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Market in Kampala

Uganda is a small country and one fifth of it is occupied by Lake Victoria. Its only access to the sea is through the port of Mombasa to which its capital Kampala is connected by a gravel road and a railway. Its agriculture varies all over the country. It escaped white colonisation because of the fact that all the cultivable lands were overpopulated. The plantations are divided into two groups: Subsistence plantations (Sorghum, Bananas,) and exportation farming (coffee, tea and sugar). Uganda also has considerable mineral wealth. At the top of Murchison Falls, the Victoria Nile explodes through a 6 metre gap, causing the very rock to shake - quite literally. This phenomenon is said to be the most powerful natural flow of water anywhere on Earth. At Forest Walks in Murchison National Park Butterflies and moths constantly flutters across the path and some particularly members of the Charaxes genus are ery rare. There are 42 species of butterfly which have been identified in the forest, including the Africa giant swallowtail, which is the largest butterfly found in Africa.


Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, and sizable mineral deposits of copper and cobalt. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over 80 percent of the work force. Coffee is the major export crop, accounting for over half of export revenues. Since 1987 the government, with the support of donors, has rehabilitated and stabilized the economy by undertaking currency reform, raising producer prices on export crops, increasing prices of petroleum products, and improving civil service wages. The policy changes are especially aimed at reducing inflation and boosting production and export earnings. Uganda has emerged as robust economic performer in the past few years. Real GDP growth averaged over 7 percent per year over the past decade, and underlying inflation has averaged some 6 percent. Real GDP growth in FY00 is estimated at some 5 percent due to adverse weather and deteriorating terms of trade, but inflationary pressures were contained. In agriculture, Ugandan coffee growers have responded to the reforms by regaining the position of the largest coffee grower in the continent, the tea industry has been revitalized, a small horticulture industry is emerging, and maize exports to Kenya are growing. The industrial sector has also expanded rapidly, with real output growth of nearly 12 percent per year over the past decade. Infrastructure rehabilitation has been impressive and the government is creating a national road grid that will connect all parts of the country. The Government has also made major strides in trying to improve social conditions of the disadvantaged, notably by the implementation of a program of Universal Primary Education, which has led to a more than doubling in enrollment at primary school levels.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Uganda

History in brief:

At the time of its independence from Britain in 1962, Uganda was an emerging success story with rapid agricultural growth, a developing industrial sector, and growing intellectual and cultural leadership. However, progress was dramatically reversed by the late 1960s when political instability was followed by a coup led by Idi Amin in January 1971, and turbulence continued after Mr. Amin was overthrown in 1979. By the time President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) assumed power in 1986, Uganda had become one of the poorest countries in the world. The education and health systems had collapsed, the physical infrastructure had crumbled, and the civil service had been destroyed by low wages and poor morale. Furthermore, the economy was highly regulated with state intervention in nearly all sectors. Real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was 42 percent below its level in 1970; the public revenue base had collapsed; inflation was raging; and government expenditure, exports and investment had all fallen to below 10 percent of GDP. In mid-1987, the government embarked on an economic recovery program aimed at reducing poverty by restoring fiscal discipline and monetary stability, and rehabilitating infrastructure (economic, social and institutional). The recovery program further encompassed civil service reform, revised investment and incentive structures, and made a rapid move to a market determined exchange rate. Since 1987, the government has worked consistently to implement and improve an economic reform program that has now attracted the attention of the entire region. By 1992, the effects of a turnaround had begun to show, foreign inflows increased and coffee production boomed. The impact of the combination of government-led reform and development assistance has been impressive as reflected by sustained real GDP growth and a 21percent drop in poverty (headcount index) to 44 percent in the five year period since 1992.


Legend: "Uganda was the name of a prodigious hunter who came from Unyoro. He was a poor man who hunted to feed his family and was so successful, that he was soon feeding people all around. He was eventually named Kimera, the first King of Buganda".


