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Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. The country is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region, lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally modified equatorial climate. As of 2023, it has a population of around 49.6 million, of which 8.5 million live in the capital and largest city of Kampala.
|Motto: "For God and My Country"
"Kwa Mungu na nchi yangu"
|Anthem: "Oh Uganda, Land of Beauty"
and largest city
|Unitary dominant-party presidential republic
from the United Kingdom
|9 October 1962
|9 October 1963
• Current constitution
|8 October 1995
|241,038 km2 (93,065 sq mi) (79th)
• Water (%)
• 2023 estimate
|157.1/km2 (406.9/sq mi) (75th)
|$145.157 billion (88th)
• Per capita
|$52.390 billion (90th)
• Per capita
|Ugandan shilling (UGX)
|ISO 3166 code
Uganda is named after the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala, and whose language Luganda is widely spoken throughout the country. From 1894, the area was ruled as a protectorate by the United Kingdom, which established administrative law across the territory. Uganda gained independence from the UK on 9 October 1962. The period since then has been marked by violent conflicts, including an eight-year-long military dictatorship led by Idi Amin.
The official language is English, although the Constitution states that "any other language may be used as a medium of instruction in schools or other educational institutions or for legislative, administrative, or judicial purposes as may be prescribed by law." Luganda, a central region-based language, is widely spoken across the Central and South Eastern regions of the country, and several other languages are also spoken including Ateso, Lango, Acholi, Runyoro, Runyankole, Rukiga, Luo, Rutooro, Samia, Jopadhola, and Lusoga. In 2005 Swahili, which is foreign and so viewed as being neutral, was proposed as Uganda's second official language, but this has yet to be ratified by parliament. However, in 2022 Uganda decided to make Swahili a mandatory subject in the school curriculum.
Uganda's current president is Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who took power in January 1986 after a protracted six-year guerrilla war. Following constitutional amendments that removed term limits for the president, he was able to stand and was elected president in the 2011, 2016 and 2021 general elections.
Much of Uganda was inhabited by Central sudanic- and Kuliak-speaking farmers and herders until 3,000 years ago, when Bantu speakers arrived in the south and Nilotic speakers arrived in the northeast. By 1500 AD, they had all been assimilated into Bantu speaking cultures south of Mount Elgon, the Nile River, and Lake Kyoga.
According to oral tradition and archeological studies, the Empire of Kitara covered an important part of the Great Lakes Area, from the northern lakes Albert and Kyoga to the southern lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. Kitara is claimed as the antecedent of the Tooro, Ankole, and Busoga kingdoms.
Arab traders moved into the land from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s for trade and commerce. In the late 1860s, Bunyoro in Mid-Western Uganda found itself threatened from the north by Egyptian-sponsored agents. Unlike the Arab traders from the East African coast who sought trade, these agents were promoting foreign conquest. In 1869, Khedive Ismail Pasha of Egypt, seeking to annex the territories north of the borders of Lake Victoria and east of Lake Albert and "south of Gondokoro," sent a British explorer, Samuel Baker, on a military expedition to the frontiers of Northern Uganda, with the objective of suppressing the slave-trade there and opening the way to commerce and "civilization." The Banyoro resisted Baker, who had to fight a desperate battle to secure his retreat. Baker regarded the resistance as an act of treachery, and he denounced the Banyoro in a book (Ismailia – A Narrative Of The Expedition To Central Africa For The Suppression Of Slave Trade, Organised By Ismail, Khadive Of Egypt (1874)) that was widely read in Britain. Later, the British arrived in Uganda with a predisposition against the kingdom of Bunyoro and sided with the kingdom of Buganda. This would eventually cost Bunyoro half of its territory, which was given to Buganda as a reward from the British. Two of the numerous "lost counties" were restored to Bunyoro after independence.
In the 1860s, while Arabs sought influence from the north, British explorers searching for the source of the Nile arrived in Uganda. They were followed by British Anglican missionaries who arrived in the kingdom of Buganda in 1877 and French Catholic missionaries in 1879. This situation gave rise to the death of the Uganda Martyrs in 1885—after the conversion of Muteesa I and much of his court, and the succession of his anti-Christian son Mwanga.
