|Republic of Uganda
Jamhuri ya Uganda
|Motto: For God and My Country|
|Anthem: "Oh Uganda, Land of Beauty"
(and largest city)
|Official language(s)||English, Swahili|
|Vernacular languages||Luganda, Luo, Runyankore, Runyoro, Ateso, Lumasaba, Lusoga, Lunyole, Samia|
|-||Prime Minister||Amama Mbabazi|
|-||from the United Kingdom||9 October 1962|
|-||Total||236,040 km2 (81st)
91,136 sq mi
|-||2009 estimate||32,369,558 (37th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
|Gini (1998)||43 (medium)|
|HDI (2010)||0.422 (low) (143rd)|
|Currency||Ugandan shilling (
|Time zone||EAT (UTC+3)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||left|
1 006 from Kenya and Tanzania.
The Republic of Uganda, or Uganda, (usually pronounced yoo-GAN-duh) is a country in East Africa, bordered to the east by Kenya, on the north by Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda on the southwest, and Tanzania to the south. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, within which it shares borders with Kenya and Tanzania. Most of Uganda lies within a basin formed within two branches of Africa's Great Rift Valley.
Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a portion of the south of the country, including the capital, Kampala. Due to its distance from the coasts where Western and Arab traders operated, the history of slavery in this region of Africa was minimal, allowing the Buganda kingdom to grow and prosper while many others on the continent collapsed.
Uganda is often called the Heart of Africa, not only for its slight cartographic resemblance to the shape of the human organ, but also because of its position in the continent's interior and for the suffering its people have endured, particularly in its religious and recent political history.
Though Uganda has no direct navigable outlet to the sea, it is incorrect to describe the country as landlocked since its southern border extends well into Lake Victoria, the world's second-largest freshwater lake (after Lake Superior), and the border with the Congo traverses two smaller Rift Valley lakes, Edward and Albert.
The water of all three lakes passes through the midst of Uganda, with the river flowing north out of Lake Victoria called the Victoria Nile to the point it empties into Lake Albert and then named the Albert Nile from the mouth of that lake until it reaches Sudan. Lake Victoria was once considered the source of the Nile, but it has since been discovered that the true source lies farther south in Burundi, where the river's southernmost waters begin the long northward journey, pass through Uganda, and empty eventually into the Mediterranean Sea.
The Rwenzori Mountains, just east of the Congolese border, were once considered the Nile's source and are often identified with the mythical "Mountains of the Moon" mentioned centuries ago by Ptolemy. The range's highest peaks, slightly north of the equator, are permanently snow-capped but often shrouded in clouds. The Rwenzoris are one of the country's foremost tourist destinations, both for their natural beauty and the possibility of viewing gorillas there in their native habitat.
Uganda is located on the East African plateau, averaging about 900 meters above sea level. Although generally tropical in nature and providing very dependable rainfall, the climate varies between parts of the country and affords short dry seasons. Scores of islands lie offshore in Lake Victoria. Most important cities are located in the south, near the lake, including Kampala and the nearby city of Entebbe. The equator runs through the country's south, close to Entebbe, at one of Uganda's widest points.
The land bordering Lake Victoria and the other lakes is extremely fertile, with a growing season lasting the whole year. There is a local saying that if you stick an iron bar into the soil, it will grow nails. Winston Churchill, who visited Uganda about 1900, is known to have called the area "the Pearl of Africa."
Little is known about the history of the region now covered by Uganda until the arrival of the Arabs and Europeans in the mid-1800s. Humans are known to have lived in the area since at least the first millennium B.C.E.
When Arabs and Europeans arrived, they encountered a number of kingdoms. The largest of these was Buganda, which continues to exist into the present. Both Islam and Christianity were introduced to these kingdoms in the 1860s. Buganda's king felt threatened by the Catholic and Anglican faiths, which led to the martyrdom of many, including 22 Catholics burned to death near Kampala in 1886. These martyrs were later declared saints, and Pope Paul VI, the first pontiff to visit sub-Saharan Africa, made a pilgrimage to their shrine at Namugongo in 1969.
The area was placed under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888, and the United Kingdom ruled it as a protectorate from 1894. As several other territories and chiefdoms were integrated, the final protectorate called Uganda took shape in 1914.
The Sixth Zionist Congress, meeting in Switzerland in 1903, formed a committee to look into British East Africa, in particular the area of Uganda, as a possible future Jewish homeland after the British government offered the land. Even though the congress hoped for a return to the ancient land of Israel, it also wanted a fall-back plan. The committee's report in 1905 to the Seventh Congress rejected Uganda as a viable location for a mass Jewish settlement.
Independence from Britain came in 1962, but four years later, the first prime minister, Milton Obote, overthrew the constitution and declared himself president, ushering in an era of coups and countercoups that would last until the mid-1980s. General Idi Amin took power in 1971 and ruled the country with the military for the next decade. Amin had delusions of grandeur, having himself declared Field Marshall and President for Life.
Amin's rule cost tens of thousands of Ugandan lives (estimates range from 80,000 to 500,000). In 1972 he declared "Economic War" and forcibly removed 50,000 of the entrepreneurial East Indian minority from Uganda, decimating the economy.
In 1976, a French commercial airliner was hijacked and taken with its mainly Israeli passengers to Uganda, where Amin, a Muslim, sympathized with the Palestinian cause. The ensuing rescue by Israeli commandos of their fellow citizens in the raid on Entebbe marked an early victory in the Israeli war on Palestinian terrorism.