There are four main ethnic groups in Uganda which all have different origins. By far the largest in number, the Bantus, who came from the west, include the tribes of Buganda, Banyankole, Basoga, Bakiga, Batoro, Banyoro, Banyarwanda, Bagisu, Bagwere and Bakonjo. The Nilotics, who came from the north, include the Lango, Acholi, Alur, Padhola, Lulya and Jonam. The NiloHamitics include the Teso, Karamojong, Kumam, Kakwa, Sebei, Pokot, Labwor and Tepeth and the Sudanics include the Lugbara, Madi and Lendu. The pre-colonial history of these tribes is not well recorded, genealogy being the only method employed by the early settlers in the area. At the time of the first exploration of Uganda there were three main kingdoms, each ruled by a Monarch and laws and customs of their own. The kingdoms of Buganda, Kitara (sub-divided into Bunyoro and Toro) and Karagwe are all well documented by the early explorers. The general opinion is that these kingdoms originated around the sixteenth century, the land before that probably being occupied by Bushmen. The Bantus originated from the west coast of Africa, migrating along the Niger river, they occupied the northern, central and western parts of Uganda. The eastern part of Uganda, occupied some 250 years ago by the Nilo-Hamitic tribes never formed a kingdom because the people were nomadic and the area as not well suited to agriculture. The different tribes got their names either from their leaders or some peculiarity in their customs or origins. The Karamojong for instance (aikar-to stay; imojong old men) the tired old men who stayed behind.

The Explorers

Giovani Miani, an Italian working for the Egyptians, was the first European to set foot in what is now recognised as Uganda. He visited northern Uganda at Nimule and Moyo in March 1860. The Maltese slave and ivory trader Andrea de Bono also made excursions into Uganda in the 1860s. Between 1849 and 1855 several German missionaries with the Church Missionary Society sent reports back to Europe of great lakes and snowy mountains' some weeks' journey inland from the coast. In 1857, John Hanning Speke and Richard Francis Burton began an African expedition that would lead to Speke's discovery of the southern shores of Lake Victoria and a return journey by Speke and James Augustus Grant in 1862 that would reveal the source of the Nile at Rippon Falls (the plaque to commemorate this is now buried beneath the Owen Falls Dam). Speke and Grant followed the Nile north, through the kingdoms of Buganda, Karagwe and Bunyoro. These first encounters with Mutesa, Rumanika and Kamurasi, the respective kings, provide some of the most colourful early records of life and death in Uganda. Subsequently, research has shown that Mutesa was arguably the 30th King of Buganda, thus dating the kingdom to the early sixteenth century. The rituals and customs set by the royal families were often cruel; torture, live burial and mutilation were common practice. The value of human life was not very high. Mutesa demonstrated this during Speke's second audience; he ordered a court page to shoot someone in the outer court to demonstrate the effect of one of the rifles given to him by Speke. The search for the source of the Nile by the early explorers was responsible for attracting interest, through their journals, in Uganda and her peoples. The journals of Burton, Speke, Grant, Samuel Baker, Dr. George Schweinfurth, Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone so captured the imagination of Europeans, that the decades spanning the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries saw literally hundreds of travellers coming to Uganda. Of course, with them came the prospects of trade and consequently British colonial interest. In 1893, Sir Gerald Portal raised the Union Jack in Port Alice (now Entebbe) and claimed Her Majesty's Protectorate over the kingdom that stretched north to the westward flowing Victoria Nile, east to the town of Tororo and west to the Rwenzoris and Virungas. Of all the explorers, Samuel Baker and his wife Florence, who discovered and named Lake Albert and Murchison Falls, did most to uncover Uganda for their European public. Baker was determined and thorough, rather than excessive, about his exploration. He funded himself, and as such was neither an empire builder nor a reformist. His books were immensely popular because they brought the hitherto mysterious and cannibalistic interior of 'Darkest Africa' out of the realms of fantasy and into an understandable, habitable country with colorful denizens.

