Background Notes: Uganda
Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public
Date: Mar 38, 19913/38/91
Category: Country Data
Region: Subsaharan Africa
Subject: Military Affairs, Cultural Exchange, Travel,
Official Name: Republic of Uganda
Area: 235,885 sq. km. (94,354 sq. mi.); about the size of Oregon.
Cities: Capital-Kampala (pop. 331,900). Other cities-Jinja, Mbale,
Mbarara. Terrain: 18% inland water and swamp; 12% national parks,
forest, and game reserves; 70% forest, woodland, grassland.
Climate: In the northeast, semi-arid-rainfall less than 50 cm. (20
in.); in southwest, rainfall 130 cm. (50 in.) or more. Two dry
seasons-Dec.-Feb. and June-July.
Nationality: Noun and adjective-Ugandan(s). Population (1989): 17
million. Annual growth rate (1989): 3.4%. Ethnic groups: African
(99%), European, Asian, Arab (1%). Religions: Christian (majority),
Muslim, traditional. Languages: English (official); Luganda and
Swahili widely used; other Bantu and Nilotic languages. Education:
Attendance (1989, primary school enrollment)-60%. Literacy
(1989)-52%. Health: Infant mortality rate-99/1,000. Life
Type: Transitional military government. Constitution: 1967
(suspended 1985). Independence: October 9, 1962.
Branches: Executive-president, prime minister, cabinet.
Legislative-National Resistance Council (parliament). Judiciary-
magistrates courts, appeals court, High Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 10 provinces, 34 districts. Political
parties: Uganda People's Congress (UPC), Democratic Party (DP),
(political activity is suspended). Suffrage: Universal adult. National
holiday: Independence Day, Oct. 9.
Flag: Six horizontal stripes-black, yellow, red, black, yellow, red-
with the national emblem, the crested crane, in a centered white
GDP (1989): $3.6 billion. Inflation rate (1989): Approx. 60%.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, limestone. Agriculture:
Products-coffee, cotton, tea, bananas, tobacco, sugarcane, corn,
Industry: Types-processing of agricultural products (cotton ginning,
coffee curing), cement production, light consumer goods, textiles.
Trade (1989): Exports-$282 million: coffee, cotton, tea. Major
market-EC. Imports (1989)-$563 million: petroleum products,
machinery, cotton textiles, metals, transportation equipment. Major
suppliers-OPEC countries, EC.
Official exchange rate (1990): 540 Ugandan shillings=US $1.
Fiscal year: July 1-June 30.
Membership in International Organizations
UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, Organization of
African Unity (OAU), Group of 77, Commonwealth, Non-aligned
Movement, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), INTELSAT.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Africans of three main ethnic groups-Bantu, Nilotic, and Nilo-
Hamitic-constitute most of the population. The Bantu are the most
numerous and include the Baganda, which, with more than 1 million
members, constitute the largest single ethnic group.
The Nilo-Hamitic Iteso is the second largest group, followed
by the Banyankole and Basoga, both of Bantu extraction. Uganda's
population is predominantly rural, and its density is highest in the
Until 1972, Asians constituted the largest non-indigenous
ethnic group in Uganda. In that year, the Idi Amin regime expelled
50,000 Asians, who had been engaged in trade, industry, and various
professions. In the years since Amin's overthrow in 1979, Asians
have slowly returned. About 3,000 Arabs of various national origins
and small numbers of Asians live in Uganda. Other non-indigenous
people in Uganda include several hundred Western missionaries and
a few diplomats and business people.
When Arab traders moved inland from their enclaves along the
Indian Ocean coast of East Africa and reached the interior of Uganda
in the 1830s, they found several African kingdoms with well-
developed political institutions dating back several centuries.