The British government chartered the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) to negotiate trade agreements in the region beginning in 1888.
From 1886, there was a series of religious wars in Buganda, initially between Muslims and Christians and then, from 1890, between "ba-Ingleza" Protestants and "ba-Fransa" Catholics, factions named after the imperial powers with which they were aligned. Because of civil unrest and financial burdens, IBEAC claimed that it was unable to "maintain their occupation" in the region. British commercial interests were ardent to protect the trade route of the Nile, which prompted the British government to annex Buganda and adjoining territories to create the Uganda Protectorate in 1894.: 3–4
Uganda Protectorate (1894–1962)
The Protectorate of Uganda was a protectorate of the British Empire from 1894 to 1962. In 1893, the Imperial British East Africa Company transferred its administration rights of territory consisting mainly of the Kingdom of Buganda to the British government. The IBEAC relinquished its control over Uganda after Ugandan internal religious wars had driven it into bankruptcy.
In 1894, the Uganda Protectorate was established, and the territory was extended beyond the borders of Buganda by signing more treaties with the other kingdoms (Toro in 1900, Ankole in 1901, and Bunyoro in 1933) to an area that roughly corresponds to that of present-day Uganda.
The status of Protectorate had significantly different consequences for Uganda than had the region been made a colony like neighboring Kenya, insofar as Uganda retained a degree of self-government that would have otherwise been limited under a full colonial administration.
In the 1890s, 32,000 labourers from British India were recruited to East Africa under indentured labour contracts to construct the Uganda Railway. Most of the surviving Indians returned home, but 6,724 decided to remain in East Africa after the line's completion. Subsequently, some became traders and took control of cotton ginning and sartorial retail.
From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic in the southern part of Uganda, along the north shores of Lake Victoria, killed more than 250,000 people.
World War II encouraged the colonial administration of Uganda to recruit 77,143 soldiers to serve in the King's African Rifles. They were seen in action in the Western Desert campaign, the Abyssinian campaign, the Battle of Madagascar and the Burma campaign.
Independence (1962 to 1965)
Uganda gained independence from the UK on 9 October 1962 with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and Queen of Uganda. In October 1963, Uganda became a republic but maintained its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.
The first post-independence election, held in 1962, was won by an alliance between the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (KY). UPC and KY formed the first post-independence government with Milton Obote as executive prime minister, with the Buganda Kabaka (King) Edward Muteesa II holding the largely ceremonial position of president.
Buganda crisis (1962–1966)
Uganda's immediate post-independence years were dominated by the relationship between the central government and the largest regional kingdom – Buganda.
From the moment the British created the Uganda protectorate, the issue of how to manage the largest monarchy within the framework of a unitary state had always been a problem. Colonial governors had failed to come up with a formula that worked. This was further complicated by Buganda's nonchalant attitude to its relationship with the central government. Buganda never sought independence but rather appeared to be comfortable with a loose arrangement that guaranteed them privileges above the other subjects within the protectorate or a special status when the British left. This was evidenced in part by hostilities between the British colonial authorities and Buganda prior to independence.
Within Buganda, there were divisions – between those who wanted the Kabaka to remain a dominant monarch and those who wanted to join with the rest of Uganda to create a modern secular state. The split resulted in the creation of two dominant Buganda based parties – the Kabaka Yekka (Kabaka Only) KY, and the Democratic Party (DP) that had roots in the Catholic Church. The bitterness between these two parties was extremely intense especially as the first elections for the post-Colonial parliament approached. The Kabaka particularly disliked the DP leader, Benedicto Kiwanuka.
Outside Buganda, a soft-spoken politician from Northern Uganda, Milton Obote, had forged an alliance of non-Buganda politicians to form the Uganda People's Congress (UPC). The UPC at its heart was dominated by politicians who wanted to rectify what they saw as the regional inequality that favoured Buganda's special status. This drew in substantial support from outside Buganda. The party however remained a loose alliance of interests, but Obote showed great skill at negotiating them into a common ground based on a federal formula.
