, and the first elections were held on March 1, 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda became a republic the following year, maintaining its Commonwealth membership. In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political manoeuvering climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, removing the positions of president and vice president. In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms.
On January 25, 1971, Obote’s government was ousted in a military coup led by armed forces commander Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself ‘president’, dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power. Idi Amin’s eight-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. The Acholi and Langi ethnic groups were particular objects of Amin’s political persecution because they had supported Obote and made up a large part of the army. In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that more than 100,000 Ugandans had been murdered during Amin’s reign of terror; some authorities place the figure as high as 300,000.
In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion of Amin’s troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian army, backed by Ugandan exiles waged a war of liberation against Amin’s troops and the Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On April 11, 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces. This led to the return of Obote, who was deposed once more in 1985 by General Tito Okello. Okello ruled for six months until he was deposed after the so called “bush war” by the National Resistance Army (NRA) operating under the leadership of the current president, Yoweri Museveni, and various rebel groups, including the Federal Democratic Movement of Andrew Kayiira, and another belonging to John Nkwanga.
Museveni has been in power since 1986. In the mid to late 1990s, he was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders.
Although Equatorial, the climate is not uniform as the altitude modifies the climate. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from March to June and the November/December period. Further to the north a dry season gradually emerges; at Gulu about 120 km from the South Sudanese border, November to February is much drier than the rest of the year.
The northeastern region has the driest climate and is prone to droughts in some years. Rwenzori in the southwest on the border with DR Congo receives heavy rain all year round. The south of the country is heavily influenced by one of the world’s biggest lakes, Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It prevents temperatures from varying significantly and increases cloudiness and rainfall.
Current Time & Date:
Entebbe International Airport
Currency: Ugandan Shilling
Population: 42 million
Official languages: English, Swahili