The Governors of Equatoria

In 1869 two significant events contributed to the history of Uganda. The first was the opening of the Suez Canal which linked Africa to Europe and hence facilitated trade routes via the East African coast, rather than the more traditional way into Uganda from the north and west. The second was the appointment of Sir Samuel Baker as the first Governor of Equatoria. Both were initiated by Ismael Pasha, the Khedive of` Egypt, who was eagerly trying to establish a great Muslim state from Alexandria to Lake Victoria; the length of the Nile. Sir Samuel Baker returned briefly to Uganda in 1869 and 871 while governor of the Equatorial Province of Egypt. The cessation of the trade in slaves and the expansion of the Empire to the Great Lakes was the dual mandate from the Khedive who was anxious to please allies in Europe. Baker based himself in Gondonkoro (close to present day Juba), in Southern Sudan, because the Nile south of that point dispersed into marshland and he could not guarantee supplies and protection. This period in Uganda's history is marked by the ascension to the throne of Bunyoro by Kabalega. He succeeded his father Kamurasi, and was to become a constant thorn in the flesh of the British and Egyptian imperialists as well as his Bagandan brothers to the south). General Gordon followed Baker as Governor of Equatoria (1873-79). He travelled the area extensively and was responsible for commissioning the 'complete exploration of the sources of the Nile' Gordon tried to establish a series of linking forts along the west bank of the Nile from Khartoum to Rippon Falls. His failure to do so was the result of Kabelega's constant refusal to prostrate his kingdom before the Egyptians and later the British. Gordon had used a 108 tonne steamer called the Khedive to transport men and supplies into Uganda. He got as far as Lake Albert and was blocked by Murchison and Karuma Falls. He managed to send a predatory force of 160 men to set up a garrison in Mengo, Mutesa's capital of Buganda, they were captured and only narrowly rescued from the Baganda. Gordon gave up and returned to Egypt rather dispirited. The final period of Egyptian domination of Equatoria was under the governorship of Emin Pasha (or Dr. Edvard Schneitzer) between 1879 and 1889. Emin Pasha was a sensitive and intelligent man. He was energetic and enthusiastic and travelled throughout the province. He recorded valuable notes on the Banyoro and their customs, and for a time was on equitable terms with Kabalega. Equatoria was finally abandoned by Egypt in 1889 when communications were severed by the infamous Mahdist revolt, and Emin Pasha, left stranded in Uganda, was rescued rather reluctantly by Stanley. At around this period in history, a 'scramble' for African territories was initiated by a sudden realisation of their importance. Uganda was no exception. Stanley's rescue of Emin was in fact a thinly disguised attempt by Leopold II of Belgium to gain control of the Upper Nile Region. Conversely, Stanley was determined to secure Emin's loyalty for the British. Simultaneously, a German expedition led by Dr. Carl Peters was also on its way to rescue Emin Pasha. Emin had a firm following in Uganda and both the Germans and the British were anxious to secure his services. Ironically, Emin decided to join the German effort in East Africa after Stanley delivered him safely to the coast. Two personalities emerged from the scramble for the colony between Germany and Britain. The man chosen to lead the British effort was Frederick Dealtry Lugard, while the Germans placed their faith in Dr.Carl Peters. In 1890, a treaty was signed between Mwanga, the successor to Mutesa, and the Germans. Politics in Europe changed the situation only months later and Lugard forced a rather confused Mwanga into another treaty, granting protection to Buganda in return for jurisdictional rights for the Imperial British East Africa Company, Lugard's employers. The territorial rights in Uganda had been swapped with the Germans for Heligoland .

Missionaries and Religion in Pre-colonial Uganda

The Arab traders had brought Islam to Uganda. Slavery and bigamy, so prevalent in Bagandan culture, were condoned by the Muslims; this made it a very easy faith to relate to. The antithesis of these values presented themselves in the Christians who arrived from Europe condemning slavery and advocating monogamy. Most relevant to Uganda was the conflict between the Protestants, represented by the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) and the Roman Catholics represented by the French White Fathers. The protagonists in the 1880s in Uganda were Alexander Mackay of the C.M.S. and Pere Lourdel of the White Fathers. Though ardent rivals, the two men were forced into friendship because of steadily increasing hostility from Mutesa who, by the early 1880s, had become unpredictable and bloodthirsty. When Mutesa died in 1884 and his son Mwanga succeeded him, a new hope was short lived. Mwanga, who was only 18 years old, distrusted the missionaries and all their followers. He was responsible for the torture and murder of thousands of Christians, among them Bishop Hannington. The murder of Hannington and his retinue sparked a full year of relentless killings. It was not until Lugard came to Mwanga's court that the Kabaka had other matters, more pressing, to consider.

