This article was compiled by Jodi Phillips May 2014, for the Institute of Black Academics
concerning Black Under achievement.

PUBLISHED 09 MAY 2014  04:26


The Republic of Uganda is bordered by Sudan to the north, Kenya to the east, Lake Victoria, Tanzania, and Rwanda to the south, and Congo (formerly Zaire) to the west. The name Uganda is the Swahili term for Buganda, the homeland of the nation's largest ethnic group, the Baganda. British colonizers adopted the name when they established the Uganda Protectorate, centered in Buganda, in 1894. Uganda has great natural beauty, with an incredible variety of mammal species and birds. Winston Churchill called the country the "Pearl of Africa." Uganda's tropical forests, tea plantations, rolling savannahs, and arid plains are home to half of Africa's bird species.

Uganda's land area is 91,459 square miles (236,880 square kilometers), about the size of Oregon, and it lies across the equator. Its topography varies from the lush and fertile shores of Lake Victoria in the southeast to semidesert in the northeast. Uganda is fairly flat but high, with an average altitude of 3,280 feet above sea level. The capital city, Kampala, is on the shores of Lake Victoria. The White Nile, flowing out of the lake, winds through much of the country.

Uganda's population of 21 million is made up of a complex and diverse range of peoples, including the Baganda, Langi, Acholi, Pygmy, Europeans, Asians, and Arabs. The Baganda make up the largest portion of the population, about 16.7 percent. English is the official language, and many people speak Swahili and Arabic as well. There are more than 40 indigenous languages. Sixty-six percent of the population are Christian, evenly divided between Catholic and Protestant, 16 percent are Muslim, and 18 percent follow indigenous belief systems. The flag has six horizontal stripes—two each of black, yellow, and red—with the national emblem, the crested crane, in a centered white circle.


The ancestors of today's Bantu-speaking people, who include the Baganda and other groups, were likely the earliest occupants, about the fourth century A.D. , of the low-lying plateau north of Lake Victoria. The population gradually moved southwest and developed a way of life based on farming and herding. Kingdoms of the Baganda, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole, and Busoga peoples emerged, and they remained strong from the fourteenth century until the nineteenth century. Uganda's inland location kept it isolated from Arab and European trading until the nineteenth century. When Arab traders reached the interior of Uganda in the 1830s, they found several kingdoms with well-developed political institutions dating back several centuries. Buganda dominated the region, while Bunyoro was its greatest rival.

The first traders came in search of slaves and ivory. In the 1860s, British explorers arrived, seeking the source of the Nile River. Protestant missionaries arrived in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries came in 1879. Baganda converts to Christianity and Islam clashed with their ruler and eventually overthrew him. The kingdom then separated along Catholic and Protestant lines. This weakening of Buganda came during a period in which European interest in the area was growing. Imperial powers from Europe soon attempted to conquer Buganda and its neighbors. After the Treaty of Berlin in 1890 defined the various European countries' spheres of influence in Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba became British protectorates, and colonial agents established the Uganda Protectorate in 1894.

Colonial administrators introduced coffee and cotton as cash crops and adopted a policy of indirect rule, giving the traditional kingdoms autonomy, but favoring the recruitment of Baganda tribespeople for civil service. Few Europeans settled permanently in Uganda, but Pakistanis, Indians, and Goans arrived in large numbers. Agricultural production increased dramatically during World War I, and during the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1930s and 1940s, native Ugandans began to agitate for economic and political self-determination. In the mid-1950s schoolteacher Milton Obote, a member of the Langi people, created a loose coalition that led Uganda to independence in 1962.


In October 1962, with the coming of independence, ethnic and regional rivalries beset newly formed political parties. Obote, assisted by his army chief of staff Idi Amin, crushed the opposition, and became president, abolishing the Bagandan monarchy. Obote rewrote the constitution to consolidate virtually all powers in the presidency, and then began to nationalize, without compensation, $500 million worth of foreign assets. Obote fled after a military coup in 1971, and Uganda endured eight years of mass murder and destruction under the government of Idi Amin. Amin's main targets were the Acholi and Langi tribespeople, the professional classes, which included intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and the country's 70,000-strong Asian community. In 1972, all Asians were given 90 days to leave the country with nothing but the clothes that they wore. The economy disintegrated because the Asian population had been the backbone of trade, industry, and health care. The education system suffered lasting damage. Government-sanctioned brutality became commonplace. Amin went to war with Tanzania in 1978, then fled Uganda the following year, when the Tanzanian military pushed into the heart of his country. In 1980, Milton Obote returned from exile to resume control. Between half a million and a million people perished during the reigns of Amin and his successors from 1971 to 1986. Armless, legless, and facially disfigured torture victims survive in the population today.

Rebels drove Obote from office in 1985. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, leader of the National Resistance Army, set up a new government in January 1986. Museveni stated his goal of bringing peace and security to Uganda. He won strong support from citizens. About 300,000 Ugandan refugees returned from across the Sudanese border.

In the 1990s, Uganda worked to recover from two decades of instability and civil war. A new constitution was ratified on July 12, 1995. Museveni won democratic, nonpartisan elections in 1994, and again in 1996. International leaders saw the 1996 elections as Uganda's final step towards rehabilitation, and U.S. President Bill Clinton visited the country. At the end of the twentieth century, Uganda had set up new economic development projects and export initiatives, and renewed its commitment to education and social services. However, at the same time, it faced a severe epidemic of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). About 20 percent of Uganda's population was infected with the AIDS virus. By 1998, more than a million Ugandans had died of AIDS.


The first Ugandan Americans likely arrived as slaves, seized by or traded to Arabs between 1619 and 1865. According to the 1860 census, there were 4.4 million African Americans among a total U.S. population of 36 million people. Immigration records show that 857 Africans came to the United States between 1881 and 1890. [sOURCE :].

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