Geography of Uganda
Set at the equator, Uganda is made up of four regions(Central, Eastern, Northern and Western) on an area of 236, 580 sq km, with its capital at Kampala.
The country is fortunate to harbour Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world forming the source of the Nile, the second largest river in the world.
Uganda lies astride the Equator in Eastern Africa between longitudes 29 East and East and between latitudes 4 North and South, at an average altitude of 1,100 meters above sea- level. The total area is 236,580sq.Km. We are bordered by the Republic of South Sudan to the North, the Republic of Kenya to the East, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West, and the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Rwanda to the South. Uganda experiences a temperate climate even though the majority of the country is within the Tropics with temperatures between 16 – 26’C for the majority of the year(April – November). However, during the warmer months (December – March) temperatures reach in excess of 30.
Weather in Uganda
Uganda experiences a temperate climate even though the majority of the country is within the Tropics with temperatures between 16 – 26’C for the majority of the year(April – November). However, during the warmer months (December – March) temperatures reach in excess of 30’C.
In general, the climate of Uganda is mainly influenced by: the dry N.E. and Northerly air masses which cause the dry weather in much of the north the dry South Easterlies which becomes moist after blowing over Lake Victoria thus causing the wet conditions in much of the south. The presence of Lake Victoria which supplies moisture that make the south moist. Were it not for Lake Victoria, Uganda would be a drier country due to continentality. Note that in detail, just like in any other region, the micro-climatic experiences of Uganda are more than as just simply described above due to microconditions that vary from place tho place. for instance, temperatures on mt Elgon at the eastern border with Kenya, and on the Ruwenzori mountains on the west, may fall up to sub zero while the northern arid and semi arid ares may occassionally be as warm as 40oC. Yet rainfall experiences may also vary beyond the indicated extremes.
History of Uganda
The earliest human inhabitants in Uganda were hunter-gathers. Remnants of these people are today to be found among the pygmies in western Uganda. Approximately 2000 to 1500 years ago, Bantu speaking populations from central and western Africa migrated and occupied most of the southern parts of the country. The migrants brought with them agriculture, ironworking skills and new ideas of social and political organization, that by the 15th – 16th century resulted in the development of centralized kingdoms, including the kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro-Kitara and Ankole.
In 1888, control of the emerging British “sphere of interest” in East Africa was assigned by royal charter to William Mackinnon’s Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEACO), 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, Uganda was placed under a formal British protectorate.
Early independent Uganda
Britain granted independence to Uganda in 1962, and the first elections were held on 1st March 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda became a republic the following year when it gained its independence on 9th October 1962 thus acquiring its Commonwealth membership. Sir Edward Mutweesa II was appointed as the first president..
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 Apollo Milton Obote suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, removing the positions of 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.
Uganda under Idi Amin Dada
On 25 January 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 eight years’ rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. 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 as high as 300,000–a statistic cited at the end of the 2006 movie “The Last King of Scotland”, which chronicled part of Amin’s dictatorship.
A border altercation involving Ugandan exiles camped close to the Ugandan border of Mutukula resulted in an advance by the Ugandan army into Tanzania. In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces countered an incursion of Amin’s troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian army, backed by Ugandan exiles waged a war of liberation against Amin’s troops and the Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On 11 April 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces.
Uganda between 1979 – 1986
After Amin’s removal, the Uganda National Liberation Front formed an interim government with Yusuf Lule as president and Jeremiah Lucas Opira as the Secretary General of the UNLF 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 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 Milton 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 laid waste to a substantial section of the country, especially in the Luwero area north of Kampala.
Post Liberation war (1986 – 2000)
Negotiations between the Okello government and the NRA were conducted in Nairobi in the fall of 1985, with Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi seeking a cease-fire and a coalition government in Uganda. Although agreeing in late 1985 to a cease-fire, the NRA continued fighting, and seized Kampala and the country in late January 1986, forcing Okello’s forces 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 Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his followers, the National Resistance Movement (NRM or the “Movement”), has largely put an end to the human rights abuses of earlier governments, 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.
List of Presidents of Uganda since 1962
Sir Edward Mutesa II – 1962 – 1966
Apollo Milton Obote (Obote I) – 1966 – 1971
Idi Amin Dada – 1971 – 1979
Yusuf Kironde Lule – 13 April 1979 – 20 June 1979
Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa – 1979 – 1980
Paul Muwanga – 12 May 1980 – 22 May 1980
Apollo Milton Obote (Obote II) – 1980 – 1985
Tito Okello Lutwa – 1985 – 1986
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni – 1986 to date
Culture of Uganda
Situated at the geographical heart of the African continent, Uganda has long been a cultural melting pot, as evidenced by the existence of 30-plus different indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handicrafts. The country’s most ancient inhabitants, confined to the hilly southwest, are the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies, relics of the hunter-gatherer cultures that once occupied much of East Africa to leave behind a rich legacy of rock paintings, such as at the Nyero Rock Shelter near Kumi.
The central region is dominated by the Bantu group specifically the Baganda.
