The earliest human inhabitants of Uganda were hunters and gatherers and are the ancestors of the pygmy populations found in western Uganda. The southern part of the country became populated with Bantu-speaking people who had come from central and western Africa sometime around 1,500-2,000 years ago. These people not only brought a new language, but they also brought new agricultural ideas as well as new ways of social and political organization. The result of this new order was the establishment of centralized kingdoms, Buganda, Bunyoro-Kitara and Ankole. As time passed, Uganda saw very few outsiders and it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century when Arab traders and European explorers made contact.
During the “Scramble for Africa” at the end of the 19th century, East Africa was assigned by royal charter to the Imperial British East Africa Company. Two years later, as the result of an Anglo-German agreement, Britain was granted control over both Kenya and Uganda. By 1893 the costs of maintaining a colony were running high, therefore administrative duties were given to a British commissioner who ruled Uganda indirectly, therefore allowing the traditional kingdoms a certain amount of autonomy. In 1894, Uganda officially became a British protectorate. Despite the autonomy, the British favoured the Buganda kingdom, often recruiting them for civil service.
Frustration amongst the other kingdoms began to develop and during the mid-1950s, a loose coalition was brought together by schoolteacher Dr. Milton Obote which led to independence in 1962. This independence was granted on the promise of coming under a Buganda authority. The time after independence proved to be difficult for the new country. Civil wars were rampant in neighbouring Sudan, Zaire and Rwanda which brought thousands of refugees into the country. As time passed, Obote made it clear that he would not share power with the king, thus ignoring the terms of independence. He eventually stormed the palace, destroyed the monarchy and became president.
By the early 1970s, Uganda was under what is known as ‘The Reign of Terror’. Tai Amin, Obote’s army chief of staff staged a coup that suspended all political activity. The army was ordered to shoot anyone who was suspected of opposing the regime. The next eight years proved to be brutal for the Ugandan people and it is believed that some 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives. Main targets included the educated classes, tribespeople from Acholi and Lango and the Asian community who, in 1972, were given ninety days to leave the country. The country was in shambles, the economy collapsed and there was no infrastructure, plus they had to contend with even more refugees coming across the borders. Inflation hit 1,000% and there was no money.
Amin felt that the country needed a distraction and initiated war with Tanzania. This decision was ill-conceived and Tanzania defeated the Ugandan army, pushing into the heart of Uganda by 1979, causing Amin to flee. Approximately 12,000 Tanzanian soldiers were left in the country to help with reconstruction, however, once there was no money left to pay them, the soldiers turned on the population. Obote returned from exile and was welcomed by the country desperately sought a solution. However, as before, he favoured certain tribes and there were continuous reports of atrocities. In 1985, Obote was overthrown by a coup and in 1986, Yoweri Museveni became president.
Museveni proved to be a sensible leader who actively sought to avoid the nepotism that had plagued the country since becoming a British protectorate. He succeeded in restoring order to the country and the economy improved as investment slowly began to trickle in. Recent decades have witnessed threats from insurgents mainly located in northern Uganda. Despite this, most parts of Uganda have returned to relative stability and the Ugandan spirit remains resilient. While the world watches to see what Uganda’s future holds, one thing that is certain is that the country greatly welcomes tourists. Winston Churchill called Uganda “the pearl of Africa” as this stunning country truly hosts the best that Africa has to offer.
Uganda Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Uganda.
Learn about the history and culture of Uganda, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Uganda's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Uganda for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Uganda tours today!
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