Uganda map

Uganda flag

Flag description: Six equal horizontal bands of black (top), yellow, red, black, yellow, and red; a white disk is superimposed at the centre and depicts a red-crested crane (the national symbol) facing the hoist side.

Location: Eastern Africa, west of Kenya.

Geographic coordinates: 1 00 N, 32 00 E.

Climate: tropical; generally rainy with two dry seasons (December to February, June to August); semiarid in northeast.

Independence: 9 October 1962 (from UK).

Nationality: Ugandan.

Capital City: Kampala.

Population: 23,317,560.

Head of State: President Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Area: 236,040 sq km.

Type of Government: republic.

Currency: 1 Ugandan shilling (USh) = 100 cents.

Major peoples: Baganda 17%, Karamojong 12%, Basogo 8%, Iteso 8%, Langi 6%, Rwanda 6%, Bagisu 5%, Acholi 4%, Lugbara 4%, Bunyoro 3%, Batobo 3%, non-African (European, Asian, Arab). 1%, other 23%. 

Religion: Roman Catholic 33%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 16%, indigenous beliefs 18%.

Official Language: English.

Principal Languages: Ganda or Luganda ,other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili, Arabic.

Major Exports: coffee, fish and fish products, tea; electrical products, iron and steel.

Background: The indigenous inhabitants of what is now Uganda ranged from the ancient centralized and rival kingdoms of Buganda and Bunyoro to the decentralized Acholi and Amba. Extensive migration and trade relations previously existing among peoples throughout Uganda have been obscured by identifications reflecting the moment when British rule tended to freeze groups into their present places.

British explorer John Hanning SPEKE reached Buganda in 1862 during his successful search for the source of the Nile. Missionaries followed, and shortly after there were rivalries at the court of the Ganda kabaka (king), which led to religious persecution and then to religious wars. By siding with one faction, Capt. Frederick D. Lugard (later 1st Baron LUGARD) established a military presence that committed a reluctant British government to make Uganda a protectorate (1894).

In 1900, Buganda's leading chiefs signed an agreement accepting British protection in return for freehold rights in land for themselves. This provided Britain with a base from which to consolidate colonial rule over the rest of Uganda and created the opportunity for Buganda to reinforce its cultural separation from and more rapid economic growth than its neighbours.

The intricate federal constitution under which Uganda received formal independence on Oct. 9, 1962, recognized four kingdoms, ten ordinary districts, and one "special" district. Milton Obote, a Langi, became prime minister in an uneasy coalition with Kabaka Yekka, the Ganda party, following two sharply contested national elections.

The coalition soon broke down, and a battle between the national and Buganda governments led to the exile of the Kabaka, the elimination of federalism, and a direct role for the army in national politics. After further intrigue, Obote was overthrown on Jan. 25, 1971, in a military coup led by Idi Amin Dada, a Nubian who had been Obote's choice for army chief of staff.

Amin, who assumed dictatorial powers, was eventually condemned by the international community for his excesses. He was not dislodged from power, however, until he invaded northern Tanzania in 1978.  The Tanzanian military response, supported originally by about 1,000 Ugandan soldiers in exile, led to the liberation of Kampala in April 1979 and the ouster of Amin's forces from the country in June.

After an unstable 18-month interim, Obote emerged the victor in December 1980 elections widely considered fraudulent. Yoweri Museveni, defense minister during part of the interim period, soon fled into the bush northwest of Kampala to launch a guerrilla movement (later called the NRM) to oppose Obote. Hundreds of thousands of Ganda were uprooted from their homes, tortured, and killed as undisciplined government soldiers made a brutal but vain effort to end the insurgency.

The NRM created a disciplined army, established popular councils, and carried out political education in the areas it controlled. In April 1985 it opened a second front in the west.  Meanwhile, corruption, theft, and coercion by government officials reduced their credibility.

On July 27, 1985, Obote was again overthrown in a military coup by a faction within his army, which then named Lt.-Gen. Tito Okello head of state. The new government made overtures to the NRM, but when it invited former Amin soldiers to join it, the NRM continued to fight. The NRM set up an interim government over western and part of central Uganda and shifted from guerrilla to conventional war.

Peace negotiations between the Kampala government and the NRM organized by Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, resulted in an agreement on Dec. 18, 1985. Each side accused the other of violating the accord, however, and the NRM marched on Kampala, ousting Okello's government on Jan. 26, 1986, and taking full control of the country two months later.

During its first year in power the NRM concentrated on restoring order, rehabilitating the economy, and laying the groundwork for a new social order. Day-to-day policy-making was overseen by a broad-based cabinet headed by President Museveni.

The supreme political body, the National Resistance Council, formally constituted itself as a legislature in 1988. Legislative elections were held in 1989; the government's term in office was extended to 1995 later that year.

Despite a government amnesty program, sporadic rebel activity in the north and east continued. The government announced in February 1993 plans to elect a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.