Facts & Figures
President: Yoweri Museveni (1986)
Prime Minister: Ruhakana Rugunda (2014)
Land area: 77,108 sq mi (199,710 sq km); total area: 91,135 sq mi (236,040 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 35,918,915 (growth rate: 3.24%); birth rate: 44.17/1000; infant mortality rate: 60.82/1000; life expectancy: 54.46
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Kampala, 1.659 million
Monetary unit: Ugandan new shilling
- Uganda Main Page
- A Dictator's Reign of Terror
- New President Brings New Hope
- The Threat of the Lord's Resistance Army
- Museveni Elected to a Fourth Term
- Getting Closer to Capturing Kony
Uganda, twice the size of Pennsylvania, is in East Africa. It is bordered on the west by Congo, on the north by the Sudan, on the east by Kenya, and on the south by Tanzania and Rwanda. The country, which lies across the equator, is divided into three main areas—swampy lowlands, a fertile plateau with wooded hills, and a desert region. Lake Victoria forms part of the southern border.
Multiparty democractic republic.
About 500 B.C. Bantu-speaking peoples migrated to the area now called Uganda. By the 14th century, three kingdoms dominated, Buganda (meaning "state of the Gandas"), Bunyoro, and Ankole. Uganda was first explored by Europeans as well as Arab traders in 1844. An Anglo-German agreement of 1890 declared it to be in the British sphere of influence in Africa, and the Imperial British East Africa Company was chartered to develop the area. The company did not prosper financially, and in 1894 a British protectorate was proclaimed. Few Europeans permanently settled in Uganda, but it attracted many Indians, who became important players in Ugandan commerce.
Uganda became independent on Oct. 9, 1962. Sir Edward Mutesa, the king of Buganda (Mutesa II), was elected the first president, and Milton Obote the first prime minister, of the newly independent country. With the help of a young army officer, Col. Idi Amin, Prime Minister Obote seized control of the government from President Mutesa four years later.
A Dictator's Reign of Terror
On Jan. 25, 1971, Colonel Amin deposed President Obote. Obote went into exile in Tanzania. Amin expelled Asian residents and launched a reign of terror against Ugandan opponents, torturing and killing tens of thousands. In 1976, he had himself proclaimed "President for Life." In 1977, Amnesty International estimated that 300,000 may have died under his rule, including church leaders and recalcitrant cabinet ministers.
After Amin held military exercises on the Tanzanian border in 1978, angering Tanzania's president, Julius Nyerere, a combined force of Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exiles loyal to former president Obote invaded Uganda and chased Amin into exile in Saudi Arabia in 1979. After a series of interim administrations, President Obote led his People's Congress Party to victory in 1980 elections that opponents charged were rigged. On July 27, 1985, army troops staged a coup and took over the government. Obote fled into exile. The military regime installed Gen. Tito Okello as chief of state.
New President Brings New Hope
The National Resistance Army (NRA), an anti-Obote group led by Yoweri Museveni, kept fighting after it had been excluded from the new regime. It seized Kampala on Jan. 29, 1986, and Museveni was declared president. Museveni has transformed the ruins of Idi Amin and Milton Obote's Uganda into an economic miracle, preaching a philosophy of self-sufficiency and anti-corruption. Western countries have flocked to assist him in the country's transformation. Nevertheless, it remains one of Africa's poorest countries. A ban on political parties was lifted in 1996, and the incumbent Museveni won 72% of the vote, reflecting his popularity due to the country's economic recovery.
Uganda has waged an enormously successful campaign against AIDS, dramatically reducing the rate of new infections through an intensive public health and education campaign. Museveni won reelection in March 2001 with 70% of the vote, following a nasty and spirited campaign.
Close ties with Rwanda (many Rwandan Tutsi exiles helped Museveni come to power) led to the cooperation of Uganda and Rwanda in the ousting of Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, and a year later, in efforts to unseat his successor, Laurent Kabila, whom both countries originally supported but from whom they grew estranged. But in 1999, Uganda and Rwanda quarreled over strategy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and began fighting each other. The two countries mended their differences in 2002. Uganda also signed a peace accord with the Congo in Sept. 2002 and finally withdrew its remaining troops from the country in May 2003.
In July 2005, parliament amended the constitution to eliminate term limits, thus allowing President Museveni another term in office. In August, a multi-party political system was reinstituted after a 19-year absence. In Feb. 2006, Museveni was reelected with 59% of the vote.
The Threat of the Lord's Resistance Army
Uganda's 18-year-long battle against the brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an extremist rebel group based in Sudan, showed signs of abating in Aug. 2006, when the rebels agreed to declare a truce. Between 8,000 and 10,000 children have been abducted by the LRA to form the army of "prophet" Joseph Kony, whose aim was to take over Uganda and run it according to his vision of Christianity. The boys are turned into soldiers and the girls into sex slaves. Up to 1.5 million people in northern Uganda have been displaced because of the fighting and the fear that their children will be abducted. Kony and three other LRA leaders have been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. The LRA and the government signed a permanent cease-fire in February 2008. Kony failed to show up to sign the landmark agreement several times in 2008, dashing hopes for formalized peace. The rebels, however, sought a cease-fire in January 2009, after the armies of Uganda, Southern Sudan, and Congo attacked their bases.
Parliament introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in November 2009. The legislation would implement the death penalty on gay individuals. The proposed bill met fierce condemnation from the European Union and the United States. Parliament did not act on the bill, and it became increasingly unpopular following the January 2011 murder of Ugandan gay-rights activist David Kato. In May, the government shelved the bill.
In July 2010, about 75 people watching the final game of the World Cup in a Kampala restaurant were killed in an explosion. The Somali militant Islamist group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying the attack was aimed at discouraging countries from supporting the transitional government in Somalia. Al-Shabab has been battling Somalia's weak, Western-backed government for power for several years. Uganda contributes troops to an African Union force that has been propping up the government in Somalia.
Museveni Elected to a Fourth Term
Musveni was elected to a fourth term in Feb. 2011 elections, taking 68.4% of the vote. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye garnered 26% and alleged fraud in the election. In late April, protests over rising food and fuel prices and corruption broke out in Kampala. The government responded with disproportionate force, killing five people and wounding dozens. Besigye, who was a leading figure in organizing the protests, was arrested and shot. He fled to Kenya upon release from jail for medical treatment. His return to Kenya coincided with Musveni's inauguration, and Besigye's supporters far outnumbered those for the president. In fact, the opposition launched the largest anti-government protest to date.
In Oct. 2011, Uganda's foreign minister and two other members of the ruling party resigned to face corruption charges. The recent discovery of large oil reserves has put further strain on a government famous for fraud. Following allegations that oil companies paid bribes to ministers, President Yoweri Museveni denied that his government engaged in fraud when handing out oil contracts. Meanwhile, parliament has voted to suspend all pending oil deals until a national oil policy could be put in place.
Getting Closer to Capturing Kony
In May 2012, one of the Lord's Resistance Army's top military strategists and commander, Caesar Acellam, was captured by Ugandan soldiers near the Central African Republic's border with Congo. Although Acellam is not one of those indicted along with Joseph Kony for crimes against humanity, his capture will provide valuable intelligence, which will, in turn, bring Kony one step closer to judgment before the International Criminal Court.
Lawyer Amama Mbabazi served as prime minster from May 2011 until Sept. 2014, when he was dropped from the Cabinet. On Sept. 18, 2014, Ruhakana Rugunda succeeded Mbabazi as prime minister. A physician, Rugunda has served in a variety of Cabinet posts since 1986.