Land and People
Lying astride the equator, most of Uganda consists of a fertile plateau (average elevation 4,000 ft/1,220 m), in the center of which is Lake Kyoga. The plateau is bounded (W) by the western branch of the Great Rift Valley, including lakes Albert and Edward (in each case about half of the lake is in Uganda) and the Albert Nile River; by the Ruwenzori Range (SW), including Margherita Peak (16,794 ft/5,119 m), Uganda's loftiest point, and the Virunga Mts.; by Lake Victoria (S), about half of which is in Uganda; and by several mountain ranges (E and N). The eastern mountains include Mt. Elgon (14,178 ft/4,321 m), part of which is in Kenya, and Mt. Moroto (10,114 ft/3,083 m). Altogether, about 18% of Uganda is made up of water surface and about 7% comprises highland situated at more than 5,000 ft (1,520 m). In addition to Kampala, other cities include Entebbe, Gulu, Jinja, Masaka, and Mbale.
About 90% of Uganda's inhabitants live in rural areas. Approximately 70% of the people speak one of the Bantu languages; the main Bantu ethnic groups, all of whom live in the southern half of the country, are the Baganda (who make up about 17% of the country's total population), Banyankole, Basoga, Bakiga, and Bagisu. Other language groups in Uganda are the Western Nilotic (principally the Langi, Acholi, and Alur), whose speakers live in the north and make up about 15% of the population; the Eastern Nilotic (mainly the Iteso and Karimajong), whose members live in the northeast and make up about 10% of the population; and the Sudanic (the Lugbara), whose speakers live in the northwest and make up about 5% of the population. Between 1980 and 1985, thousands of refugees (mostly Tutsis) from Rwanda and Zaïre (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) settled in Uganda. English and Swahili are the country's official languages. More than 80% of the people are Christian, while about 12% are Muslim; the rest follow traditional religious beliefs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.