These traders were followed in the 1860s by British explorers
searching for the source of the Nile River. Protestant missionaries
entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in
In 1888, control of the emerging British "sphere of interest"
in East Africa was assigned by royal charter to the Imperial British
East Africa Company, an arrangement strengthened in 1890 by an
Anglo-German agreement confirming British dominance over Kenya
and Uganda. The high cost of occupying the territory caused the
company to withdraw in 1893, and its administrative functions
were taken over by a British commissioner. In 1894, the Kingdom of
Buganda was placed under a formal British protectorate.
The British protectorate period began to change formally in
1955, when constitutional changes leading to Uganda's independence
were adopted. The first general elections in Uganda were held in
1961, and the British government granted internal self-government
to Uganda on March 1, 1962, with Benedicto Kiwanuka as the first
prime minister. Uganda maintained its Commonwealth membership.
In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied
with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for
tribally based local kingdoms. Political maneuvering climaxed in
February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the
constitution, assumed all government powers, and removed the
president and vice president. In September 1967, a new
constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even
greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms. On January
25, 1971, Obote's government was ousted in a military coup led by
armed forces commander Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself
president, dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution
to give himself absolute power.
Idi Amin's 8-year rule produced economic decline, social
disintegration, and massive human rights violations. The Acholi and
Langi tribes were particular objects of Amin's political persecution
because Obote and many of his supporters belonged to those tribes.
In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that
more than 100,000 Ugandans had been murdered during Amin's reign
of terror; some authorities place the figure much higher.
In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an
incursion of Amin's troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian
force, backed by Ugandan exiles, waged a war of liberation against
Amin's troops and Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On April 11,
1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining
After Amin's removal, the Uganda National Liberation Front
(UNLF) formed an interim government with Yusuf Lule as president.
This government adopted a ministerial system of administration
and created a quasi-parliamentary organ known as the National
Consultative Commission (NCC). The NCC and the Lule cabinet
reflected widely differing political views. In June 1979, following
a dispute over the extent of presidential powers, the NCC replaced
President Lule with Godfrey Binaisa. In a continuing dispute over
the powers of the interim presidency, Binaisa was removed in May
1980. Thereafter, Uganda was ruled by a military commission
chaired by Paulo Muwanga. The December 1980 elections returned
the UPC to power under the leadership of President Obote, with
Muwanga serving as vice president. Under Obote, the security
forces had one of the world's worst human rights records. In their
efforts to stamp out an insurgency led by Yoweri Museveni's
National Resistance Army (NRA), they lay waste to a substantial
section of the country, especially in the Luwero area north of
Obote ruled until July 27, 1985, when an army brigade,
composed mostly of Acholi troops and commanded by Lt. Gen. Basilio
Olara-Okello, took Kampala and proclaimed a military government.
Obote fled to exile in Zambia. The new regime, headed by former
defense force commander Gen. Tito Okello (no relation to Lt. Gen.
Olara-Okello), opened negotiations with the insurgent forces of
Yoweri Museveni, and pledged to improve respect for human rights,
end tribal rivalry, and conduct free and fair elections. In the
meantime, massive human rights violations continued as the Okello
government murdered civilians and ravaged the countryside in order
to destroy the NRA's support.
Negotiations between the Okello government and the NRA were
conducted in Nairobi in the fall of 1985, with Kenyan President
Daniel Moi seeking a cease-fire and a coalition government in
Uganda. Although agreeing in late 1985 to a cease-fire, the NRA
continued fighting, seized Kampala in late January 1986, and
assumed control of the country, forcing Okello to flee north into
Sudan. Museveni's forces organized a government with Museveni as
Since assuming power, the NRA-led government has largely
put an end to the human rights abuses of earlier governments,
established a human rights commission to investigate previous
abuses, and instituted broad economic reforms after consultation
with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and donor
governments. A constitutional commission was named to draft a
new constitution. Insurgent elements and armed bandits in the
north and east harass government forces and create a sense of
insecurity, but they do not threaten the stability of the regime.