At Independence, the Buganda question remained unresolved. Uganda was one of the few colonial territories that achieved independence without a dominant political party with a clear majority in parliament. In the pre-Independence elections, the UPC ran no candidates in Buganda and won 37 of the 61 directly elected seats (outside Buganda). The DP won 24 seats outside Buganda. The "special status" granted to Buganda meant that the 21 Buganda seats were elected by proportional representation reflecting the elections to the Buganda parliament – the Lukikko. KY won a resounding victory over DP, winning all 21 seats.
The UPC reached a high at the end of 1964 when the leader of the DP in parliament, Basil Kiiza Bataringaya, crossed the parliamentary floor with five other MPs, leaving DP with only nine seats. The DP MPs were not particularly happy that the hostility of their leader, Benedicto Kiwanuka, towards the Kabaka was hindering their chances of compromise with KY. The trickle of defections turned into a flood when 10 KY members crossed the floor when they realised the formal coalition with the UPC was no longer viable. Obote's charismatic speeches across the country were sweeping all before him, and the UPC was winning almost every local election held and increasing its control over all district councils and legislatures outside Buganda. The response from the Kabaka was mute – probably content in his ceremonial role and symbolism in his part of the country. However, there were also major divisions within his palace that made it difficult for him to act effectively against Obote. By the time Uganda had become independent, Buganda "was a divided house with contending social and political forces" There were however problems brewing inside the UPC. As its ranks swelled, the ethnic, religious, regional, and personal interests began to shake the party. The party's apparent strength was eroded in a complex sequence of factional conflicts in its central and regional structures. And by 1966, the UPC was tearing itself apart. The conflicts were further intensified by the newcomers who had crossed the parliamentary floor from DP and KY.
The UPC delegates arrived in Gulu in 1964 for their delegates conference. Here was the first demonstration as to how Obote was losing control of his party. The battle over the Secretary-General of the party was a bitter contest between the new moderate's candidate – Grace Ibingira and the radical John Kakonge. Ibingira subsequently became the symbol of the opposition to Obote within the UPC. This is an important factor when looking at the subsequent events that led to the crisis between Buganda and the Central government. For those outside the UPC (including KY supporters), this was a sign that Obote was vulnerable. Keen observers realised the UPC was not a cohesive unit.
The collapse of the UPC-KY alliance openly revealed the dissatisfaction Obote and others had about Buganda's "special status". In 1964, the government responded to demands from some parts of the vast Buganda Kingdom that they were not the Kabaka's subjects. Prior to colonial rule, Buganda had been rivalled by the neighbouring Bunyoro kingdom. Buganda had conquered parts of Bunyoro and the British colonialists had formalised this in the Buganda Agreements. Known as the "lost counties", the people in these areas wished to revert to being part of Bunyoro. Obote decided to allow a referendum, which angered the Kabaka and most of the rest of Buganda. The residents of the counties voted to return to Bunyoro despite the Kabaka's attempts to influence the vote. Having lost the referendum, KY opposed the bill to pass the counties to Bunyoro, thus ending the alliance with the UPC.
The tribal nature of Ugandan politics was also manifesting itself in government. The UPC which had previously been a national party began to break along tribal lines when Ibingira challenged Obote in the UPC. The "North/South" ethnic divide that had been evident in economic and social spheres now entrenched itself in politics. Obote surrounded himself with mainly northern politicians, while Ibingira's supporters who were subsequently arrested and jailed with him, were mainly from the South. In time, the two factions acquired ethnic labels – "Bantu" (the mainly Southern Ibingira faction) and "Nilotic" (the mainly Northern Obote faction). The perception that the government was at war with the Bantu was further enhanced when Obote arrested and imprisoned the mainly Bantu ministers who backed Ibingira.