British Protectorate to Independence

Gladstone's government officially announced that Uganda was to become a British Protectorate in 1894. Lugard was largely responsible for settling the religious wars between the now Muslim Mwanga and Christian Kabalega and safekeeping the territory until the British moved in and the IBEA Co. was dismantled. In 1899 Kabalega and Mwanga were captured and exiled to the Seychelles. Having disposed of the 'troublesome elements' the British administration proceeded to install their own, carefully selected, kings of Buganda, Bunyoro, Toro and Ankole. The Baganda were used as agents in effecting British rule, a policy of convenience that was to have far reaching consequences for the future peace and stability of Uganda. The Buganda Agreement of 1900 set the trend for 'indirect rule', whereby the British would rule through the Bagandan oligarchy while retaining a facade of traditional government, hence creating a framework of British controlled civil servants. The British kept the Baganda out of the military and police forces with the excuse that they were too short. Hints of proletariat discontent came to a head in 1945 and 1949 with riots in Buganda. The riots were directed against the ruling oligarchy as well as the Asian and European monopoly in crop marketing and processing. The colonial structure of government was to remain in place with very little modification until Sir Andrew Cohen (Governor of Uganda, 1952-56) instigated a form of central government in 1953. In the same year, Kabaka (king) Mutesa II was deported to England for refusing to have any part in an East African Federation (he returned in 1955). This event along with the formation of the Uganda National Congress (UNC), the Democratic Party (DP) and the Progressive Party, served to split the Bagandan Hierarchy and further divide the country along religious lines. UNC was predominantly Protestant while DP had a Catholic executive committee A traditionalist Bagandan party, Kabaka Yekka (KY) was formed as a direct result of Bagandan loyalty to the Kabaka. The first party to be formed lead by a non-Bagandan was the Uganda Peoples Union (UPC); Apollo Milton Obote was its leader and became, on October 9th 1962, the first Prime Minister of an Independent Uganda.

