Country Profiles:
Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country in Eastern part of the continent, bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, (Africa’s largest freshwater lake), shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate. Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country. The capital is Kampala. “Uganda is a fairy-tale. You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk, and at the end there is a wonderful new world,” wrote Sir Winston Churchill, who visited the country during its years under British rule and who called it “the pearl of Africa.” Indeed, Uganda embraces many ecosystems, from the tall volcanic mountains of the eastern and western frontiers to the densely forested swamps of the Albert Nile River and the rainforests of the country’s central plateau. The land is richly fertile, and Ugandan coffee has become both a mainstay of the agricultural economy and a favorite of connoisseurs around the world.

Bantu-speaking populations resided into the southern portion of the country some 2,300 years ago bringing with them ideas of social and political organization and developing unique iron working skills. Arab traders were first to occupy Uganda in 1830s. The British explorers followed in search of the source of the Nile. The region was placed under the charter of the British East Africa Company by the United Kingdom in 1888, and was transformed into a protectorate in 1894. In the late 19th century, laborers were brought from British India to East Africa to begin work on the Uganda Railway, and upon its completion nearly 7,000 of those workers decided to remain in East Africa, according to World Atlas.

UNESCO Heritage sites in Uganda include:

1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Located on the border of plain and mountain forests, the park in south-western Uganda is home to over 160 species of trees, over a hundred species of ferns, and various species of birds and butterflies. Many endangered species are within its boundaries as well, including the mountain gorilla.

2. Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Covering most of the Rwenzori Mountains, including Mount Margherita, Africa’s third-highest peak, the park features glaciers, waterfalls and lakes in an Alpine landscape. It also features various endangered species and unusual flora.

3. Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

The tombs, built after 1884, are a major example of prime architecture using organic materials, principally wood, thatchreed, and wattle and daub. The tombs were almost completely destroyed by a fire in March 2010, prompting the World Heritage Committee to reluctantly mark the site as being in danger. The Ugandan government has since called for the reconstruction of the tombs, and UNESCO has agreed to mobilize funds for the project.

Uganda gained independence on October 9th 1962.

The first elections were held that same year and Mutesa, King of Buganda was the first president and Milton Obote as prime minister. Although post-independence followed a military coup, followed by a brutal military dictatorship which ended in 1979. From 1967-71, Milton Obote seizes power in a coup and abolishes Uganda’s tribal kingdoms. In 1971 Idi Amin seized power and he ruled the country for the next eight years. His military dictatorial regime was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents. In 1972 Amin expelled thousands of Ugandan Asians. In his 1972 address to the nation, Amin shocked the world when he made this statement, “I am going to ask Britain, to take over responsibility for all the Asians in Uganda who are holding British passports because they are sabotaging the economy of the country.” He accused the Asians of encouraging corruption, currency racketeering and bribery and said there was no room in Uganda for them. Many of the Asians fathers and grandfathers had been brought by the British to build the Ugandan railways. In 1980-85 – Milton Obote returns to power but he was deposed in a military coup as guerrilla war and human rights abuses under his administration claimed the lives of at least another 100,000 civilians. The current President and former Rebel leader Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986, heralding a period of stability and improved human rights, according to the BBC. He won the 2011 presidential elections after a 2005 constitutional amendment lifted presidential term limits, and went on to win again in 2016.

Uganda has transformed itself from a country with a troubled past to an example of stability and prosperity for other countries with similar past on the continent. It does have substantial natural resources of minerals and untapped reserves of crude oil and natural gas, and on a positive note, reforms have been put in place and the economy has grown some. Significant quantities of petroleum were discovered in the Lake Albertine rift basin in 2008 and 2009. There are reserves of copper, tungsten, cobalt, columbite-tantalite, gold, phosphate, iron ore, and limestone. Gold, coffee, tea, oil, tobacco,  base metals and products, cocoa beans, fish, maize, sugar, cement counts as important exports.

There are at least 32 languages spoken in Uganda. The ethnic groups, are divided between the “Nilotic North” and the “Bantu South.” Bantu speakers form the largest portion of Uganda’s population. The Bantu are sub-divided into the Ganda, the Soga, Gwere, Gisu, Nyole, Samia, ToroNyoro, Kiga, Nyankole, Amba, and Konjo. Nilotic languages—represented by Acholi (Acoli), Lango (Langi), Alur, Padhola, Kumam, TesoKarimojongKakwa, and Sebei. English and Swahili are official languages and Ganda is also widely spoken.

Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes in Uganda, with EnglishArab, and Asian (especially Indian) influences. Meat or chicken stews are popular in Uganda served with rice. Popular dishes includes: Posho (Maize soup); Chapatti (pastery mademade from wheat flour); Ugali (a stiff maize porridge); Matoke (a cooked plantain/banana mash). For a sweet dish, locals enjoy a type of doughnut called Mandazi. With Uganda’s many lakes and rivers, fish are an important food. Local fish include the Nile perch, tiger fish and the ngege tilapia. A favorite recipe serves tilapia with a peanut sauce.

Music in Uganda Uganda’s tribes are diverse and spread evenly throughout the country. The divide between the Nilotic peoples and the Bantu peoples is evident. Tribal music in Uganda, like in most African regions, is mainly functional. This means that most music and music activities usually have specific functions related to specific festivities like marriage, initiation, royal festivals, harvests and the like. The music is performed by skilled tribesmen who are good at various instruments and well versed with the stylistic elements of the music of their tribe. The Bantu-speaking people like the Banyankore, Bakonzo, Batoro and Banyoro  have traditional music forms, which includes: Ekitaguriro, Ekizina ky’abaishiri, Kurungi Ngweyo and Eky’omutwe gw’abarwane, among others. The common traditional dancing style is known as orunyege. The major traditional musical instruments in this region include endigindi (one-stringed fiddle), amakondere (trumpets), engoma (drums), omukuri (flute), and enanga (trough zither).

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