Uganda

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Uganda is a small, densely-populated country in eastern Africa. It is generally considered to be a physically beautiful country; Winston Churchill called it "the pearl of Africa" [1], words which are repeated in the national anthem Oh, Uganda! [2].

In the modern era, Uganda came to the notice of westerners for various reasons. The search for the Nile River caused the exploration of much of East Africa, and Uganda was "discovered by contesting explorers Speke, Burton, Stanley, and Baker. Late in the 19th Century, Christian missionaries made strong inroads, resulting in devout converts. The Uganda Martyrs were a group of young noblemen killed for their faith; as with most martyrs, their constancy and faith served to win others to the new religion and Christianity remains the faith of a majority of Ugandans.

Immediately after World War I, Uganda was suggested as a possible homeland for the settlement of Jews, though the idea was quickly abandoned. Following the rise of the African intelligentsia in the 1960s and the attendant push for the independence of African nations, Uganda became a showpiece for modern Africa, with a high GNP, good roads, adequate hydro-electric power, modern cities (Kampala, the capital, the international airport at Entebbe, and Jinja, site of the Owen Falls Dam and Nytil Industries (clothing). Makerere University and Makerere University Medical School enjoyed a world-class reputation and tourism to its first-class game parks accounted for about 80% of GNP and made Uganda a popular holiday destination.

Still, for most of the modern era, Uganda was little known among ordinary westerners. Uganda was occasionally mentioned in popular culture when an exotic, faraway or unlikely venue was needed. In a Gidget movie, Gidget's best friends, Diana Otesa, came from Uganda. Uganda was also used in movies to indicate a primitive or unsophisticated society, a premise which would have been untrue in the 1960s. An episode of the American sitcom Good Times, James Evans says "The news'll be in Uganda by morning" to describe how fast it will be spread.

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, runner John Akii-Bua surprised most when he won the gold medal in the 400 m hurdles in world record time. Someone handed him a Ugandan flag, and in his excitement he ran around the track with it; starting a "victory lap" tradition which continues to the present. It was a memorable moment; years later American sportscaster Jim McKay (ABC) asked who would ever forget John Akii-Bua taking his country's flag and running around the track with it.

History of Uganda

Prior to the coming of Europeans, the area now known as Uganda comprised several small kingdoms, including Buganda and Toro, and areas ruled by chieftains, some democratically-elected and some hereditary.

In the colonial period, Britain declared a protectorate over Uganda in 1890 and soon thereafter undertook the building of the Uganda Railway, which, although going only to Lake Victoria originally, opened up Uganda to trade and other influences. The drawing of culturally arbitrary lines, created a political unit made up of tribes not otherwise associated, interfering with effective government formation on independence in 1962.

After independence, there was dictatorial rule and widespread death, on the order of 300,000 people, under Idi Amin (1971-1975), who among other actions expelled the Indian traders who had arrived with the railway. His successor, Milton Obote, also had a rule with human rights abuses and guerrilla warfare that may have claimed another 100,000 lives. Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, but has participated in elections.

Geography of Uganda

Uganda lies on the equator, but its altitude gives it a less steamy climate than other countries at the same latitude. Most of Uganda is savannah (grassland), but the topography varies greatly for such a tiny area, from tropical rainforest to desert, from jungle to alpine.

Culture

Religion

The majority of Ugandans are Christians, with Muslims a sizable minority and Ugandan Jews a very small minority. In the twentieth century, the Christian population was almost evenly divided between Roman Catholics and Anglicans, with the (slight) majority varying from time to time. Today, the numbers of evangelical Christians is on the rise; there are two Unitarian-Universalist congregations.

