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Uganda is a landlocked East African country, bordered by Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Since the fall of former dictator Idi Amin, Uganda has seen periods of civil war and internal violence, though the situation has somewhat stabilised in recent years. The current president has ruled since 1986 and though elections are now held, their conduct has been criticised. The legacy of conflict in the north of the country is still felt, with extensive reported abuses by both the rebel Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan military, alongside nationwide problems of prejudice, violence and threats of execution against sexual minorities.
Uganda is a landlocked central African state on the equator and shares borders with South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. 20 per cent of the country is covered by lakes, while the rest of the terrain varies from tropical rain forest to savannah and the mountains on the western border. The capital city is Kampala.
Population and language
Uganda was home to more than 34.5 million people in 2011, almost a three-fold increase on the that of 1980. Population growth has remained high over the last decade, increasing at a rate of more than 3 per cent annually. This population is relatively ethnically diverse, including Baganda, Banyankole, Basoga, Bankiga and the Iteso peoples, as well as a large number of smaller ethnic groups.
The official language of Uganda is English and is widely spoken alongside Swahili and Luganda.
History and Politics
Uganda was gradually united under a British protectorate between 1894 and 1914, formed out of several traditional kingdoms. The country achieved its independence in 1962 under a Constitution that safeguarded the autonomy of these Kingdoms, but the 1966 Constitutional reforms removed this autonomy. In 1971, elected Prime Minister Obote was removed from power in a military coup under the leadership of Idi Amin whose ensuing regime was among the most brutal of post-independence Africa. When the Amin regime was overthrown in 1979, President Obote returned to power but entered into a guerrilla war with Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA). Obote himself was subsequently deposed and, following the short rule of a military council, the NRA leader Museveni was installed as President, an office he continues to hold today.
1986 saw the beginning of Uganda's so-called “no-party” system, in which voting and political participation were legal, but parties were prohibited from sponsoring candidates. This arrangement remained in force through the Constitutional reforms of 1995, but multi-party democracy was restored in 2005 in the same year that the Parliament voted to end term-limits on the Presidency. The most recent Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held in 2011, in which President Museveni was returned to the presidency and his party, the National Resistance Movement, secured a substantial majority in the Parliament. The EU Electoral Observation Mission and the Commonwealth Observer Group highlighted improvements in the electoral process compared to the previous elections, but drew attention to some procedural short-comings, particularly the strong position of the incumbent.
Uganda has been highly active in regional politics in recent years, and was heavily involved in the Great Lakes Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was among the first States to deploy troops in Somalia as part of the African Union peace efforts in Somalia.
Since Uganda's emergence from the economic mismanagement of the Amin regime, a gradual process of economic liberalisation and pro-market policies have led to substantial growth in the country. GDP growth has risen from an average of 6.5 per cent through the 1990s to more than 7 per cent during the last decade, growth which has been significantly higher than the regional average for Sub-Saharan Africa. The discovery of oil in the region may lead to further growth, an estimated US$2 billion per year from 2015, but the World Bank has drawn attention to the need for the country to manage oil revenue and address the fast growing young population to maximise the social benefits from the resources.
Poverty has reduced significantly alongside this economic growth, from 56 per cent in 1992/3 to 25 per cent in 2009/10, a reduction that surpassed the relevant 2015 Millennium Development Goal. Regional disparities remain, however, and poverty is particularly prevalent in Northern Uganda where, in part as a result of the conflict between the State government and the Lord's Resistance Army, poverty remains much higher at 45 per cent.
Media and Civil Society
In its Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has tracked a downward trend in press freedom in Uganda, from 83rd in the world in 2009 to 138th in 2011. Among the concerns raised by the organisation have been the increasing number of reports of violence against journalists, including the killing of an exiled Rwandan journalist in the country in 2011. Attacks on journalists during the local elections of the same year and allegations of treason against a prominent radio presenter have also damaged the freedom of the press. RWB has also highlighted the case of Augustine Okello, a presenter for a radio station in northern Uganda, who was detained, accused of treason and alleges that he was tortured while in pre-trial detention.
Human Rights and Children's Rights
Beyond concerns over media restrictions and violence, several other serious human rights violations have occurred in Uganda. Human Rights Watch reported on the deaths of nine peaceful demonstrators in 2011, and on the State's failure to properly investigate allegations against State actors in relation to the deaths. Human rights organisations have also widely reported on the state of the country's justice system, which has given rise to systematic human rights abuses, including allegations of torture, serious delays in the judicial system and the extensive use of pre-trial detention (an estimated 55-60 per cent of the prison population are held on remand). The Anti-Homosexuality Bill which, if enacted, would allow for the death penalty with respect to some consensual same-sex sexual activities, has been a prominent feature of national politics, which returned to Parliament in 2011 and 2012, though it has not been enacted. Of particular concern for children's rights is the widespread problem of child labour, which is estimated to effect around 2.7 million children, half of which are between the ages of 10 and 14.
- Constitution of Uganda, Article 6
- See BBC, "Dictator Idi Amin dies" 16 August 2003 and The Guardian, "Idi Amin Obituary" 18 August 2003
- BBC, "Uganda's Yoweri Museveni in profile" 12 May 2011
- Delegation of the European Union to Uganda, "EU Election Observation Mission to Uganda 2011 Releases Final Report
- Commonwealth Secretariat, "2011 Uganda Elections-Interim Statement"
- See the website of the African Union Mission in Somalia
- The Economist, "Uganda's Oil, a bonanza beckons: hope and peril for the Great Lakes" 31 May 2010
- Reporters Without Borders, "Rwandan exile journalist gunned down in Kampala" 2 December 2011
- Reporters Without Borders, "More attacks on journalists during local elections" 24 February 2011
- Reporters Without Borders, "Radio presenter facing possibly[sic death penalty on treason charge"] 10 August 2011
- Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2012: Uganda"
- Uganda Prisons Service Statistics
- The Guardian, "Uganda anti-gay bill resurrected in Parliament" 8 February 2012
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, "Concluding Observations, November 2005", paragraph 73
- OHCHR, "Uganda Homepage"
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Uganda Country Profile"
- BBC, "Uganda Country Profile" and news items (see footnotes)
- The World Bank, "Uganda Country Brief"
- The World Bank, "Uganda Homepage"
- Reporters Without Borders, "Press Freedom Index 2011-12" and news items (see footnotes)
- The Guardian, news items (see footnotes)
- The Economist, news items (see footnotes)