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Uganda Network

A Profile of Uganda

The Republic of Uganda is a landlocked East African country lying on the Equator - roughly two thirds of the country is north of the equator and a third south. On the banks of Lake Victoria, Uganda is bordered by Tanzania and Rwanda to the south west, The Congo to the west, The Sudan to the north, and Kenya to the east.


  • Area

    • 93000 Square Miles or 241000 Square km

  • Location

    • Between 4 degrees N and 1 degree S of the equator in East Africa

  • Population

    • 19M estimated in 1995 probably around 22M today. Uganda's growth in population is well above the average for the Sub-Saharan areas of Africa. This is obviously because of the country's high birth rate producing a population in which almost half is under 15 years of age. The most densely settled areas are in the fertile south and east, primarily along Lake Victoria. Kampala is the largest city. Other major cities are Jinja, Masaka, and Mbale. Though the urban population constitutes only about one-eighth of the total, it is growing steadily.

  • Capital

    • Kampala, It is built around seven hills 35Km north of Lake Victoria. Across the lake you can get to Tanzania and Kenya though it is understood that at present the ferry is not running. (June 2000).

  • Head of state and government

    • President Yoweri Museveni. One of the few President's in history to have started out as a Military dictator promising to hold elections who actually held elections. He is by public acclaim a popular President having the credit for the country's peace and economic recovery.

  • Mountains

    • To the west - The Rwensori Mountains which are part of the volcanic Virunga Mountains and the western rift valley. the highest peak on which there is always snow is the 16,795 feet (5,119 m) Margherita. It is possible to climb this though the area is considered unsafe at present. Lakes of Albert forms much of the border with The Congo). In the east is Mount Elgon, also in a volcanic area rises to 14,178 feet (4,321 m). Much of the rest of the country is a plateau.

  • Water

    • Almost a third of the country is under water. The largest is Lake Victoria 26,828 square miles (69,485 square km) and is the world's second largest fresh water lake. From the lake at Jinja flows the Victoria Nile into Lake Kyoga just south of Apac and continues to Lake Albert which is drained by the Albert Nile River on its way north.

  • Climate

    • Although Uganda is on the Equator it is not a hot country, its climate being modified by the region's high elevation and its large expanse of water. Average daily temperatures range from 28C in January to 25C in July - these are Kampala temperatures and rise another few degrees

  • Vegetation and animals

    • Vast areas are devoted to National Parks and game reserves. The largest being the Murchison Falls national Park in the northwest. The country's wild inhabitants include lions, rhinoceroses, leopards, elephants, hippopotamuses, buffaloes, Uganda kobs and antelopes, and a number of species of monkeys. About one-third of Uganda's land area is arable; nearly one-tenth of the land is used as pasture. much of the area in the south is devoted to cultivation whereas in the central and northern areas Uganda is a natural wooded savanna.

  • The People

    • There are literally dozens of ethnic groups in the country belonging to three main linguistic groups: the Bantu, the Nilotic, and the Nilo-Hamitic. Bantu speakers are concentrated in the south and account for 70% of the total population. The Bantu-speaking Ganda alone constitute nearly 20% of the total population. Other Bantu-speaking peoples are the Soga, Nkole, Chiga (Kiga), Gisu, Rwanda, and Nyoro. Peoples speaking Nilotic and Nilo-Hamitic languages live mainly in the north; the Acholi, Lango, Teso, and Karamojong are among the larger of such language groups. English is the official language of the country though for a time Swahili was also used. English is a compulsory subject in schools and is the uniting influence in what could otherwise be a fragmented tribal society. There once was quite a large and influential Asian community but under Idi Amin they were mostly expelled from the country many to take up residence in the UK. In the peaceful times the Asian community is beginning to rise again as it invests in the industry of the country.

  • Religion

    • About half of the population are nominally Roman Catholic, a third are Protestant, and a small minority are Muslim. However, most Ugandans have retained indigenous religious beliefs or have integrated such beliefs with Christianity or Islam.

  • Independence

    • Its borders had been drawn by the British in a wholly artificial manner in the later 1800s. The country enclosed two different types of society: the relatively centralized Bantu Kingdoms of the south and the Nilotic and Sudanic "tribes without rulers" to the north.
    • This split between north and south, aggravated by development biased to the south under the British has continued to this day and in the years that followed independence set the backcloth for the troubles ahead.