Politics

Yoweri Museveni, President since seizing power in 1986 has brought relative stability and economic growth to Uganda. During the 1990s, the government promulgated non-party presidential and legislative elections. Nevertheless, a multiparty system only came into existence in 2005, and external observers have questioned the fairness of elections.[3] Museveni was elected in 2006 and new elections were held in 2011. Human Rights Watch expressed concerns about fairness of the 2006 elections, describing them as multiparty in a single-party state [4]. The result of the 2011 elections was also strongly disputed.[2]

In January 2009, Uganda assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2009-10 term.[3]

President Museveni
...cast himself as a staunch U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism at a time when he was facing growing criticism for his increasingly dictatorial rule. Museveni, who has been in power for more than 20 years, changed the constitution ahead of the 2006 election to allow himself a third term, and jailed a leading opposition candidate. As U.S. ambassador, James Kolker was critical of Museveni's government, but his successor was less vocal as the United States pressed Museveni to send peacekeepers to Somalia. Uganda sent 1,500 troops as part of an African Union force that has had trouble pulling in other participants. "Museveni has very cleverly played the U.S. like a violin," said Joel Barkan, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[5]

Economy

Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, and sizable mineral deposits of copper, cobalt, gold, and other minerals. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over 80% of the work force. Coffee accounts for the bulk of export revenues.

Since 1986, the government - with the support of foreign countries and international agencies - has acted to rehabilitate and stabilize the economy by undertaking currency reform, raising producer prices on export crops, increasing prices of petroleum products, and improving civil service wages. The policy changes are especially aimed at dampening inflation and boosting production and export earnings.

Inflation dropped dramatically.

During 1990-2001, the economy turned in a solid performance based on continued investment in the rehabilitation of infrastructure, improved incentives for production and exports, reduced inflation, gradually improved domestic security, and the return of exiled Indian-Ugandan entrepreneurs. Growth continues to be solid, despite variability in the price of coffee, Uganda's principal export, and a consistent upturn in Uganda's export markets. A 1993 World Bank report spoke of significant progress and opportunities. [6]

In 2000, Uganda qualified for enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief worth $1.3 billion and Paris Club debt relief worth $145 million. These amounts combined with the original HIPC debt relief added up to about $2 billion. [3]

Public health

The country has dealt, and is dealing with, various public health problems in a sometimes-aggressive manner. It is an active part of the world public health community.[7] Established in 1936 to deal with yellow fever, the Uganda Virus Research Institute is now a World Health Organization reference laboratory.

Malaria remains the most lethal infections diseases. It has greatly lowered the incidence of new cases of HIV through a variety of measures.

In July, 2009, President Musaveni proposed to criminalize female genital mutilation, which has strong cultural roots but also significant morbidity and mortality, and an impact on women's rights.[8] Complicating this issue are research studies that indicate male circumcision can reduce the transmission of HIV,[9] the major work for which was conducted in Uganda. [10]

Security

Uganda has faced a continuing insurgency from a radical Christian group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). During the Second Sudanese Civil War, the national Sudanese government assisted it as a proxy against the southern insurgency, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). As the SPLM became the de facto, and then de jure, government of South Sudan, the LRA again turned its attentions on Uganda.

Food

Uganda’s cuisine is an amalgam of traditional “one pot” cooking with British and Asian cuisine. See Ugandan cuisine.

References

  1. Pearl of Africa Foundation [1]
  2. From the third verse, "For our own dear land we'll always stand, the pearl of Africa's crown!
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Uganda", The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency
  4. HRW Letter to Uganda's Election Observers, Human Rights Watch, 16 February 2006
  5. Stephanie McCrummen. U.S. Policy in Africa Faulted on Priorities: Security Is Stressed Over Democracy, 'Washington Post', February 22, 2008. Retrieved on 2009-12-22.
  6. Uganda - Growing out of poverty, World Bank, 30 June 1993, Report number 12029
  7. Country Profile, World Health Organization in Uganda
  8. Khadijah Rentas, "Uganda seeks to ban female circumcision", CNN
  9. Male Circumcision and Risk for HIV Transmission and Other Health Conditions: Implications for the United States, Centers for Disease Control, August 2008
  10. Bruce Olmscheid, Brian A. Boyle, (1 May 2001), "Behavioral Interventions and Host Mucosal Factors in Transmission of HIV", The AIDS Reader®