The Buganda monarchy presents one of the best documentations of kingship in Uganda. The head of state is the King locally known asKabaka. The current king of Buganda, His Highness Ronald Mutebi II was crowned the 36th Kabaka of Buganda in 1993 after his fatherSir Edward Mutesa IIdied in exile.
The kingdom also constitutes a Parliament (Lukiiko), comprising mainly of elderly heads of its 52 clans. Other people, who occupy important positions in the kingdom, include the Queen (Nabagereka), the Prime Minister (Katikiiro), the royal sister (Nalinya) and the Queen Mother (Namasole).
Traditionally, a man could marry five wives or more provided he could cater for them. It was easier to become polygamous in Buganda than in other parts of Uganda because the bride wealth obligations we’re not prohibitive unlike formerly when marriage used to be conducted by parents, for instance where the father of the girl could choose for her a husband without availing her any alternatives.
Buganda is renowned for her distinct ceremonial occassions organized for observance, commemoration, inauguration, remembrance or fullfilment of cultural rituals and norms.Some of the common (highly recognized) ceremonies in Buganda include;the initiation of twins (okwalula abalongo), the introduction (okwanjula) and last funeral rite (okwabya olumbe).
Matooke (bananas of the plantain type) is a popular local dish among the Baganda. It’s peeled, tied in banana leaves and put in a cooking pan with enough water to steam the leaves. Later on, the bundle is removed and squeezed to get a smooth soft and golden yellow mash. The Banana leaves are used to keep it hot and steamy.
The eastern region is another diverse area comprised of a number of different tribal groups including; Bagisu, Basamia/Bagwe, Basoga, Bagwere, Iteso, Japadhola, and the Sebei among others.
Apart from other groups, the Basoga present a distinctive kingship in eastern Uganda with their King locally known asKyabazinga.
Marrige and Family Life
In this region as well as the rest of the country, dowries are highly valued and are usually in form of cattle, sheep and goats. The amount paid is negotiated among the parents of the new couple to be. The higher the dowry, the more valued is the bride, although this does not necessary guarantee the success of the marriage.
Tamenhaibunga; This kind of dance is practiced by the Basoga tribe. Tamenhaibunga literally means “good friends drink together but they do not fight each other lest they break the guard (eibuga) that contains the drink. The guard is symbolically used to express the value and fragility of love and friendship. Other dances in Busoga include Nalufuka, a much faster and youthful version of of Tamenhaibuga; Eirongo, a slower dance performance to cerebrate the birth of twins; Amayebe, which builds physical stamina, especially for men; Enswezi, used to communicate to super naturals and Ekigwo for wrestlers.
Kamaleewa: These are tender bamboo shoots which are a delicacy among theBagisu. Usually, after harvest, these shoots are first boiled and later on sundried before cooking.
Others include; Atapa, Akaro and Sundried fish.
The northern region is also a melting pot of quite a number of tribes including;Acholi, Langi, Alur, Kakwa, and Lugbaraamong others.
This region comprises of the Acholi and Langi in the north, Alur, Lugbara and Madi in west Nile region. Like most of the regions, Langi and Acholi regions predominantly depend on agriculture as their economic activity, with millet and sorghum serving as staple foods.
Marriage and Family life
Traditionally, a young man depends upon his lineage head and elders both for permission to marry and for the material goods required for bride wealth; elders of the brides lineage were also much involved in the discussions and negotiations surrounding the marriage.
Naleyodance is performed by the Karimajongs where women line up and men strike their breasts using fingers as they dance. The Karimajongs are a pastor community in the north eastern part of Uganda.
Akaro:This is made from a combination ofsorghum, millet and cassava flourmingled in a proportionate quantity of water.
Malakwang:A sour vegetable usually prepared with groundnut paste to form a typical northern food. Malakwang is best served with sweet potatoes.
Others include; Smoked fish and Ugali.
The western region is also rich in tribal culture, it consists of; Bakonjo/Bamba, Batooro, Banyoro, Banyankore, Bakiga, Bafumbira and Bachwezi among others.
The Batooro and Banyoro have a centralized system of government headed by theOmukama. Initially, Toro was part of Bunyoro, but later broke away. The first King wasKaboyo Kasusunkwazithe actual founder of the kingdom and currently the kingdom is headed byKing Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV.
Marriage and Family Life
Ankolein the west is the most popular tribe in terms of prestige and population. The King owned all the cattle and theoretically owned all women. Hima fathers were anxious to call attention to their daughters because the King gave generous wedding gifts. Slim girls were unfit for royalty so those girls whom the king found to be of interest to marry one of his sons were force-fed on milk.
Entogoro:Entogoro is danced by Banyoro and Batooro of western Uganda. The dance takes its name from the pod rattles (locally known as ebinyege) that the boys tie on their legs to make different rhythms as they dance.
Ekitagururo:This is characterized by energetic stamping and tangling rhythms using the feet and aerial arm movements; it is performed by both Banyankole and Bakiga in the south western region.