      A British Protectorate (rather than a colony), Uganda obtained independence on 10th October 1962. Its first minister being Milton Obote who was the leader of the Lango people. All looked forward to a bright future but a year later Mutesa II, the kabaka of Buganda, was appointed the first president, but and conflicts grew between representatives of the various ethnic groups and between the president and the prime minister.

      Obote ousted Mutesa in 1966, took over as president, and proclaimed a new constitution a year later.

      In 1971 a military coup replaced Obote with Major General Idi Amin, whose reign was notorious for its brutality. Amin expelled Asians from Uganda in 1972, persecuted the Acholi, Lango, and other tribes, and presided over a general economic collapse. Late in 1978 Amin invaded Tanzania.

      In retaliation, Tanzanian forces invaded Uganda a year later and deposed Amin. With considerable controversy, Obote was elected to the office of president in 1980 but his second chance was no better and he was deposed once again by a military coup in 1985.

      The new military rulers themselves were pushed out the following year by the armed National Resistance Movement, led by Yoweri Museveni. A constituent assembly promulgated a new constitution in 1995. The gradual improvement of Uganda's economic situation in the late 20th century did not signal an end to its political, social, and economic challenges. Instability still continues on the northern and western boundaries.

  • The economy

    • Uganda has a developing, market economy based largely on agriculture. The GNP per capita is among the lowest in the world. Both agricultural and industrial production were severely curtailed from the 1970s to the mid-1980s due to political instability and civil war. By the mid-1990s the government had begun to encourage foreign investment, strengthen export industries, and establish relationships with such organizations as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In addition, some lands and properties were restored to Asians and others who had been expelled or had fled the country during the rule of Idi Amin (1971-79).


    • Agriculture accounts for more than half of the GDP and employs more than 80% of the workforce. More than half of agricultural production is accounted for by subsistence farmers. The main food crops are cassava, sweet potatoes, millet, plantains, and corn. Coffee is the principal export crop, followed by tea, cotton, and sugar.
      There is a small copper mining area at Kilembe, apatite at Tororo and tungsten and tin in other areas. There is believed to be a large are of un-mined high grade iron at Kigezi.
      The main manufacturing industries include food processing, textiles, automobiles, and metal products.
      Firewood and charcoal remain important sources of energy, despite the depletion of forests. Nearly all of Uganda's power is produced by hydroelectric generation, with the Owen Falls Dam on the Victoria Nile providing the bulk of the capacity where a second generating station has brought much needed relief to power shortages around the country. In Kampala daily and nightly power cuts were common whereas today they are limited to ever 3 or 4 days and just for a few hours.
      The balance of imports exceeds that of exports. Imports include machinery and transport equipment, minerals, fuels, chemicals, food and food products, and live animals. The main exports are un-roasted coffee (which accounts for nearly seven-tenths of the total value of exports), tea, and cotton.
      Principal trading partners include Kenya, The Netherlands, the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Spain.
  • Government

    • Today Uganda is a sovereign republic. The constitution of 1995 vested executive power in a popularly elected president who could serve no more than two five-year terms. The president was assisted by a cabinet of ministers. Legislative power was exercised by a unicameral Parliament whose members were elected to five-year terms and represented constituent districts. The judicial branch of government was headed by the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and various lower courts. Justices were appointed by the president with the approval of the legislature.
    • Many British people feel very much at home with the style of Government which is proving to be a model in this area of Africa.

      The Government and the country faced huge problems in the years after the wars and continues to have to deal with Education, Health and Welfare as its major priorities.

  • Health

    • In the 70s Health care was decimated but a start was made to recover in the 80s and made much progress in the 90s. The major health crisis is AIDS which is at epidemic levels. Other common diseases include tuberculosis, venereal diseases, measles, malaria, sleeping sickness, dysentery, whooping cough, hookworm, typhoid and leprosy.

  • Culture

    • Local music and dances are very popular in rural villages and among the various ethnic groups in urban areas. Cultural institutions include the National Theatre and the Uganda Museum in Kampala, the Entebbe Botanical Gardens, and museums at the national parks. Song and dance are widely taught in schools.

Contact the Uganda Network Copyright © The UK Uganda Network - 2002
Last modified 12 April 2002



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