Uganda Profile (A Brief History)
Updated: Oct 31, 2020
Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in east-central Africa. Uganda is Africa’s eight most populous nation with 45 million people and is bordered by Sudan to the north, Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, Kenya to the east, and Tanzania and Rwanda to the south. The capital city of Uganda is Kampala near Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake. Uganda’s national languages are English and Swahili.
Early history of Uganda
The earliest of these inhabitants were thought to be migrants from West and East Africa and mostly subsided on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The Central Africans were divided in roughly three geographical groups, the Western Bambenga, the eastern Bambuti, and the central and southern Batwa. The Central Africans would reign over Congo Basin until roughly 3,000 years ago when they were absorbed or displaced by the immigration of the Bantu expansion about 3,000 years ago.
Forest People of Central Africa
In anthropological literature they are described as “pygmies” for their short stature, are assumed to be descended from the original Middle Stone Age expansion of anatomically modern humans to Central Africa. Most modern Pygmy groups are only partially foragers and partially trade with neighboring farmers to acquire cultivated foods and other materials. A total number of about 900,000 Pygmies are estimated to be living in the Central African forests and about 60% are believed to be in the Central Republic of Congo.
Various hypotheses have been proposed to explain the short stature of the Forest People of Central Africa, the two most widely accepted include adaptation to significantly lower average levels of ultraviolet light available beneath the rainforest and the lesser availability of protein-rich food sources in rainforest environments.
The Bantu expansion refers to the migrations of the original Bantu speaking group of migrants roughly about 3,500 years ago, from West Africa into Sub-Saharan Africa. In the process the Bantu speaking settlers displaced or absorbed the inhabitants of Central Africa. The primary evidence of expansion lies in the linguistic core of the Bantu languages, which comprises of languages originating from Cameroon and Nigeria, West Africa.
The expansion is believed to have taken place between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago into two main waves, the first proceeding directly east towards East-Africa, and the second and largest went south along the African coast towards Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and as far south as South Africa.
Kingdom of Mapungubwe
By the 11th century large scale powerful Bantu-speaking states began to emerge, one of the first was the Kingdom of Mapungubwe sometime between 1075 – 1220 AD. The kingdom was likely divided into a three-tiered hierarchy with commoners inhabiting low-lying sites, district leaders occupying small hilltops, and the capital at Mapungubwe hill as the supreme authority. Life in Mapungubwe was centered on family and farming.
Kingdom of Zimbabwe
Roughly around the collapse of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, around 1000 AD, the Kingdom of Zimbabwe grew to a powerful city-state located in modern-day Zimbabwe. The rulers of Zimbabwe brought stonemasonry traditions of the Mapungubwe and constructed elaborate stone buildings and walls. Just like the Mapungubwe they also had a three-tiered class structure. The Kingdom gained wealth by taxing other rulers throughout the region. The Kingdom at its height had over 150 tributaries, becoming much larger than their predecessors. The Kingdom was the dominant ivory and mined minerals like gold, copper, and iron.
Established roughly around 1400 AD, the Kingdom overtook the Kingdom of Zimbabwe and became a vast empire that covered territories from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, through South Africa. The empire had a well-trained army but grew rapidly by inviting other states to join the empire and offered membership to its Great Council of the Empire if they did not resist. The empire had an agricultural economy at its core with mining operations that fueled trade and the empires wealth. By 1450 the empire divided into smaller Kingdoms.
Kingdom of Kongo
Established sometime around 1300 AD, the Mpemba Kasi kingdom was a large Bantu Kingdom to the south of the Mbata Kingdom, they would merge to become the Kingdom of Kongo, a powerful Kingdom that would go on to form a state in modern day Angola. The Kingdom became a highly developed state with an extensive trading network, mostly trading natural resources and ivory. Sometime in the late 15th century the Kingdom began an extensive trading partnership with the Portuguese, which eventually led to Christianity coming to the Kingdom, and by the 16th century the establishment of the transatlantic slave trade. The Portuguese would be allowed to build settlements off the coast of Angola and eventually those settlements would be used to push further into central Angola by the 17th century.
Bunyoro and Buganda Kingdoms
The Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom was a kingdom that was established in northern Uganda roughly around 900 AD after the collapse of the Aksum Kingdom in modern day Ethiopia. Roughly around the same time a smaller yet immensely powerful Kingdom of Buganda situated near Lake Victoria was controlling much of southern Uganda. By the 18th century the smaller Buganda Kingdom would go on to control most of Uganda through northern expansion.
Colonization of Uganda
Although there was trade between Ugandans and the eastern empires of the Arabs, Uganda was able to maintain its independence from Arab kingdoms. The Swahili language was instrumental for trade between Ugandans and its eastern neighbors and so the Swahili language was universally acknowledged and used.
The British empire began exploration of Uganda sometime in the 19th century and by 1894 had control of most of Uganda. The Kingdom of Buganda had become the strongest Kingdom and allied itself with the Imperial British East Africa Company, creating the Protectorate of Uganda, to combat northern and eastern Islamic threats and German threats from the South. As a protectorate Uganda was never fully colonized and therefore certain parts of Uganda retained a degree of self-government that otherwise been limited under a full colonial administration.
The Kingdom of Buganda had a partnership rather than a full colonial administrator. The Kingdoms rulers were able to maintain their independence and were levied taxes by the Crown. As British expansion took ahold of much of the rest of Uganda the Buganda Kingdom would be placed as administrators of those territories.
The British would go on to build railways connecting the Kenya Protectorate to expand economic output of the Uganda Protectorate. European settlers, mostly farmers would be brought in to expand farming operations. Cotton would become one of the largest exports of the Protectorate enriching the Crown and the Buganda Kingdom.
Independence of Uganda
After World War II the decline of the British empire and internal strife within the Protectorate led to Britain granting independence to Uganda in 1962, with the first national elections being held the prior year in March of 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first chief minister, with Uganda becoming a Commonwealth of Britain. In 1966 a movement began to decentralize Uganda and Milton Obote, the Prime Minister, suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, and in 1967 a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic and gave the president more powers and abolishing the traditional kingdoms.
On January 25, 1971, a military coup would depose Obote and dictator Idi Amin seized control of the country. Amin would rule Uganda for the next decade committing massive atrocities across the nation. Amin would also expel all foreigners from the country and close to one million non-Ugandan expats would forcibly be removed.
In 1979 economic decline led to a revolt against Amin and he would be deposed by General Tito Okello. 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. Uganda would go on to have several internal battles for power ultimately leading to somewhat free elections being held for parliament and president.
Economy of Uganda
Uganda’s economy has a GDP of 34 billion dollars and is mostly powered by agriculture and services industry. Uganda has massive amounts of recoverable natural resources like oil and minerals such as copper, gold, cobalt, and other minerals but the mining industry is vastly underdeveloped.
Is the most important of sector in Uganda and employs 70% of the workforce and accounts for 25% of GDP. The farming industry produces coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, potatoes, corn, cut flours and various types of meat.
The services industry is mostly interlinked with the agricultural and other industries but accounts for 47% of GDP and employs 22% of the workforce.
Primarily linked with the agricultural industry and entails the processing of goods, accounts for 20% of GDP and employs 8% of the workforce.