These labels brought into the mix two very powerful influences. First Buganda – the people of Buganda are Bantu and therefore naturally aligned to the Ibingira faction. The Ibingira faction further advanced this alliance by accusing Obote of wanting to overthrow the Kabaka. They were now aligned to opposing Obote. Second – the security forces – the British colonialists had recruited the army and police almost exclusively from Northern Uganda due to their perceived suitability for these roles. At independence, the army and police was dominated by northern tribes – mainly Nilotic. They would now feel more affiliated to Obote, and he took full advantage of this to consolidate his power. In April 1966, Obote passed out eight hundred new army recruits at Moroto, of whom seventy percent came from the Northern Region.
At the time there was a tendency to perceive central government and security forces as dominated by "northerners" – particularly the Acholi who through the UPC had significant access to government positions at national level. In northern Uganda there were also varied degrees of anti-Buganda feelings, particularly over the kingdom's "special status" before and after independence, and all the economic and social benefits that came with this status. "Obote brought significant numbers of northerners into the central state, both through the civil service and military, and created a patronage machine in Northern Uganda". However, both "Bantu" and "Nilotic" labels represent significant ambiguities. The Bantu category for example includes both Buganda and Bunyoro – historically bitter rivals. The Nilotic label includes the Lugbara, Acholi, and Langi, all of whom have bitter rivalries that were to define Uganda's military politics later. Despite these ambiguities, these events unwittingly brought to fore the northerner/southerner political divide which to some extent still influences Ugandan politics.
The UPC fragmentation continued as opponents sensed Obote's vulnerability. At local level where the UPC dominated most councils discontent began to challenge incumbent council leaders. Even in Obote's home district, attempts were made to oust the head of the local district council in 1966. A more worrying fact for the UPC was that the next national elections loomed in 1967 – and without the support of KY (who were now likely to back the DP), and the growing factionalism in the UPC, there was the real possibility that the UPC would be out of power in months.
Obote went after KY with a new act of parliament in early 1966 that blocked any attempt by KY to expand outside Buganda. KY appeared to respond in parliament through one of their few remaining MPs, the terminally ill Daudi Ochieng. Ochieng was an irony – although from Northern Uganda, he had risen high in the ranks of KY and become a close confidant to the Kabaka who had gifted him with large land titles in Buganda. In Obote's absence from Parliament, Ochieng laid bare the illegal plundering of ivory and gold from the Congo that had been orchestrated by Obote's army chief of staff, Colonel Idi Amin. He further alleged that Obote, Onama and Neykon had all benefited from the scheme. Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of a motion to censure Amin and investigate Obote's involvement. This shook the government and raised tensions in the country.
KY further demonstrated its ability to challenge Obote from within his party at the UPC Buganda conference where Godfrey Binaisa (the Attorney General) was ousted by a faction believed to have the backing of KY, Ibingira and other anti-Obote elements in Buganda. Obote's response was to arrest Ibingira and other ministers at a cabinet meeting and to assume special powers in February 1966. In March 1966, Obote also announced that the offices of President and vice-president would cease to exist – effectively dismissing the Kabaka. Obote also gave Amin more power – giving him the Army Commander position over the previous holder (Opolot) who had relations to Buganda through marriage (possibly believing Opolot would be reluctant to take military action against the Kabaka if it came to that). Obote abolished the constitution and effectively suspended elections due in a few months. Obote went on television and radio to accuse the Kabaka of various offences including requesting foreign troops which appears to have been explored by the Kabaka following the rumours of Amin plotting a coup. Obote further dismantled the authority of the Kabaka by announcing among other measures:
- The abolition of independent public service commissions for federal units. This removed the Kabaka's authority to appoint civil servants in Buganda.
- The abolition of the Buganda High Court – removing any judicial authority the Kabaka had.
- The bringing of Buganda financial management under further central control.
- Abolition of lands for Buganda chiefs. Land is one of the key sources of Kabaka's power over his subjects.
