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Uganda Country Information

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Uganda GorillaThe one and the most dramatic recovery stories in Africa in the last 30 years has been Uganda. In that time the nation has successfully rehabilitated itself from being the homicidal playground of an utter madman – Idi Amin Dada – to one of the most effectively governed, safest and pleasant of African travel destinations.

Known primarily for one of the last protected areas of refuge for the endangered Mountain Gorilla, Uganda is also home to the Rwenzori Mountains – known also as both the iconic Mountains Of The Moon and the ultimate source of the Nile – Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls and many others places of unique interest and beauty.

Rwenzori Mountains in UgandaUganda is one of the Rift Valley states with its southern and eastern frontiers abutting Tanzania and Kenya, both of which are traditionally among of the strongest tourist destinations in Africa. The three nations, that at one time a loose confederation of British Administered territories, share between them the jewels of the African crown. Lake Victoria is perhaps the most obvious of these, but each nation also has one of the principal mountain ranges of the region that in combination form one of the most important mountaineering destination on the globe.

The capital city Kampala is an engine of regional economic growth, with the fastest growing economy on the continent, and while not without some questions of legitimacy, the Ugandan government is led by regional strongman Yoweri Museveni. Museveni’s brand of benign dictatorship, although not absolute, is extremely pervasive and enduring. It has been a success so far, however, and bearing in mind how badly mauled Uganda has been by the lunatic fringe in the past, that is a fact worth celebrating.

Why Travel To Uganda

Lone Elephant On the Ugandan LandscapeUganda is a green and pleasant land. In this regard it typifies its location, and although heavily populated and almost entirely deforested, it lacks the bone dry desperation evident in many other quarters of the region.

Land use, although traditional, tends be practical, and in fact Uganda owns a remarkable small scale farming structure that is most evident in the unbelievable ubiquity of bananas.

It is a happy nation, and even if a little too steeped in the gun culture, it exists in a rough neighborhood, and effectively keeps the peace to a degree that there are few places in the country that do not feel fundamentally safe and welcoming.

When to Visit Uganda

East Africa customarily has two wet seasons, the long rains between March and May, and the short rains between October and November. In the west of the country, and in particular in the mountainous region within and surrounding the Rwenzori National Park, there are also said to be two periods of rain. The short rains, which are usually in the morning, and the long rains which are usually in the afternoon.

If it is your intention to trek in the Rwenzori Mountains then January and February are the optimum months, with a second window of opportunity available between mid-June and August. However, with raspberries the size of golf balls, giantification evident among all the most prominent plant species and with bogs everywhere it is not difficult to ascertain that it rains all the time in the Rwenzoris, and that in some months it simply rains more.

It is hardly surprise therefore that Uganda is so green. However during the period between December and late February the weather is dry(ish), and therefore this is generally regarded as the optimum period to visit the country. On the whole though Uganda has a very agreeable climate. While not quite the highlands of Kenya, or the central plateau of Zimbabwe, it is nonetheless one of the most European friendly eco-regions of the continent.

Country Information

River Nile Falls in UgandaUganda is saturated in colour, the outstanding natural beauty of its people and its landscapes have always stirred inspiration in travellers and residents.

Parts of Uganda have changed very little in the last hundred years; the period of turmoil between 1967 and 1986 virtually ground all industrial and economic progress to a halt. This was an era when other countries in Africa were enjoying the fruits of international aid and their economies expanded as fast as their populations, Uganda has only just started to receive positive international attention and it has been slow and cautious in coming. The increasing confidence with which donor countries treat Uganda is a direct result of its current leadership, which has been so responsive in progressive policy making.

There has been much to learn, for both the donors and the public and private communities in .from the results around the rest of the continent. Lessons have been learnt. The result has been fast and real progress has been made. In some cases, Uganda has started to set trends for other countries to follow, financial policies have got to grips with wildfire inflation and currency fluctuations.

Water Rafting in UgandaThe government is allowing free expression and, through this, is unifying the Ugandan peoples. Matters of constitution and restitution are a priority, which is creating a very positive forum for peace and stability.