Post Independence Uganda

Because of loyal support in Buganda, when Obote formed his government, the KY was well represented (almost a junior partner in government). The Kabaka was elected Constitutional Head of State, while Obote ruled the country through his cabinet. Obote had inherited a promising country. The British had laid down all the necessary infrastructure for success. Makerere University and Mulago Hospital were well regarded institutions throughout the world, and industry, agriculture and trade were flourishing. On the other hand the melting pot of tribal, religious and political differences made the task of government very complex. The Independence Constitution was a difficult document to interpret having been written by diverse groups with self interest a prime motive. However, the fundamental stumbling block for Uganda's government was the anomaly between the alliance of the UPC and the KY. That Obote, a herdsboy from Lango, succeeded in implementing an alliance, and maintaining a friendship with the hereditary king of Buganda, was an outstanding political feat. The alliance was a means to an end; to prevent the DP from being re-elected after independence. Obote's own political ideologies were directed to creating a United Republic. He did this at the expense of the Bugandan Kingdom, expelling the Kabaka and abolishing the kingdom in the bloody massacre at the battle of Mengo in 1966. Kabaka Edward Mutesa II was forced into exile in England where he died in poverty three years later. Obote abolished all other kingdoms and effectively alienated himself from most fractions of the population. All of this was done in the name of establishing "One Nation, One People, One Parliament" under Milton Obote. The constitutional crisis in 1966 unearthed Major General Idi Amin, who was now at the head of an army Obote could not do without. Effectively, the military were the policy implementing body for a civilian administration. This situation prevailed until the 25th January 1971 when Amin ousted Obote, while Obote was at a conference in Singapore, and took over as Head of State and the military implemented their own policies. The feeling throughout Uganda was one of relief and jubilation. The Baganda welcomed Amin to power with unrestrained enthusiasm. Amin maintained this momentum by returning the Kabaka's body to the Bagandans at the earliest opportunity. Worldwide, a new era was heralded for Uganda. The Daily Telegraph carried a front page picture of an unescorted Amin driving himself in an open jeep, unheard of for an African Head of State. Amin appointed an experienced and capable cabinet and pronounced a whole series of progressive reforms. Killings in the army, where Amin's tribesmen were engaged in a systematic massacre of Acholi and Langi, were the first signs to a watching public of the madness to follow The expulsion of the Israelis in 1972 was ultimately a result of their refusal to supply arms to Uganda. The Asian exodus was one of the most significant events in Uganda's history. It has scarred Uganda for the rest of its national life and the wound, only now beginning to heal, was open for nearly a quarter of a century. The reason for the expulsion is not clear; certainly Amin was under significant internal pressure to 'deliver the goods' of post liberation euphoria and expectation, not just from the civilian population but also his army. The Asians owned and controlled over half the country's wealth and expelling them was a short cut to achieving what was expected. In addition, Amin bore some motives for revenge on the British. Many Asians were British citizens and as he later put it when expelling the British, he "wanted to teach the British a lesson they would never forget" According to Amin, the reason for expelling the Asians was revealed to him in a dream, where God decreed that if he didn't do it, the country would be ruined. Amin's last six years in power were marked with various failed coup attempts and continued threat of war from exiled Ugandans in Tanzania. The infamous "Raid on Entebbe" by the Israelis was a prominent news item in July 1976. Though Amin continued to exercise free licence to murder anybody he perceived to be a threat, people seemed to get on with life, albeit under fearful conditions. In 1978 he invaded Northern Tanzania in an effort to boost failing morale and wipe out more enemies. The retaliation was supported by many exiled Ugandan fighting troops, including the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) which was lead by Yoweri Museveni. The advance on Kampala was swift against the demoralised, though heavily armed, troops of Idi Amin. The Tanzanian and Ugandan liberators arrived in Kampala in April 1979 under the banner of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Once again the chorus of jubilation echoed around the streets. After a short period of indecision, the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) was formed from an amalgam of several Ugandan political and military groups. Not for the first time in Uganda's history the people had united against a common enemy. Once the dust settled, however, the all too obvious differences surfaced and the power vacuum could not be filled for long, if it ever was. Yusuf Lule was appointed President and remained in power for just two months. Godfrey Binaisa followed and was deposed in a military coup eleven months later. Paul Muwanga headed the Military Commission and announced that national elections would be eld four months later, on the 30th September 1980. Once again Obote, who returned from exile, would contest elections as leader of the UPC. A third major political party emerged to do battle with the DP and UPC. It was the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) and once more Yoweri Museveni's name was prominent in Ugandan affairs. Milton Obote won the election with a comfortable, though dubiously attained margin and was sworn in as President on the 11th December 1980. Obote had an army under Major General Tito Okello firmly behind him and returned to power anxious for revenge on those who supported Amin in 1979. Worst of all for Ugandans, Obote had no control over the