The lines were now drawn for a show down between Buganda and the Central government. Historians may argue about whether this could have been avoided through compromise. This was unlikely as Obote now felt emboldened and saw the Kabaka as weak. Indeed, by accepting the presidency four years earlier and siding with the UPC, the Kabaka had divided his people and taken the side of one against the other. Within Buganda's political institutions, rivalries driven by religion and personal ambition made the institutions ineffective and unable to respond to the central government moves. The Kabaka was often regarded as aloof and unresponsive to advice from the younger Buganda politicians who better understood the new post-Independence politics, unlike the traditionalists who were ambivalent to what was going on as long as their traditional benefits were maintained. The Kabaka favoured the neo-traditionalists.
In May 1966, the Kabaka made his move. He asked for foreign help, and the Buganda parliament demanded that the Uganda government leave Buganda (including the capital, Kampala). In response Obote ordered Idi Amin to attack the Kabaka's palace. The battle for the Kabaka's palace was fierce – the Kabaka's guards putting up more resistance than had been expected. The British trained Captain – the Kabaka with about 120 armed men kept Idi Amin at bay for twelve hours. It is estimated that up to 2,000 people died in the battle which ended when the army called in heavier guns and overran the palace. The anticipated countryside uprising in Buganda did not materialise and a few hours later a beaming Obote met the press to relish his victory. The Kabaka escaped over the palace walls and was transported into exile in London by supporters. He died there three years later.
1966–1971 (before the coup)
In 1966, following a power struggle between the Obote-led government and King Muteesa, Obote suspended the constitution and removed the ceremonial president and vice-president. In 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic and abolished the traditional kingdoms. Obote was declared the president.
1971 (after the coup) –1979 (end of Amin regime)
After a military coup on 25 January 1971, Obote was deposed from power and General Idi Amin seized control of the country. Amin ruled Uganda as dictator with the support of the military for the next eight years. He carried out mass killings within the country to maintain his rule. An estimated 80,000–500,000 Ugandans died during his regime. Aside from his brutalities, he forcibly removed the entrepreneurial Indian minority from Uganda. In June 1976, Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France flight and forced it to land at Entebbe airport. One hundred of the 250 passengers originally on board were held hostage until an Israeli commando raid rescued them ten days later. Amin's reign was ended after the Uganda-Tanzania War in 1979, in which Tanzanian forces aided by Ugandan exiles invaded Uganda.
Political parties in Uganda were restricted in their activities beginning that year, in a measure ostensibly designed to reduce sectarian violence. In the non-party "Movement" system instituted by Museveni, political parties continued to exist, but they could operate only a headquarters office. They could not open branches, hold rallies, or field candidates directly (although electoral candidates could belong to political parties). A constitutional referendum cancelled this nineteen-year ban on multi-party politics in July 2005.
His presidency has been marred, however, by invading and occupying the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Second Congo War, resulting in an estimated 5.4 million deaths since 1998, and by participating in other conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa. He has struggled for years in the civil war against the Lord's Resistance Army, which has been guilty of numerous crimes against humanity, including child slavery, the Atiak massacre, and other mass murders. Conflict in northern Uganda has killed thousands and displaced millions.
Parliament abolished presidential term limits in 2005, allegedly because Museveni used public funds to pay US$2,000 to each member of parliament who supported the measure. Presidential elections were held in February 2006. Museveni ran against several candidates, the most prominent of them being Kizza Besigye.
On 20 February 2011, the Uganda Electoral Commission declared the incumbent president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the winning candidate of the 2011 elections that were held on 18 February 2011. The opposition however, were not satisfied with the results, condemning them as full of sham and rigging. According to the official results, Museveni won with 68 percent of the votes. This easily topped his nearest challenger, Besigye, who had been Museveni's physician and told reporters that he and his supporters "downrightly snub" the outcome as well as the unremitting rule of Museveni or any person he may appoint. Besigye added that the rigged elections would definitely lead to an illegitimate leadership and that it is up to Ugandans to critically analyse this. The European Union's Election Observation Mission reported on improvements and flaws of the Ugandan electoral process: "The electoral campaign and polling day were conducted in a peaceful manner. However, the electoral process was marred by avoidable administrative and logistical failures that led to an unacceptable number of Ugandan citizens being disfranchised."