Eshabwe:A traditional Banyankole dish comprising of ghee, skimmed from milk. This is usually eaten with Akaro. It’s a meal one would certainly get acquainted with on a visit to the western parts of Uganda.
Others include; Akaro and Firinda.
Foods in Uganda
Ugandan food is the arguably the best in Africa .
Only in Uganda will you find places that can give you variety of fresh food as compared to other countries, they include yummy banana dishes, stews, pastes and juicy fruits and drinks.
Uganda’s culture weaves a yarn of variety not only through the manner of dress, language and other characteristics but also in its variety of dishes.
Nearly every tribe or region has a delicacy or specialty.
Most of the highly ranked hotels and restaurants serve traditional dishes in form of buffets but often come within a short distance of really preparing authentic traditional dishes.
The most popular local dish is matooke (bananas of the plantain type) which is best served with peanut sauce, fresh fish, meat or entrails. Matooke really goes with any relish.
The best and most respectable way the Baganda cook it is by tying up the peeled fingers into a bundle of banana leaves which is then put in a cooking pan with just enough water and then left to steam.
This style of cooking preserves all the flavours. When ready and tender, the matooke is squeezed into a soft and golden yellow mash. In Buganda, the food production process revolves around the banana plants.
Endowed with lakes and rivers, Ugandans have a chance to enjoy different varieties of fish as a supplement of Uganda food varieties.
Many tribes in Uganda eat their fish smoked or fresh (although some kinds of fish are not eaten by certain Baganda clans), while others wash it in a salt solution and dry it in the sun for days. Sun-dried fish is a delicacy in the eastern region.
There are also varieties of small fish which are highly nutritious (nkejje and mukene). They are sun-dried and cooked with peanut sauce or pre-soaked and fried. Their high flavor and nutritional value is highly prized.
In western Uganda among the Banyankole , Bakiga and Batooro and most of the north and east like Acholi Alur Langi , millet bread is the favoured dish.
The milled flour is mixed with cassava and then mingled.
This food is quick to prepare. Up north, little or no cassava at all is added while in the western region a proportion of fifty-fifty or eighty-twenty (more cassava to the millet flour) is the ratio of mixture. The best relish to go with it would be smoked meat.
In the north, smoked beef is skillfully seasoned with a rich sauce of milled sim-sim (sesame) paste and dark green bitter vegetables.
In the eastern region, the people of Teso add a light sauce of tamarind fruit which is plenty in those dry areas.
A variety of edible sorghum is often used by some tribes in the east and northeast where the climate makes it impossible to afford the luxury of growing millet.
In western Uganda, equally tasty sauces are scraped out of cow butter and salt to make eshabwe which is best served with millet.
Surprisingly the Bahima of western Uganda are not a particularly meat-eating tribe like the Karimojong of the northeast – who enjoy it by the chunk – although they keep cows in their thousands.
Instead, they prefer a diet of milk, beans, matooke and some millet bread. Meanwhile the Batooro of western Uganda peel the skins off beans and mash them into a thick paste (firinda) to which they add cow butter and salt to make a really tasty relish that goes well with millet.
Visa and Entry Requirements
Entering Uganda has never been easier than today, there’s no complications in entry requirements, since all you need is a VISA, which may be got at a consular, high commission or Embassy of Uganda in your area. Alternatively, as long you have your credentials and a few of the following vaccinations (most of which are optional), you can still get a VISA on arrival at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda – our major entry point.
Yellow fever vaccine is essential.
Hepatitis A and B, Mengitis, tetanus and typhoid are also recommended if you expect to get closer to wild animals.
Applying for a Visa:
You can apply for your visa online, through our immigration department.
You can also acquire a visa at Uganda’s High Commission or Embassy in your country of residence or on arrival at Entebbe International Airport, if you travel with all your relevant documentation and identification.
The charges for Uganda’s Visa start from US$ 50 and above. For more details check out Visa and Passes page on Immigration website.
East Africa Tourist Visa:
The East Africa Tourist Visa will allow travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with the same multiple entry visa. This visa is the result of a joint initiative made by the Heads of States of the respective partner countries to boost regional travel and create opportunities for tourists to explore the diversity of East Africa.
Travelers from any country can obtain a multiple entry visa that will allow entry to the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda, and the Republic of Uganda for tourism over period of 90 days.
Eligible Person: Tourist, no restrictions on country of origin
Dependents: All persons must apply in their own right.
Travel Documents: All tourists must have an official and genuine international passport, valid for not less than 6 months from the time of visa application.
Visa Fees: 100 USD per visa
Validity of Visa: 90 days
Single of Multiple Entry: Multiple entry to all three countries
Work or no Work: Work is not permitted
Visa Extension: An East Africa Tourist Visa shall not be extended.
Country of Entry: The holder of the East Africa Tourist Visa shall enter the region from the country that issued the visa and move within the two other countries without applying for another visa or paying another visa fee.
Movement of persons: The holder shall also be allowed to move out of the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda, and the Republic of Uganda and return without having to pay for another visa. This will only be applicable for the validity period of the visa (90 days from visa approval).