The Ugandan government is a transitional one which initially
pledged to rule for 4 years. Citing continued security difficulties
that frustrated achievement of political peace and sustained
economic recovery, the mandate was unilaterally extended for 5
additional years in October 1989. The executive consists of
officials representing widely diverse political outlooks. Yoweri
Museveni is president and minister of defense, and Samson Kisekka
is prime minister. In 1990, President Museveni was elected
chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Symbolically,
it signaled Uganda's reentry into the world community.
Legislative responsibility is vested in the 270-person
National Resistance Council (parliament), most of whose members
were elected in February 1989. The Ugandan judiciary operates as
an independent branch of government and consists of magistrates
courts, the High Court, and the High Court for Appeals. Political
parties may not conduct public political activities.
Principal Government Officials
President, Minister of Defense, and Chairman of the National
Resistance Council--Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Vice President--Dr. Samson B.M. Kisekka
Prime Minister--George Adyebo
Foreign Minister--Paul Ssemogerere
Ambassador to the United States--Stephen Katenta-Apuli
Uganda maintains an embassy in the United States at 5909
16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011 (tel. 202-726-7100).
Uganda's economy has great potential. Endowed with
significant natural resources, including amply fertile land, regular
rainfall, and mineral deposits, it appeared poised for rapid
economic growth and development at independence. Yet, chronic
political instability and erratic economic management produced a
record of persistent economic decline that has left Uganda among
the world's poorest and least-developed countries.
After the turmoil of the Amin era, the country began a
program of economic recovery in 1981 that received considerable
foreign assistance. From mid-1984 on, however, overly
expansionist fiscal and monetary policies and the renewed outbreak
of civil strife led to a setback in economic performance.
Since assuming power in early 1986, the government of
President Museveni has taken important first steps toward
economic rehabilitation. Much of the country's infrastructure-
notably its transportation and communications systems which were
destroyed by war and neglect -must be rebuilt. Progress to date has
been limited but encouraging. Recognizing the need for increased
external support, Uganda negotiated a policy framework paper with
the IMF and the World Bank in 1987. It subsequently began
implementing economic policies designed to restore price stability
and sustainable balance of payments; improve capacity utilization;
rehabilitate infrastructure; restore producer incentives through
proper price policies; and improve resource mobilization and
allocation in the public sector. By 1990, these policies were
beginning to produce results. Inflation dropped from 300% in 1987
to less than 30% in 1990; some prices stabilized, production
increased, and consumer goods were more widely available. The
Ugandan government also has worked with Western countries to
reschedule or cancel the country's debts.
Agricultural products supply nearly all of Uganda's foreign
exchange earnings, with coffee alone accounting for over 90% of the
country's exports. However, with world coffee prices dropping,
other exports are becoming more important. Exports of hides, skins,
vegetables, fruits, and fish are growing, and cotton, tea, and
tobacco continue to be mainstays.
Most industry is related to agriculture. The industrial sector
is being rehabilitated to resume production of building and
construction materials, such as cement, reinforcing rods,
corrugated roofing sheets, and paint. Domestically produced
consumer goods include plastics, soap, beer, and soft drinks.
Uganda has about 32,000 kilometers (20,000 mi.) of roads;
some 6,400 kilometers (4,000 mi.) are paved. Most radiate from
Kampala. The country has about 1,300 kilometers (800 mi.) of rail
lines. A railroad originating at Mombasa on the Indian Ocean
connects with Tororo, where it branches westward to Jinja,
Kampala, and Kasese and northward to Mbale, Soroti, Lira, Gulu, and
Kapwach. Uganda's important road and rail links to Mombasa serve
its transport needs and also those of its neighbors-Rwanda,
Burundi, and parts of Zaire and Sudan. An international airport is at
Entebbe on the shore of Lake Victoria, some 32 kilometers (20 mi.)
south of Kampala.
Uganda is a UN member and a founding member of the
Organization of African Unity. It also belongs to the Non-aligned
Movement, the Group of 77, and the Organization of the Islamic
Conference. In its multilateral diplomacy, Uganda presses for the
end of all discrimination and the establishment of a multiracial
democracy in South Africa.