Yoweri Museveni held the presidency since 1986 and has been viewed as being part of a new generation of African leaders. There is controversy, however, about the amendment to the constitution that allowed him to run for a third term. Relative stability has been brought to the country with the exception of in the north, which continues to struggle with a rebel insurgency called the Lord's Resistance Army. The insurrection, which began in 1987 but has unclear objectives, is notorious for its use of abducted children as soldiers and is led by Joseph Kony, a spirit medium.
Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, and sizable mineral deposits of copper and cobalt. Agriculture, the most important sector of the economy, employs more than four out of five laborers, with coffee accounting for more than half of export revenues. After independence, small farmers provided the bulk of the nation's agricultural production, but long periods of war and upheaval in the countryside have made farmers' cooperatives a common arrangement. Since 1986, the government—with the support of foreign countries and international agencies—has acted to rehabilitate an economy decimated during Amin's regime and subsequent civil war. The recovery of the nation's sugar refining industry is the major success story along these lines.
The domination of the economy by coffee results in Uganda having mainly an export economy. Only a small amount of production is intended for the local market. Other main exports are cotton, tea, and gold, with Kenya and various Western European countries being the most common destinations.
Since the 1990s, the country has shown solid economic improvement despite the persistence of poverty, which is mainly rural. Infrastructure has been rebuilt, inflation reduced, security slowly improved, and the exiled Indian-Ugandan entrepreneurial class coaxed into returning. On the other hand, corruption within Uganda's government, its ongoing involvement in war in the Congo, and its distraction with its own civil war are factors that could stymie the growth of the economy.
Uganda is home to many different ethnic groups, none of whom forms a majority of the population. The Baganda tribe, the people of the Buganda kingdom, makes up 17 percent.
Around 40 different languages are currently in use; they fall into two basic groups, the Bantu tongues that are spoken principally in the south and the Nilotic dialects heard mainly in the north. The language with the largest number of native speakers is Luganda, a Bantu language spoken mainly in the Buganda region, which encompasses Kampala. Swahili is used widely as a basic trade language. English became the official language of Uganda after independence.
According to the 2002 national census, Christians constitute 85 percent of Uganda's population. The Catholic Church has the largest number of adherents (42 percent), followed by the Church of Uganda—a local Anglican denomination—at 32 percent. Minor Christian groups include Pentecostals (5 percent) and Adventists (2 percent), while 1 percent are grouped in the category "other Christians."
The religion with the second-highest following is Islam, whose adherents represent 12 percent of the population. While Muslims in Uganda appear presently to be experiencing some degree of discrimination, during Amin's rule in the 1970s they were the most favored religious group and their number grew significantly at that time.
Only 1 percent of the nation's population follows traditional religions and a similar amount is classified as "other non-Christians." Also of note is that Uganda hosts one of only seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship in the world. It is known as the Mother Temple of Africa, located on the outskirts of Kampala, and was dedicated in 1961.
Many of the more than 20 tribes that make up the country still reside within their own areas or kingdoms, but Ugandans living in areas outside their own tribal homelands are increasingly common and have helped create a more diverse culture within the country. Another element of diversity is the many Asians (mostly from India) expelled during Amin's regime who have been returning to Uganda, a country to which they retained a deep attachment.
After visiting Uganda early in the twentieth century, Winston Churchill, the future British prime minister wrote, "…for magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life—plant, bird, insect, reptile, beast—for the vast scale… Uganda is truly 'the pearl of Africa.'" As there are many different words for the variety of snow in the Arctic, there is also a large vocabulary for the vast array of green in Uganda, especially when viewing the seven hills of Kampala.
During the nearly 70 years of their protectorate, the British mainly relied on the local Baganda government, which was already set up with a king and parliament somewhat similar to the European model. Compared to neighboring Kenya, there was little European settlement, which resulted in less resentment towards whites in Uganda. The British even organized their exit from the country before a nationalist movement could get started. Distrust, and even hatred, of the Baganda by other tribes developed early on because of the favor shown them by and their working relationship with the British. This is a reason for continuing flare-ups that have periodically erupted between tribes since independence.
Uganda has been hailed as a rare success story in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and has widely been viewed as having the most effective national response to the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. A variety of approaches to AIDS education have been employed, ranging from the promotion of condom use to "abstinence only" programs.
The main supporter of the anti-HIV/AIDS program has been President Museveni. He has spoken in every part of the country, and in other lands, concerning Uganda's "ABC model." "A" stands for Abstinence—if you don't engage in sexual activity, there is a high probability that you will not contract HIV/AIDS. "B" means Be faithful—if you do engage in sex, keep it focused on one person and make sure that that person keeps you as his/her only sexual partner. "C" means Condoms—if you cannot be abstinent or be faithful to one person, then always use condoms in any sexual activity.
Respect for human rights in Uganda has advanced significantly since the mid-1980s. There are, however, numerous areas that continue to attract concern. The conflict in the north continues to generate reports of abuses by both the rebel Lord's Resistance Army and the nation's armed forces. Torture continues to be a widespread practice among security organizations. Attacks on political freedom in the country, including the arrest and beating of opposition members of parliament, have led to international criticism.
In contrast to other parts of the world where abusive practices are carried out in physically desolate settings by people fighting for scraps, the irony of life in Uganda is that such violations occur in a land so naturally blessed with resources and beauty.
All links retrieved January 5, 2016.
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