Agriculture, the traditional backbone of Uganda's economy (employs about 80% of the active population), contributes to debt service. The massive sugar and textile industries of the 1960s are reviving, along with the large tea estates long neglected.

The government controls on the coffee and cotton industry have been loosened to allow the farmer a larger market in which to sell his produce, and private exporters have been granted licences. Horticulture and floriculture are receiving increased investment as air-cargo becomes a viable means of' transport.

Murchison Falls in UgandaThe government has facilitated foreign investment with attractive incentives and streamlined import and export procedures. Many expelled Asians have returned to reclaim their properties and are reinvesting in a growing economy.

Tourism, the most sensitive of all industries to develop, is finally attracting investment and interest. Significant progress has been made in the redevelopment of infrastructure in the National Parks.

The devastation of the animal populations that took place during the war years is beginning to be repaired through increased control and management. New areas of interest such as mountain gorillas and ecotourism, white water rafting and sport fishing have put Uganda back on the East African tourist circuit.

The Nile, a source of wonder and inspiration for thousands of years, cuts a verdant and often turbulent median south to north through the country.

The Nile flows from Lake Victoria at what was Rippon Falls and into Lake Kyoga. Still the Victoria Nile, it cuts a raucous passage west across Karuma Falls and through the narrow pillars of Murchison Falls towards Lake Albert. Finally the Albert Nile meanders along a slow, wide corridor into Southern Sudan.

To the far west of Uganda, on the Zaire border, the snow covered Rwenzori Mountains (or Mountains of the Moon as Ptolemy called them) rise into almost permanent equatorial mists.The mountain slopes have their own strange successive worlds of vegetation, each with its own characteristic flora.

Ugandan Female DancerIn the extreme south-west are the Mufumbiro volcanoes, a chain of imposing cones that rise out of the lava plain f the western rift.

The tropical hardwood rainforests of Western Uganda such as Maramagambo, Budongo and Bwindi evoke adventure and wonder.

Kampala, the modern capital, is the centre of most economic activity. It is steadily being rebuilt after systematic looting and destruction during the changes of government.

The city infrastructure has been restored and new office towers, hotels, stadiums and shopping malls are appearing almost monthly. Entebbe, the former administrative capital, is still very picturesque, though rundown and neglected.

The century old botanical gardens are being restored to their former splendour. The presence of the international airport at Entebbe will ensure its continued restoration.

Of the other towns around the country, Jinja, at the source of the Nile, Mbarara, on the road west, Fort Portal, at the foot of the Rwenzoris, and Mbale on the eastern border are all howling promising signs of economic recovery.

The apparent slow development and poverty of areas outside Kampala is combined result of cautious investment and the relatively recent restoration of countrywide infrastructure.

Tourism and increased commercial agriculture will gradually redress the balance, as they have elsewhere in Africa.

Uganda is rich with culture and artistic talent, Ugandans are lively actors and public speakers. Hardly a night passes without the rhythmic sounds of traditional dancing or, in Kampala, modern disco music.

The overriding impression of Uganda is of its happy people. Hardship and war are not forgotten, but they are in the past, to be recalled in silent prayers and thoughts for absent friends.

Uganda Kingdoms

Kasumbi Tombs - Buganda KingdomNot much is known about the origins of Uganda's five monarchies, mainly because their early history was not written down. Almost the whole vast region between the great lakes of Victoria, Albert, and Tanganyika is occupied by centralized native states headed by monarchies. They are all hereditary monarchies, sometimes with extreme distinctions of class and status.

All the people of Buganda, Bunyoyo, Ankole, Toro, and Busoga speak related Bantu languages, and it has become usual in ethnographic literature to refer to them collectively as Inter lacustrine Bantu. These monarchies have had a history of contact with western culture for over 100 years, as well as their own traditional dynastic history that stretches back through the centuries.

They also share the concept of super-ordination and subordination: the notion that some people are always above others- the abalangira (royals) - and some are always below - the bakopi (peasants). The status destinations are more strongly marked in some kingdoms than in others, but in general they are not rigid, castle-like discriminations. It has always been theoretically possible for able bakopis to rise to positions of high authority in the state.

