U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Republic of Uganda, February 1998
Released by the Office of East African Affairs, Bureau of African
Official Name: Republic of Uganda
Area: 241,040 sq. km. (93,070 sq. mi.); about the size of Oregon.
Cities: Capital--Kampala (1991 pop. 774,214). Other cities--Jinja,
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 (1995): 19 million.
Annual growth rate (1994): 2.9%.
Ethnic groups: African 99%, European, Asian, Arab 1%.
Religions: Christian 66%, Muslim 16%, traditional and other 18%.
Languages: English (official); Luganda and Swahili widely used; other
Bantu and Nilotic languages.
Education: Attendance (1995, primary school enrollment, public and
Health: Infant mortality rate--81/1,000. Life expectancy--37 yrs.
Type: No-party "Movement" system.
Constitution: The new Constitution was ratified on July 12, 1995, and
promulgated on October 8, 1995. Uganda held its first presidential
election under the 1995 Constitution on May 9, 1996, followed by
parliamentary elections on June 27, 1996. The Constitution provides for
an executive president, to be elected every five years, but with
significant requirements for parliamentary approval of presidential
Independence: October 9, 1962.
Branches: Executive--president, vice president, prime minister, cabinet.
Legislative--parliament. There are 214 directly elected representatives
and special indirectly elected seats for representatives of women 39,
youth 5, workers 3, disabled 5, and the army 10. Judiciary--magistrates
courts, High Court, Court of Appeals, Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 45 districts (6 recently authorized).
Political parties (political party activity is largely suspended):
Uganda People's Congress (UPC), Democratic Party (DP), Conservative
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 (1994): $5.155 billion.
Inflation rate (December 1996): Approx. 4.4%.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, limestone.
Agriculture: Cash crops--coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, cut
flowers, vanilla. Food crops--bananas, corn, cassava, potatoes, millet,
pulses (largely self-sufficient in food). Livestock and fisheries--beef,
goat meat, milk, nile perch, tilapia.
Industry: Types--processing of agricultural products (cotton ginning,
coffee curing), cement production, light consumer goods, textiles.
Trade (1995-96): Exports--$624.5 million: coffee, cotton, tobacco, tea.
Major market--EU. Imports (1994-95)--$1.193 billion: petroleum products,
machinery, cotton, textiles, metals, transportation equipment. Major
suppliers--OPEC countries, EU.
Exchange rate (March 1998): Uganda shillings 1,155=US $1.
Fiscal year: July 1-June 30.
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 about 3 million members (18% of the
population), constitute the largest single ethnic group.
The people of the southwest comprise 30% of the population, divided into
five major ethnic groups: the Banyankole and Bahima,10%; the Bakiga, 8%;
the Banyarwanda, 6%; the Bunyoro, 3%; and the Batoro, 3%). Residents of
the north, largely Nilotic, are the next largest group, including the
Langi, 6% and the Acholi, 4%. In the northwest are the Lugbara, 4%, and
the Karamojong, 2% occupy the considerably drier, largely pastoral
territory in the northeast. Europeans, Asians, and Arabs make up about
1% of the population with other groups accounting for the remainder.
Uganda's population is predominately rural, and its density is highest
in the southern regions.
Until 1972, Asians constituted the largest nonindigenous 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 nonindigenous 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
Britain granted internal self-government to Uganda in 1961, with the
first elections held on March 1, 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the
Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda maintained its
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 and constituted the
largest group in the army. 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
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 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 government dominated by the political grouping
created by Museveni and his followers, the National Resistance Movement
(NRM), has largely put an end to the human rights abuses of earlier
governments, overseen the successful efforts of a human rights
commission established to investigate previous abuses, initiated
substantial political liberalization and general press freedom, 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, which
was debated and ratified by a popularly elected constituent assembly on
July 12, 1995 and promulgated by President Museveni on October 8, 1995.
Under the transitional provisions of the new constitution, the "movement
system" will continue for five years, including explicit restrictions on
activities of political parties, which are nonetheless active. The
Constitution also calls for a referendum in the fourth year (the year
2000) to determine whether or not Uganda will adopt a multi-party system
Insurgent groups, the largest of which--the Lord's Resistance Army--
receives support from Sudan--harass government forces and murder and
kidnap civilians in the north and west. They do not, however, threaten
the stability of the government. Due to Sudanese support of various
guerrilla movements, Uganda severed diplomatic relations with Sudan on
April 22, 1995, and contacts between the Government of Uganda and the
National Islamic Front-dominated Government of Sudan remain limited.
