Uganda History Facts and Timeline

(Uganda, UG, East Africa)

The history of Uganda really begins roughly 2,500 years ago, when groups of hunter-gatherers speaking Bantu languages began to call this country their home, after migrating from the centre and west of Africa. A second wave of migration saw the arrival of Nilotic peoples, who came from neighbouring Sudan (north) and nearby Ethiopia (north-east).

Today, Uganda's towns and cities can often be traced to these two distinct races, with the descendants of the Bantu being roughly based within the central and southerly regions of the country, and the Nilotic residing more northwards.

The Early Days

The first few centuries in Uganda's history were fairly uneventful, with the various groups setting up communities and taking full advantage of the terrain. Farmers utilised the fertile land and enjoyed bumper crops, while craftsmen contributed their different skill sets, such as potters and blacksmiths. Fishing villages lined much of Lake Victoria's shoreline and made the most of its plentiful supplies.

Due to its inland setting, Uganda was unable to make use of the various ports cropping up along the Indian Ocean's coastline and trade links were fairly limited for many years. The country remained quite isolated and had few visitors, although its population steadily increased and local villages expanded.

In the 14th century, the kingdom of Buganda (based in central Uganda and comprising Kampala) was unified and the Kintu dynasty came into being, at the hand of King Kato Kintu.

Arrival of the British

The 19th century was to be a time of great change for the native Ugandans, with British explorers making themselves known in the 1860s, followed by missionaries in the 1870s. The 1890 Treaty of Berlin resulted in areas of Africa being divided and ruled by the British from 1894 onwards, including Uganda.

The British chose to rule from a distance, allowing the country the freedom to manage itself to some extent, with the help of the Buganda people. However, towards the end of the 19th century, more than 30,000 Indian labourers were shipped to Uganda by the British, to build a railway line and connect the main settlements by train.

Plagues and a Time for Independence

During the first two decades of the 20th century, a parasitic disease known as 'African trypanosomiasis' or 'sleeping sickness' devastated the coastal towns and villages, being transmitted by the tsetse fly. In total, close to 300,000 people died due to this epidemic.

In the 1950s, many people began to campaign for Ugandan independence and a coalition was formed. History remembers October 9th, 1962, as being the day that Uganda finally achieved its independence from the British, with the proviso that the Buganda people would govern the country.

Civil Wars and Refugees

An unsettled time came following the outbreak of civil wars in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), as well as both Rwanda and Sudan. Refugees flooded into Uganda and socialist political leader Apolo Milton Obote became the country's president in 1966. The Bugandan monarchy was subsequently disbanded and in 1971, Idi Amin infamously overthrew the government and began his reign of terror. Anyone not following his regime was shot and all resident Asians were ordered to leave Uganda.

At the hands of Idi Amin, the infrastructure and economy crumbled, wildlife was decimated and the burgeoning tourism industry vanished almost overnight. Amin began to fight with Tanzania (to the south) and the Uganda-Tanzania War lasted from October 1978 until April 1979, when Amin's forces were defeated by the Tanzanian armies. The troubled times were far from over, although the return of Obote to power was seen as a positive move politically.

A guerrilla army known as the National Resistance Army took control of much of western Uganda and soon moved into Kampala. The economy slowly began to improve and a more settled time arrived. In the late 1980s, a war broke out in northern Uganda, with the Lord's Resistance Army fighting for their religious beliefs and being guilty of mass murder.

The Uganda of Today

While the country's history of bloodshed and terrorism will always be remembered, the outlook of the country seems far more positive following the return of stability.

President Yoweri Museveni championed free primary education and raised people's awareness of HIV / AIDS through a series of successful campaigns. Agriculture continues to greatly contribute to the local economy, with Uganda's substantial crops of coffee, cotton, sugar and tea being exported all over the world. Tourists are now welcomed, with Ugandans being famous for their hospitality.