For the majority of these kingdoms, human history begins with a first family whose head is called Kintu, 'the created thing'. A legend shared by them all provides a 'mythical charter' for the social and political order. Nothing is known about the origins of Kintu. The legend maintains that the mythical man, who came from heaven, represents creation itself. Everything concerning the tribes was attributed to Kintu: it is said he must have been the first king of the vast area incorporating all the present five kingdoms and beyond, before they became independent kingdoms.

The Buganda monarchy is one of the best documented of any African monarchy. It remained almost the only kingdom where extensive historical, political, sociological, and anthropological studies have been carried out. Two important means in which the royal was geology was kept were the preservation of artefacts inside the royal tombs and the custom of removing and preserving the lower jaw bone of all the important people, which goes back to the earliest remembered history of Buganda.

Uganda History- Ancient & Turbulent

Written in the soil and the fossils on the floor of the western Rift Valley, where Acheulian culture is well established on the shores of Lake Albert and in the Semuliki and Kagera river valleys, is evidence of human presence in Uganda, beginning emerge around 500,000 years ago.

By around 50,000 years ago the living in the land now known Uganda had discovered fire, which enabled them to move into the more forested areas around the margins of Lake Victoria. Some 40,000 years later they had conquered most of the regions of Uganda and were living throughout the land, from the Ruwenzori Mountains to Mount Elgon; from the Lake Victoria Basin to Karamoja.

Upto 500 BC it is not easy to put a label on the communities living in Uganda. Although human speech had developing for a long time before this, it is not possible to identify specific language groups or tribes. All we know is that Uganda was inhabited by Negroid peoples living in very small communities.

Ugandans speak Bantu languages in the west, south and, to a large extent, to the east; Sudanic languages to the north-west; and Nilotic languages in the rest of the north.

The Bantu languages are closely related and mutually understood. The Bantu-speaking people of Uganda are associated with the beginning of agriculture and and iron working. Agriculture practices began around 5000 BC and were augmented by the establishment of iron-working industry between 600 BC and 300 BC and the introduction of south-eastern Asian crops - such as yarms and bananas around AD 500. By AD1000, the agricultural Bantu were well established in western and southern Uganda and were organised in small political units, of which the clan was the norm.

Also setting the grassland regions of western and southern Uganda during the late first millennium AD were the pastoralists associated with the Sanga (long-horned and big-humped) cattle. The Sanga originated in Ethiopia and had spread as far south as Zimbabwe by the seventh century AD. These pastoralists - formerly speakers of Cushitic languages - adopted the Bantu languages as they settled among them.

By the beginning of the second millennium AD these pastoralists - now the Bahima and the Bahuma of western Uganda - were solidly establishing themselves between the Kafu and Kagera rivers. It was as a result of the fusion of these pastoralists and Bantu agriculturalists that pastoral aristocracies such as Bachwezi and the Bahinda emerged in western and central Uganda.

The Sudanic and Nilotic linguistic groups were firmly established in northern Uganda - as well as southern Sudan and south-western Ethiopia - by the first millennium BC but were largely concentrated in the southern Sudan.

During the first millennium AD a Sudanic people, the Madi, moved south into the largely Bantu region of Bunyoro and established one of the earliest recognizable dynasties in Bunyoro, the Batembuzi. The western Nilotic speakers from the Sudan began to move southwards into the northern Uganda in the 15th century and into eastern Uganda in the following century.


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Laure Matson

Hi Davies, Our trip through South Africa was wonderful. What a diverse and beautiful Country! After leaving the wine country, we drove up the Garden Route with some side excursions to Oudtshoorn, Swellendam and Wilderness. We loved the Transkei and the Wild coast as well. Next, we ventured into the Underberg area. What magnificent farm land and green rolling hills that go on forever. From there we headed up, into the Drakensberg Mountains and loved our time there. They are truly a beautiful Mountain Range. Then it was back towards the coast thru the Midlands, and up the coast. We got as far as St. Lucia (which we loved!) and then had to start back down the coast. We stopped in places we missed on the way up such as the south coast, Nat...

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