The Museveni government seeks good relations with all
nations and welcomes contacts without reference to ideological
orientation. Relations with Kenya, however, have been strained
periodically because of trade problems and charges that exiled
political dissidents are not curtailed in Kenya. Neighbors also are
concerned about Uganda's relationship with Libya, which has
supplied military equipment and bartered fuel to Uganda. In
addition to its ties to Western nations, Uganda has sought to
maintain friendly ties with North Korea, the Soviet Union, and other
former Eastern bloc countries, as well as with Cuba.
The National Resistance Army (NRA) constitutes the armed
forces of Uganda. Since 1986, its cohesiveness has been diluted by
incorporating new recruits with no field experience, and members
of other political groups. Uganda received military supplies and
training from North Korea, Libya, and the Soviet Union. Training is
also provided by Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and the United
US-Ugandan relations were strained and ultimately all but
broken during Idi Amin's rule. In 1973, persistent security
problems and increasingly difficult operating circumstances forced
withdrawal of US Peace Corps volunteers and the termination of
bilateral US economic assistance. In November 1973, after
repeated public threats against US Embassy officials and after the
expulsion of Marine security guards responsible for protecting US
government property and personnel, the embassy was closed. In
1978, Congress legislated an embargo of all US trade with Uganda.
Relations improved after Amin's fall. In mid-1979, the United
States reopened its embassy in Kampala. Relations with successor
governments were cordial, although Obote and his administration
rejected strong US criticism of Uganda's human rights situation.
Bilateral relations between the United States and Uganda have been
good since Museveni assumed power, and the United States has
welcomed his efforts to end human rights abuses and to pursue
In the early-to mid-1980s, the United States provided about
$10 million in assistance to Uganda annually, mostly in the form of
humanitarian aid (food, medical supplies, hospital rehabilitation,
and disaster relief) and agricultural equipment needed to promote
economic recovery in the food and cash crop sectors of Uganda's
rural economy. In 1989, the United States provided $17 million in
development assistance, along with grant PL-480 commodity
assistance (vegetable oil and tallow) with a market value of about
$7 million. The US Agency for International Development (USAID)
funding for 1991 is approximately $56 million, including Food for
The US Information Agency (USIA) has carried out a cultural
exchange program aiding sports programs and the National Theater,
bringing Fulbright professors to teach at Makerere University, and
sponsoring US study and tour programs for many government
Significant contributions to Ugandan health care, nutrition,
education, and park systems from US missionaries, non-
governmental organizations, private universities, AIDS researchers,
and wildlife organizations have brought long-term benefits to US-
Principal US Officials
Ambassador--John A. Burroughs, Jr.
Deputy Chief of Mission--Robert Gribbin
Public Affairs Officer--Dudley Sims
Director, AID--Keith Sherper
The US Embassy in Uganda is in the British High Commission
Building on Parliament Avenue, Kampala (tel. 259792/3/5).
Climate and clothing: Although Uganda straddles the Equator,
its altitude makes the climate temperate year round. Light-weight
clothing supplemented by sweaters for the evening is most
practical. Rainwear is needed during the rainy season.
Customs: Visas are required for entry, as are inoculations for
cholera and yellow fever. Travelers are required to exchange $150
dollars in Ugandan shillings upon arrival, and receipts should be
retained to be shown upon departure. A $10 airport departure tax
also is levied.
Health: Malaria is present, and malaria suppressants are
recommended. Boil and filter water and wash fruits and vegetables
Telecommunications: Telephone and telex services are
generally available to the US and Europe. Kampala is 8 time zones
ahead of eastern standard time.
Transportation: Kampala is served by several international
airlines from Europe and by more extensive connections through
Nairobi. In-country, private cars serving as taxis are often crowded
and unreliable. Traffic moves on the left.
Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of
Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington,
DC --Series Editor: Peter Knecht--Department of State Publication
Background Notes Series. This material is in the public domain and
may be reprinted without permission; citation of this source is
appreciated. For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.(###)