army, whose senior officers systematically plundered government coffers, and whose ranks looted and raped at whim. Dissatisfied with the election results, Yoweri Museveni, together with 26 young men, retreated into the bush of the Luwero Triangle and started what was to be a long campaign of guerrilla warfare. The National Resistance Army (NRA) was formed under the banner of the National Resistance Movement (NRM). The turning point in the long bush war was the death of the UNLA commander, Oyite-Ojok, who was Obote's cousin. He was a powerful figure and his death demoralised Obote's troops and caused a power struggle within the Langi and Acholi factions of the army. Obote's men continued to run riot in the city and towns, frustrated at the lack of success against the NRA. Obote consistently resisted appeals to negotiate with the NRA and he gradually alienated the Acholi who felt they were fighting alone against the NRA. This lead to his final removal from power by his own army, for the second time. The constitution was suspended, Parliament dissolved and Major General Tito Okello was sworn in as President in July 1985. The violence and lawlessness continued. Gradually the NRA gained more support and more control in crucial areas, while the Okello Government suffered at the hands of its free-riding army. Museveni and Okello met in Kenya and signed peace agreements for a new, equally represented government. Within a month of the agreement, it was obvious that both parties were not satisfied. The war intensified and the NRA moved closer to Kampala, the UNLA splintered and on the 26th January 1986 Kampala was overrun by the NRA. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was sworn in as President of Uganda on 29th January 1986. To a huge gathering outside the Parliamentary buildings, Museveni announced that his takeover represented a fundamental change in the affairs of Uganda and not a "mere change of guards". He proclaimed a ten point programme through which the NRM would "usher in a new and better future for the people of Uganda". The ten points included some issues ignored or maligned by the previous seven presidents, such as democracy, security, elimination of corruption and the well-being of the economy of Uganda. To mixed reactions, a large, broad-based cabinet was appointed. It encompassed friend and foe alike. In an effort to unite every corner of Uganda under one government, Musevenii included representatives of previously antagonistic political parties, tribal groups and religious factions in the government of the day. Museveni extended personal invitations to exiled Ugandans, to many he offered key government advisory or corporate positions. A significant 'brain drain' had taken place during the war years and Museveni was anxious that these individuals should return and help rebuild a fragmented and broken country. When the NRA arrived in Kampala serious resistance was not encountered. The victorious soldiers were disciplined and friendly, the looting and uncontrolled killing of previous changes of leadership were absent.The army was within the law not above it. The task that lay ahead in 1986 was immense. The distorted and violent policies of a whirlwind of governments had left Ugandans without a true belief in their leaders. Exposing a dormant National pride and identity was essential to rebuild the battered country and was always going to be one of Museveni's most painful and arduous tasks. Convincing the people that a democracy would emerge from a military takeover and that measures such as the suspension of political party activities were for the common good did not auger well. The policy, however, was sound; it enabled everybody to settle down and take stock under the wing of the NRA. The country was in a mess and only a slow, systematic and transparent examination of the damage could begin to set wrongs to right. The NRA re-established law and order everywhere in Uganda, except the north and north-east which remained bastions of discontent and insecurity. The sporadic lawlessness in the north has been a constant problem to the NRM, and until a National identity emerges the issue will remain. Infrastructure in every aspect of life, whether the judicial system, the Constitution, roads, agriculture, health, education or tourism, had broken down. Infrastructural redevelopment was the starting point for the new government. In addition, a system of local government through locally elected officials was put in place from the very beginning. Every Ugandan is a member of at least one legislative body that gives him a voice in everyday affairs. This was to be the foundation on which National identity would be built. The personification of Uganda's malaise has been the magnitude of the AIDS crisis. Uganda was one of the first countries in Africa to recognise and begin to deal with the problem. The results have been very positive. Education and awareness have been the key areas targeted by the programmes initiated. With political stability and infrastructural redevelopment underway, the Government was able to focus on the ailing economy Certain key issues such as the historical overdependence on coffee as a foreign exchange earner and the lack of a sound taxation policy were highlighted and measures inplaced to expedite change. With the liberalisation of the economy, foreign exchange is freely and legally traded over the counter. The coffee industry was also liberalised. Internal change for the better has allowed the international image of Uganda to flourish. The achievements of the NRM and particularly Yoweri Museveni, are recognised and applauded outside Uganda. Museveni was elected Chairman of the Organisation of` African Unity in 1990 and the following year was the first African leader invited to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Foreign aid to Uganda has facilitated its recovery and foreign investment is now building on this. The NRM has taken longer than anticipated to achieve some of its goals, but they are being realised. With the help of every Ugandan, 'the Pearl' will once again shine in Africa.

Last update: 25 April 2008

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