The executive consists of officials who predominantly espouse movement
political views. Yoweri Museveni is the President and Minister of
Defense, Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe is the Vice President, and Kintu
Musoke is the Prime Minister. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is Eriya
Legislative responsibility is vested in the 276-person parliament, whose
members were elected in June 1996. The Ugandan judiciary operates as an
independent branch of government and consists of magistrates courts, the
high court, the court of appeals (which also hears constitutional cases
as the "constitutional court") and the Supreme Court.
Principal Government Officials
President and Minister of Defense--Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Vice President--Dr. (Mrs.) Specioza W. Kazibwe
Prime Minister--Kintu Musoke
Foreign Minister--Eriya Kategaya
Ambassador to the United States--Edith G. Ssempala
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 ample 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 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
Since assuming power in early 1986, the government of President Museveni
has taken important steps toward economic rehabilitation. The country's
infrastructure--notably its transportation and communications systems
which were destroyed by war and neglect--is being rebuilt. 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, which ran at 240% in 1987 and 42% in June 1992, was
3.4% in 1994/95 and 5.4% for fiscal year 1995/96.
Investment as a percentage of GDP is estimated at 18.3% in 1995/96
compared to 17.9% in 1994/95. Private sector investment, largely
financed by private transfers from abroad, was 12.3% of GDP in 1995/96.
Gross National Savings as a percentage of GDP was estimated at 20.9% in
1995/96. The Ugandan Government also has worked with donor countries to
reschedule or cancel substantial portions of the country's external
Agricultural products supply nearly all of Uganda's foreign exchange
earnings, with coffee alone (of which Uganda is Africa's leading
producer) accounting for about 65% of the country's exports in 1995/96.
Exports of hides, skins, vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, 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,
cork, beer, and soft drinks.
Uganda has about 30,000 kilometers (18,750 mi.), of roads; some 2,800
kilometers (1,750 mi.) are paved. Most radiate from Kampala. The country
has about 1,350 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.
The Ugandan Government seeks good relations with all nations and
welcomes contacts without reference to ideological orientation.
Relations with Kenya have been periodically strained because of security
concerns and occasional disagreements on trade.
In the past, neighbors were concerned about Uganda's relationship with
Libya, which had supplied military equipment and bartered fuel to
Uganda. In addition to its friendly ties to Western nations, Uganda has
maintained ties with North Korea. Uganda's strained relations with Sudan
have been due to Sudan's support of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and
other rebel groups. The LRA seeks to overthrow the Uganda Government and
has inflicted brutal violence on the population in northern Uganda,
including rape, kidnapping, torture, and murder.
A group operating in western Uganda near the Rwenzori Mountains, the
Allied Democratic Forces, emerged as a localized threat in 1996 and has
inflicted substantial suffering on the population in the area.
The Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF)--previously the National
Resistance Army--constitutes the armed forces of Uganda. Due to the
Sudanese-backed insurgencies, the Ministry of Defense increased defense
spending in 1995, 1996, and 1997. In 1996, the United States announced
that it would provide $4.5 million in non-lethal military assistance to
Uganda to assist in maintaining internal security. U.S. military forces
also have participated with the UPDF in training activities for the
African Crisis Response Initiative.
U.S.-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 U.S.
Peace Corps volunteers and the termination of bilateral U.S. economic
assistance. In November 1973, after repeated public threats against U.S.
embassy officials and after the expulsion of Marine security guards
responsible for protecting U.S. Government property and personnel, the
embassy was closed. In 1978, Congress legislated an embargo of all U.S
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 U.S.
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. At the same time, the
United States remains concerned about continuing human rights problems
and the pace of progress toward the establishment of political
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. The U.S. Agency
for International Development currently is funding a multifaceted
development program at a level of about $50 million per year, both
direct assistance and Food for Peace commodities.
The U.S. Information Agency has carried out a cultural exchange program
aiding the National Theater and other cultural institutions, bringing
Fulbright professors to teach at Makerere University, and sponsoring
U.S. study and tour programs for many government officials. U.S. Peace
Corps maintains volunteers in the country working in small enterprise
development, natural resources management, and education.
Significant contributions to Ugandan health care, nutrition, education,
and park systems from U.S. missionaries, non-governmental organizations,
private universities, AIDS researchers, and wildlife organizations have
brought long-term benefits to U.S.-Ugandan relations.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Nancy J. Powell
Deputy Chief of Mission--Peter Michael McKinley
Public Affairs Officer--Virgil Bodeen
Director, USAID--Donald Clark
The U.S. embassy in Uganda is in the British High Commission Building on
Parliament Avenue, Kampala (tel. 259792/3/5) (fax: 259-794).
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100.
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is
required). The CABB also carries international security information from
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m.
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal
Government Officials" listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication).
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings;
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published annually by the U.S.
Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of
State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign
policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954,
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202)
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is
available on the Internet and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at
(202) 482-1986 for more information.
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