Uganda’s superb natural attractions offer visitors some very special and memorable experiences. The country contains a rich diversity of terrain and wildlife, from the lush rainforests which clad the volcanic mountains in western Uganda, home of the magnificent mountain gorillas (a must-see), to the dry lands of Kidepo.
Uganda is renown for its concentration of wild animals including the Big Five – the elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard, and black rhinoceros – although populations have been dwindling under increased stress in recent times, particularly the rhino and the elephant. Over half of all African bird species can be found in Uganda, making it one of the best bird watching destinations in the world.
Ecologically, Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. Where else but in this uniquely lush destination can one observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth in the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippos and crocodiles before setting off into the misty mountains to visit the majestic mountain gorillas? Uganda is the only safari destination whose range of forest primates is as impressive as its selection of plain antelopes. Besides the wide biodiversity, Uganda is also blessed with a vast bird population of more than 1,000 species. Situated at the geographical heart of the African continent, Uganda has long been a cultural melting pot, as evidenced by the existence of 30-plus different indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handicrafts. The country’s most ancient inhabitants, confined to the hilly southwest, are the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies, relics of the hunter-gatherer cultures that once occupied much of East Africa to leave behind a rich legacy of rock paintings, such as at the Nyero Rock Shelter near Kumi.
Uganda lies astride the Equator in Eastern Africa between longitudes 29 ½° East and 35° East and between latitudes 4 ½° North and ½° South, at an average altitude of 1,100 meters above sea- level. The total area is 236,580sq.Km. We are bordered by the Republic of South Sudan to the North, the Republic of Kenya to the East, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West, and the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Rwanda to the South.
People and Culture:
The central region is dominated by the Bantu group, specifically the Baganda. The Buganda monarchy presents one of the best documentations of kingship in Uganda. The head of state is the King locally known as Kabaka. The current king of Buganda, His Highness Ronald Mutebi II, was crowned the 36th Kabaka of Buganda in 1993 after his father Sir Edward Mutesa II died in exile. The kingdom also constitutes a Parliament (Lukiiko), comprising mainly of elderly heads of its 52 clans. Other people, who occupy important positions in the kingdom, include the Queen (Nabagereka), the Prime Minister (Katikiiro), the royal sister (Nalinya) and the Queen Mother (Namasole).
Traditionally, a man could marry five wives or more provided he could care for them. It was easier to become polygamous in Buganda than in other parts of Uganda because the bride wealth obligations were not prohibitive, unlike in the past when marriage used to be conducted by parents, for instance where the father of the girl could choose for her a husband without availing her any alternatives.
Buganda is renowned for her distinct ceremonial occassions organized for observance, commemoration, inauguration, remembrance or fullfilment of cultural rituals and norms. Some of the common (highly recognized) ceremonies in Buganda include: the initiation of twins (okwalula abalongo), the introduction (okwanjula) and last funeral rite (okwabya olumbe).
Matooke (bananas of the plantain type) is a popular local dish among the Baganda. It’s peeled, tied in banana leaves and put in a cooking pan with enough water to steam the leaves. Later on, the bundle is removed and squeezed to get a smooth soft and golden yellow mash. The Banana leaves are used to keep it hot and steamy.
The eastern region is another diverse area comprised of a number of different tribal groups including: Bagisu, Basamia/Bagwe, Basoga, Bagwere, Iteso, Japadhola, and the Sebei, among others. Apart from other groups, the Basoga present a distinctive kingship in eastern Uganda with their King locally known as Kyabazinga.
Marrige and Family Life
In this region as well as the rest of the country, dowries are highly valued and are usually in the form of cattle, sheep and goats. The amount paid is negotiated among the parents of the new couple to be. The higher the dowry, the more valued is the bride, although this does not necessary guarantee the success of the marriage.
Tamenhaibunga: This kind of dance is practiced by the Basoga tribe. Tamenhaibunga literally means “good friends drink together but they do not fight each other lest they break the gourd (eibuga) that contains the drink.” The gourd is symbolically used to express the value and fragility of love and friendship. Other dances in Busoga include Nalufuka, a much faster and youthful version of of Tamenhaibuga, Eirongo, a slower dance performance to cerebrate the birth of twins, Amayebe, which builds physical stamina, especially for men, and Enswezi, used to communicate to super naturals and Ekigwo for wrestlers.
Kamaleewa: These are tender bamboo shoots which are a delicacy among the Bagisu. Usually, after harvest, these shoots are first boiled and later on sundried before cooking. Others include Atapa, Akaro and Sundried fish.
The northern region is also a melting pot of quite a number of tribes including Acholi, Langi, Alur, Kakwa, and Lugbara among others. This region comprises of the Acholi and Langi in the north and Alur, Lumbar and Madi in west Nile region. Like most of the regions, Langi and Acholi regions predominantly depend on agriculture as their economic activity, with millet and sorghum serving as staple foods.
Marriage and Family life
Traditionally, a young man depends upon his lineage head and elders both for permission to marry and for the material goods required for bride wealth. Elders of the bride’s lineage were also much involved in the discussions and negotiations surrounding the marriage.
Naleyo dance is performed by the Karimajongs where women line up and men strike their breasts using fingers as they dance. The Karimajongs are a pastor community in the north eastern part of Uganda.
Akaro: This is made from a combination of sorghum, millet and cassava flour mingled in a proportionate quantity of water. Malakwang: A sour vegetable usually prepared with groundnut paste to form a typical northern food. Malakwang is best served with sweet potatoes. Others include smoked fish and Ugali.
The western region is also rich in tribal culture, it consists of Bakonjo/Bamba, Batooro, Banyoro, Banyankore, Bakiga, Bafumbira and Bachwezi among others.
