The former British colony Uganda is located in the middle of the African continent, on the equator. The country borders Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. It has 35.9 million inhabitants. The country’s territory covers an area of 241,038 square kilometers, slightly smaller than the US state of Oregon. The capital Kampala is situated in the southeast, near lake Victoria. The international airport of Entebbe is approximately 40 kilometers south of Kampala.
The current head of state of Uganda is Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kagula Museveni, in power since 1986. In 2005 the population of Uganda voted in a referendum in favor of more democracy and a multi party political system, but also for abolishment of the limit on presidential terms.
Lord’s Resistance Army
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a well-known rebel group causing unrest in Uganda. The ‘Army’ is being lead by Joseph Kony. During its +20 years of activities the LRA kidnapped an estimated 20,000 children. A 2006 dialogue between Uganda and the LRA lead to a truce. Nonetheless the situation in Northern Uganda and along the borders with the Congo remains instable. In 2008 Kony refused to sign a peace treaty with the Ugandan government. He only wants to sign the treaty if the International Criminal Court in The Hague drops the charges against him. Meanwhile, the civil conflict in this part of Uganda continues. In recent years though, the situation in the north has been rather peaceful.
North and South
Uganda’s current territory could roughly be divided into two parts: the north, where the population shows great similarities with the people in South Sudan and Ethiopia, and the south, where the Bantu population (‘bantu’ means people) forms the majority. Since the creation of a single administrative unit by the British colonialists by the end of the 19th century, these two groups form one country along with several smaller groups. Before the British colonialists lifted the ‘Union Jack’ over this part of Africa, in particular the southern part was well-organized. Strong kingdoms such as Buganda, Bunyoro and Ankole were very efficiently organized as independent states. The British colonists chose to control their new protectorate through indirect governance. The social structures remained in place, but they got controlled by a commissioner.
In 1962 Uganda gained independence from the United Kingdom. The first president was the king of the Buganda, the most important traditional kingdom. This worked for some time, until the unsatisfied northerners revolted. Milton Obote first grabbed power in 1966, followed by the notorious dictator Idi Amin in 1971. During Obote’s reign, but in particular under Idi Amin, Uganda was almost literally bleeding to death. In 1979 Uganda got invaded by Tanzania. This resulted in a brief and bloody war. In the end Amin got removed from his position by Tanzanian forces and Ugandan rebels. He died in 2003 in Saudi Arabia, where he had lived in exile for many years.
In 1979 Milton Obote returned upon the removal of Amin. After a coup d’etat in 1985 he disappeared to never return again. The National Resistance Army assumed power in 1986 and Yoweri Museveni became the president of Uganda. Under this president Uganda slowly moved towards more democracy, respect for human rights and – most notably – economical growth. The spectacular growth figures got noticed by western countries and soon Uganda became a favorite of many. Large sums of development support poured in to the country. The radiance of ‘The Pearl of Africa’, which disappeared because of Obote and Amin, slowly returned. The expiration dates of African leaders are often exceeded or moved forward. Also Museveni seems to be very keen on his position. And although Uganda’s short-term economical future seems to be secured, it is yet to be seen whether or not the president who brought some democracy to Uganda will cause it to fade away by the end of his current term.
The statistics used for this article are based on the estimations as given by the World Fact Book of the CIA (page visited on July 17, 2014).