Background Notes: Uganda

PA/PC Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Date: Mar 38, 19913/38/91 Category: Country Data Region: Subsaharan Africa Country: Uganda Subject: Military Affairs, Cultural Exchange, Travel, History, Trade/Economics, International Organizations [TEXT] 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 expectancy-50 yrs.
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 circle.
GDP (1989): $3.6 billion. Inflation rate (1989): Approx. 60%. Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, limestone. Agriculture: Products-coffee, cotton, tea, bananas, tobacco, sugarcane, corn, cassava. 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.


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 southern regions. 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 1879. 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 forces. 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 Kampala. 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 president. 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 States.


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 economic reform. 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 Peace commodities. 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 officials. 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- Ugandan relations.
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 thoroughly. 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.(###)