The Batooro and Banyoro have a centralized system of government headed by the Omukama. Initially, Toro was part of Bunyoro, but later broke away. The first King was Kaboyo Kasusunkwazi, the actual founder of the kingdom and currently the kingdom is headed by King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV.
Marriage and Family Life
Ankole in the west is the most popular tribe in terms of prestige and population. The King owned all the cattle and theoretically owned all the women. Hima fathers were anxious to call attention to their daughters because the King gave generous wedding gifts. Slim girls were unfit for royalty so those girls whom the king found to be of interest to marry one of his sons were force-fed on milk.
Entogoro: Entogoro is danced by Banyoro and Batooro of western Uganda. The dance takes its name from the pod rattles (locally known as ebinyege) that the boys tie on their legs to make different rhythms as they dance. Ekitagururo: This is characterized by energetic stamping and tangling rhythms using the feet and aerial arm movements. It is performed by both Banyankole and Bakiga in the south western region.
Eshabwe: A traditional Banyankole dish comprising of ghee, skimmed from milk. This is usually eaten with Akaro. It’s a meal one would certainly get acquainted with on a visit to the western parts of Uganda. Set at the equator, Uganda is made up of four regions(Central, Eastern, Northern and Western) on an area of 236, 580 sq km, with its capital at Kampala. The country is fortunate to harbour Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world forming the source of the Nile, the second largest river in the world.
Facts and History
Approximately 31,367, 972 (2008 est) with a 3.6 percent population growth.
People and culture
Uganda has long been a cultural melting pot, as evidenced by the existence of more than 30 different indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handicrafts.
- English(Official language)
- Runyankole, Rukiga or Rutoro
- Roman catholic (41%)
- Anglican (40%)
- Islam (5%)
- Other beliefs (14%)
Uganda experiences a temperate climate even though the majority of the country is within the Tropics with temperatures between 16 – 26′C for the majority of the year (April – November). However, during the warmer months (December – March) temperatures reach in excess of 30′C.
The Republic of Uganda is a sovereign democratic state governed by the 1995 Constitution. The President is Head of State and the Executive comprising of 26 government Ministers. Voting qualifications are universal, for those above 18 years of age.
Economic Profile and Currency
Consistently ranked among Africa’s fastest growing economies since 1986, Uganda has experienced a steady expansion of infrastructure and a corresponding increase in international investment and tourism. We use the Ugandan Shilling (UGX).
- New Year’s Day – 1 January
- NRM Liberation Day – 26 January
- Easter Sunday, Good Friday – March – April
- Martyrs’ Day – 3 June
- Heroes Day – 9 June
- Independence – 9 October
- Christmas Day – 25 December
- Boxing Day – 26 December
The earliest human inhabitants in Uganda were hunter-gathers. Remnants of these people are today to be found among the pygmies in western Uganda. Approximately 2000 to 1500 years ago, Bantu speaking populations from central and western Africa migrated and occupied most of the southern parts of the country. The migrants brought with them agriculture, ironworking skills and new ideas of social and political organization, that by the 15th - 16th century resulted in the development of centralized kingdoms, including the kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro-Kitara and Ankole.
In 1888, control of the emerging British “sphere of interest” in East Africa was assigned by royal charter to William Mackinnon’s Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEACO), an arrangement strengthened in 1890 by an Anglo-German agreement confirming British dominance over Kenya and Uganda. The high cost of occupying the territory caused the company to withdraw in 1893, and its administrative functions were taken over by a British commissioner. In 1894, Uganda was placed under a formal British protectorate.
Early Independent Uganda
Britain granted independence to Uganda in 1962, and the first elections were held on 1st March 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda became a republic the following year when it gained its independence on 9th October 1962 thus acquiring its Commonwealth membership. Sir Edward Mutweesa II was appointed as the first president. 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 maneuvering climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Apollo 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.
Uganda under Idi Amin Dada
On 25 January 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 years’ rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. 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–a statistic cited at the end of the 2006 movie “The Last King of Scotland”, which chronicled part of Amin’s dictatorship. A border altercation involving Ugandan exiles camped close to the Ugandan border of Mutukula resulted in an advance by the Ugandan army into Tanzania. In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces countered 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 11 April 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces.
Uganda between 1979 – 1986
After Amin’s removal, the Uganda National Liberation Front formed an interim government with Yusuf Lule as president and Jeremiah Lucas Opira as the Secretary General of the UNLF and created a quasi-parliamentary organ known as the National Consultative Commission (NCC). The NCC and the Lule cabinet reflected widely differing political views. In June 1979, following a dispute over the extent of presidential powers, the NCC replaced Lule with Godfrey Binaisa. In a continuing dispute over the powers of the interim presidency, Binaisa was removed in May 1980. Thereafter, Uganda was ruled by a military commission chaired by Paulo Muwanga. The December 1980 elections returned the UPC to power under the leadership of President Milton Obote, with Muwanga serving as vice president. Under Obote, the security forces had one of the world’s worst human rights records. In their efforts to stamp out an insurgency led by Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA), they laid waste to a substantial section of the country, especially in the Luwero area north of Kampala.
Post Liberation war (1986 – 2000)
Negotiations between the Okello government and the NRA were conducted in Nairobi in the fall of 1985, with Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi seeking a cease-fire and a coalition government in Uganda. Although agreeing in late 1985 to a cease-fire, the NRA continued fighting, and seized Kampala and the country in late January 1986, forcing Okello’s forces to flee north into Sudan. Museveni’s forces organized a government with Museveni as president. Since assuming power, the government dominated by the political grouping created by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his followers, the National Resistance Movement (NRM or the “Movement”), has largely put an end to the human rights abuses of earlier governments, initiated substantial political liberalization and general press freedom, and instituted broad economic reforms after consultation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and donor governments.