Since August 2012, hacktivist group Anonymous has threatened Ugandan officials and hacked official government websites over its anti-gay bills. Some international donors have threatened to cut financial aid to the country if anti-gay bills continue.
President Yoweri Museveni has ruled the country since 1986 and he was latest re-elected in January 2021 presidential elections. According to official results Museveni won the elections with 58% of the vote while popstar-turned-politician Bobi Wine had 35%. The opposition challenged the result because of allegations of widespread fraud and irregularities. Another opposition candidate was 24 year old John Katumba.
Uganda is located in southeast Africa between 1º S and 4º N latitude, and between 30º E and 35º E longitude. Its geography is very diverse, consisting of volcanic hills, mountains, and lakes. The country sits at an average of 900 meters above sea level. Both the eastern and western borders of Uganda have mountains. The Ruwenzori mountain range contains the highest peak in Uganda, which is named Alexandra and measures 5,094 meters.
Lakes and rivers
Much of the south of the country is heavily influenced by one of the world's biggest lakes, Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. The most important cities are located in the south, near this lake, including the capital Kampala and the nearby city of Entebbe. Lake Kyoga is in the centre of the country and is surrounded by extensive marshy areas.
Although landlocked, Uganda contains many large lakes. Besides Lakes Victoria and Kyoga, there are Lake Albert, Lake Edward, and the smaller Lake George. It lies almost completely within the Nile basin. The Victoria Nile drains from Lake Victoria into Lake Kyoga and thence into Lake Albert on the Congolese border. It then runs northwards into South Sudan. An area in eastern Uganda is drained by the Suam River, part of the internal drainage basin of Lake Turkana. The extreme north-eastern part of Uganda drains into the Lotikipi Basin, which is primarily in Kenya.
Biodiversity and conservation
Uganda has 60 protected areas, including ten national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites), Kibale National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Semuliki National Park.
Uganda is home to a vast number of species, including a population of mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, gorillas and golden monkeys in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and hippos in the Murchison Falls National Park. Jackfruit can also be found throughout the country.
The country had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 4.36/10, ranking it 128th globally out of 172 countries.
Government and politics
The parliament is formed by the National Assembly, which has 449 members. These include 290 constituency representatives, 116 district woman representatives, 10 representatives of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces, 5 representatives of the youth, 5 representatives of workers, 5 representatives of persons with disabilities, and 18 ex officio members.
Uganda is a member of the East African Community (EAC), along with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. According to the East African Common Market Protocol of 2010, the free trade and free movement of people is guaranteed, including the right to reside in another member country for purposes of employment. This protocol, however, has not been implemented because of work permit and other bureaucratic, legal, and financial obstacles. Uganda is a founding member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country bloc including governments from the Horn of Africa, Nile Valley, and the African Great Lakes. Its headquarters are in Djibouti City. Uganda is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
In Uganda, the Uganda People's Defence Force serves as the military. The number of military personnel in Uganda is estimated at 45,000 soldiers on active duty. The Uganda army is involved in several peacekeeping and combat missions in the region, with commentators noting that only the United States Armed Forces is deployed in more countries. Uganda has soldiers deployed in the northern and eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan.
Transparency International has rated Uganda's public sector as one of the most corrupt in the world. In 2016, Uganda ranked 151st best out of 176 and had a score of 25 on a scale from 0 (perceived as most corrupt) to 100 (perceived as clean).
The World Bank's 2015 Worldwide Governance Indicators ranked Uganda in the worst 12 percentile of all countries. According to the United States Department of State's 2012 Human Rights Report on Uganda, "The World Bank's most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected corruption was a severe problem" and that "the country annually loses 768.9 billion shillings ($286 million) to corruption."
