Throughout prehistory, the people of northern
and southern Uganda created different types of
communities. In the south, Bantu people built up the
kingdom, while the people of the north lived in looser
organized communities. When the British colonized the
country during the second half of the 19th century,
these differences were reinforced and, above all, they
favored the people of the south with education and jobs
in the administration. Instead, the people in the north
dominated the military. The independence movement
started later in Uganda than in many other places in
Africa, but gained momentum after the Second World War.
However, the division between north and south remained
in independence, which came in 1962.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Uganda, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Uganda's fertile soil has attracted people from
surrounding areas since the 4th century BC. First came
Bantu people from the West, then Nilotic people from the
East and livestock-loving Hamitic groups from the
Northeast. In the southern part of the country, the
feudal kingdom was founded, where a cattle-owning upper
class ruled over an agricultural subclass. These include
the banturias Bunyoro, Buganda and
Ankole. From the 1300s AD the kingdoms grew in
strength. Bunyoro was the strongest empire for several
centuries, but in the 19th century it assumed the role
The people groups that lived in the north had a
completely different community organization. They lived
in clans, that is, groups of people with a common
ancestor, led by a chieftain or elder. Several clans
within a peoples group sometimes had a joint council of
leaders, but there was no similar state formation. This
difference between the north and the south was later
exploited and reinforced by the British colonial rulers,
and the contradiction has characterized Uganda's
political life up to our days.
In the 1840s, the first Arab merchant, Ahmed Ibn
Abrahim, came from the East African coast to Buganda.
With the merchants came Islam and trade in weapons,
slaves, ivory and cattle. In 1862, British explorer John
Speke reached Buganda during his search for the source
of the Nile. He was received by Buganda's king, the
Kabakan, and named Lake Victoria. The first
Christian missionaries, Protestant Anglicans, arrived in
1876 and three years later followed French Catholics.
The Christian missionaries became successful and built
up an educational system.
The British colonization of the area began with the
trading activities of the British East Africa Company.
The company got the UK's permission in 1888 to
administer what is today Uganda, but business went bad.
When the company was bankrupt in 1893, it was taken over
by the British Crown and the following year Buganda
became a British protectorate named Uganda (the
Swahili term for Buganda). Two years later, the
protectorate had been extended to basically all of
The British ruled Uganda through the classic tactics
of disintegrating and ruling. Baggage people in the
south were favored at the expense of other groups.
Buganda was made administrators of the colony of Uganda
and the colonial power invested significantly more in
education in the Buganda area than in the rest of
The people of the north were not allowed to take part
in the care of the colony. They were soon regarded as a
labor reserve for agriculture in the south. The people
acholi and lango were largely recruited to the army.
This division has characterized the country's later
In 1900 a land reform was implemented in Buganda.
Private ownership had to replace the former system,
where the land was collectively owned by the clans. Half
of Buganda's land was transferred to the British state.
In exchange, an agreement on some self-government was
signed for Buganda.
Now the cultivation of export crops such as coffee,
cotton, tea and sugar was started. Foreign nationals
were not allowed to own land in Uganda, which, unlike in
Kenya, for example, no large farms were created, run by
European settlers. Most of the country's crops have
always been produced by small farmers.
In the late 1800s, many guest workers from mainly
India came to Uganda to build a railway to the Kenyan
port city of Mombasa. The descendants of these Asians
eventually came to dominate Uganda's business.
The road to independence was calmer in Uganda than in
neighboring Kenya, for example, which had many white
settlers. The traditional Ugandan ruling class had
secure positions in administration, church and
education. The farmers were reasonably paid for their
products. All this reduced the breeding ground for
demands for self-government.
It was not until the middle of the 20th century that
resistance to colonial power grew. In 1945 and 1949,
great strikes and rebellions broke out. During the
1950s, the first batches of importance were formed. In
1960, two nationalist parties joined forces in the
Uganda People's Congress (UPC) led by
Milton Obote, a radical nationalist with socialist
ideas. Obote originated from the Lango people in the
north, where the party mainly sought its support. In
1956, the Democratic Party (DP) was
formed, a Catholic party with support mainly in Buganda
in the south.
Until independence, the politics were marked by
contradictions between "major nationalists", who wanted
to see the whole of Uganda united in one state, and
"minor nationalists", who wanted to give the different
kingdoms their own independence. Especially the
governing class of the Baganda people pushed on in the
Uganda is suspected of supporting rebels
In a UN report leaked to media, Uganda is accused of supporting M23 in
Congo-Kinshasa (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Assistance is withdrawn
A report from Uganda's National Audit raises suspicions that aid funds have
been dispersed and Denmark, Ireland, Norway, the UK and Sweden withdraw the part
of their support for the country that goes through the Ugandan state (in January
2013 Uganda repays EUR 4 million to Ireland).
Demonstrations for Independence Celebration
Besigye is arrested again in connection with a demonstration in Kampala.
Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters. This is happening at the same time
as the government is investing large sums in order for Uganda to celebrate 50
years as an independent nation on October 9.
Uganda is appointed as mediator
The ICGLR regional organization appoints Uganda to mediate in the conflict
between the Congolese government and the rebel movement M23 (see also Foreign
Policy and Defense).
Suspected corrupt politicians back in government
Three leading politicians who resigned in October 2011 following allegations
of corruption are returning to the government in the middle of the month. This
is the case with Sam Kutesa, who is returning to the post of Foreign Minister,
John Nasasira receiving his post as Deputy Labor Minister, and Mwesigwa
Rukutana, who is taking up a new job as Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.
This again raises questions about President Museveni's willingness to fight
Opposition group is prohibited
At the beginning of the month, the opposition group A4C is banned, officially
for conducting manifestations without consulting the police.
Demonstration erupts in violence
On March 21, Besigye will visit several projects in Kampala together with the
mayor of the city. When his followers join them, it develops into a
demonstration that the police are trying to stop. Violence erupts and a
policeman dies after being hit in the head. Besigye, the mayor and 15 others are
arrested. Besigye is released on bail the same evening.
In the middle of the month, two ministers resign because of allegations that
they have paid large sums to a businessman in Kampala (over $ 60 million). The
ministers claim that President Museveni has given the go-ahead for the
disbursements, something he denies.
Proposals for homosexuality are again presented
The controversial bill on homosexuality is resumed (see Social Conditions),
but now life imprisonment is the highest punishment that can be imposed. The
proposal is presented, just as before, by a single Member of Parliament, David
Bahati. He is met by standing ovations in Parliament when he presents the
slightly revised proposal. Assessors say he would not act if he does if he did
not have government support.
Strikes at rising prices
In the middle of the month, many merchants in Kampala close their stores in
protest of rising prices and high bank rates (up to 27 percent). In the past,
similar protests have targeted the rising influx of cheap Chinese goods and the
rapidly falling exchange rate for the Ugandan shilling.