Ugandan parliamentarians in 2014 earned 60 times what was earned by most state employees, and they sought a major increase. This caused widespread criticism and protests, including the smuggling of two piglets into the parliament in June 2014 to highlight corruption amongst members of parliament. The protesters, who were arrested, used the word "MPigs" to highlight their grievance.
A specific scandal, which had significant international consequences and highlighted the presence of corruption in high-level government offices, was the embezzlement of $12.6 million of donor funds from the Office of the Prime Minister in 2012. These funds were "earmarked as crucial support for rebuilding northern Uganda, ravaged by a 20-year war, and Karamoja, Uganda's poorest region." This scandal prompted the EU, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, and Norway to suspend aid.
Widespread grand and petty corruption involving public officials and political patronage systems have also seriously affected the investment climate in Uganda. One of the high corruption risk areas is the public procurement in which non-transparent under-the-table cash payments are often demanded from procurement officers.
What may ultimately compound this problem is the availability of oil. The Petroleum Bill, passed by parliament in 2012 and touted by the NRM as bringing transparency to the oil sector, has failed to please domestic and international political commentators and economists. For instance, Angelo Izama, a Ugandan energy analyst at the US-based Open Society Foundation said the new law was tantamount to "handing over an ATM (cash) machine" to Museveni and his regime. According to Global Witness in 2012, a non-governmental organisation devoted to international law, Uganda now has "oil reserves that have the potential to double the government's revenue within six to ten years, worth an estimated US $2.4 billion per year."
The Non-Governmental Organizations (Amendment) Act, passed in 2006, has stifled the productivity of NGOs through erecting barriers to entry, activity, funding and assembly within the sector. Burdensome and corrupt registration procedures (i.e. requiring recommendations from government officials; annual re-registration), unreasonable regulation of operations (i.e. requiring government notification prior to making contact with individuals in NGO's area of interest), and the precondition that all foreign funds be passed through the Bank of Uganda, among other things, are severely limiting the output of the NGO sector. Furthermore, the sector's freedom of speech has been continually infringed upon through the use of intimidation, and the recent Public Order Management Bill (severely limiting freedom of assembly) will only add to the government's stockpile of ammunition.
There are many areas which continue to attract concern when it comes to human rights in Uganda.
Conflict in the northern parts of the country continues to generate reports of abuses by both the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, and the Ugandan Army. A UN official accused the LRA in February 2009 of "appalling brutality" in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The number of internally displaced persons is estimated at 1.4 million. Torture continues to be a widespread practice amongst security organisations. Attacks on political freedom in the country, including the arrest and beating of opposition members of parliament, have led to international criticism, culminating in May 2005 in a decision by the British government to withhold part of its aid to the country. The arrest of the main opposition leader Kizza Besigye and the siege of the High Court during a hearing of Besigye's case by heavily armed security forces – before the February 2006 elections – led to condemnation.
Child labour is common in Uganda. Many child workers are active in agriculture. Children who work on tobacco farms in Uganda are exposed to health hazards. Child domestic servants in Uganda risk sexual abuse. Trafficking of children occurs. Slavery and forced labour are prohibited by the Ugandan constitution.
Torture and extrajudicial killings have been a pervasive problem in Uganda in recent years. For instance, according to a 2012 US State Department report, "the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation for Torture Victims registered 170 allegations of torture against police, 214 against the UPDF, 1 against military police, 23 against the Special Investigations Unit, 361 against unspecified security personnel, and 24 against prison officials" between January and September 2012.
In September 2009, Museveni refused Kabaka Muwenda Mutebi, the Baganda king, permission to visit some areas of Buganda Kingdom, particularly the Kayunga district. Riots occurred and over 40 people were killed while others still remain imprisoned. Furthermore, 9 more people were killed during the April 2011 "Walk to Work" demonstrations. According to the Humans Rights Watch 2013 World Report on Uganda, the government has failed to investigate the killings associated with both of these events.
This section needs to be updated. (September 2023)
In 2007 a newspaper, the Red Pepper, published a list of allegedly gay men, many of whom suffered harassment as a result.
On 9 October 2010, the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone published a front-page article titled "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos Leak" that listed the names, addresses, and photographs of 100 homosexuals alongside a yellow banner that read "Hang Them." The paper also alleged Homosexual recruitment of Ugandan children. The publication attracted international attention and criticism from human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, No Peace Without Justice and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. According to gay rights activists, many Ugandans have been attacked since the publication. On 27 January 2011, gay rights activist David Kato was murdered.
In 2009, the Ugandan parliament considered an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would have broadened the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, or are HIV-positive, and engage in same-sex sexual acts. The bill included provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited back to Uganda for punishment, and included penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non-governmental organizations that support legal protection for homosexuality or sodomy. On 14 October 2009, MP David Bahati submitted the private member's bill and was believed to have had widespread support in the Uganda parliament. The hacktivist group Anonymous hacked into Ugandan government websites in protest of the bill. In response to global condemnation the debate of the bill was delayed, but it was eventually passed on 20 December 2013 and President Museveni signed it on 24 February 2014. The death penalty was dropped in the final legislation. The law was widely condemned by the international community. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden said they would withhold aid. On 28 February 2014 the World Bank said it would postpone a US$90 million loan, while the United States said it was reviewing ties with Uganda. On 1 August 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the bill invalid as it was not passed with the required quorum. A 13 August 2014 news report said that the Ugandan attorney general had dropped all plans to appeal, per a directive from President Museveni who was concerned about foreign reaction to the bill and who also said that any newly introduced bill should not criminalise same-sex relationships between consenting adults. As of 2019 progress on the African continent was slow but progressing with South Africa being the only country where same sex marriages are recognised.
Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023
On 21 March 2023, the Ugandan parliament passed a bill that would make identifying as homosexual punishable by life in prison and the death penalty for anyone found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality."
On 9 March 2023 Asuman Basalirwa, a member of parliament since 2018 from the opposition representing Bugiri Municipality on Justice Forum party ticket tabled a proposed law which seeks out to castigate gay sex and "the promotion or recognition of such relations" and he made remarks that: "In this country, or in this world, we talk about human rights. But it is also true that there are human wrongs. I want to submit that homosexuality is a human wrong that offends the laws of Uganda and threatens the sanctity of the family, the safety of our children and the continuation of humanity through reproduction." The speaker of parliament, Annet Anita Among, referred the bill to a house committee for scrutiny, the first step in an accelerated process to pass the proposal into law. The parliament speaker had earlier noted that: "We want to appreciate our promoters of homosexuality for the social economic development they have brought to the country," in reference to western countries and donors. "But we do not appreciate the fact that they are killing morals. We do not need their money, we need our culture." during a prayer service held in parliament and attended by several religious leaders. The Speaker vowed to pass the bill into law at whatever cost to shield Uganda's culture and its sovereignty.
The United States strongly condemned the bill. During a White House Press briefing on March 22, 2023, Karine Jean-Pierre stated. "Human rights are universal. No one should be attacked, imprisoned, or killed simply because of who they are or whom they love." In the following days, further criticism came from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the European Union.
As of 2022[update], Uganda is divided into four Regions of Uganda and 136 districts. Rural areas of districts are subdivided into sub-counties, parishes, and villages. Municipal and town councils are designated in urban areas of districts.
Political subdivisions in Uganda are officially served and united by the Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA), a voluntary and non-profit body which also serves as a forum for support and guidance for Ugandan sub-national governments.
Parallel with the state administration, five traditional Bantu kingdoms have remained, enjoying some degrees of mainly cultural autonomy. The kingdoms are Toro, Busoga, Bunyoro, Buganda, and Rwenzururu. Furthermore, some groups attempt to restore Ankole as one of the officially recognised traditional kingdoms, to no avail yet. Several other kingdoms and chiefdoms are officially recognised by the government, including the union of Alur chiefdoms, the Iteso paramount chieftaincy, the paramount chieftaincy of Lango and the Padhola state.