Putting Christ into the Crisis of UGANDA

A Visit to Uganda, Africa

 

Slightly smaller than the state of Oregon, Uganda is strategically positioned within Sub-Sahara Africa, a region that includes some of Africa's most economically important and resource rich countries, with a substantial market and great future potential. Uganda is land-locked and borders the Sudan to the north, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) to the west, Kenya to the east, and Tanzania and Rwanda to the south. Afirca map with uganda location

"The Pearl of Africa"

Uganda offers exceptional diversity combining some of the best features that Africa has to offer. It is a country blessed with contrasting physical features ranging from extensive plains with undulating hills, to snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, meandering rivers and spectacular flora and fauna. Uganda is the source of the Nile River and Africa's largest body of fresh water, Lake Victoria. Its great beauty led Winston Churchill to refer to it as the "Pearl of Africa." Most Americans are familiar with Uganda, as it is the home to the Silver Back Gorillas in Bandeau National Park (see below). In fact, Uganda considers its environment as one of its most important resources.

map of uganda

BASIC STATISTICS

  • Full country name: Republic of Uganda
  • Area: 93,104 square miles

  • Population: 31.5 million

  • Terrain: mostly fertile plateau (average elevation 4,000 feet/1,220 meters) rimmed by mountains

  • Capital city: Kampala; also the largest city

  • People: Baganda, Lingo, Equally, Pygmy, European, Asian, Arab

  • Languages: English (official language), Swahili (National language), Ganda or Luganda and other native tongues

  • Religion: Christian = 83.9%, Mulsim = 12%, Other = 4%

  • Government: Republic President: Yoweri Museveni, who was directly elected for a five-year term.

  • Major industries: Coffee, sugar, brewing, cotton, tea, textiles, tobacco

  • Major trading partners: Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Kenya, UK., Japan, India, South Africa.

HISTORY

Archaeology tells us that prehistoric man walked in what is now Uganda, and many sites have been excavated showing habitation over the centuries. One of the more recent excavations is at Cabaret near Lake Albert, where traces of village life going back a thousand years have been found. By the 700's and 800's, the people had developed agriculture and the use of iron, and by 1200, they had a simple form of government headed by chiefs. Indigenous kingdoms popped up in the 14th century. Among them were the Baganda, Beanery, Too, Ankle and Busoga.

Over the following centuries, the Baganda people created the dominant kingdom. But, by the time Arab traders came to the area around 1850 the Ganda had formed a rich and powerful kingdom, called Buganda. This kingdom had a large army and a highly developed system of government. Explorers and missionaries from Great Britain arrived during the 1860's and 1870's, the most famous of which was the Anglo-American explorer Henry Stanley, who came in search of Dr. David Livingstone with whom little had been heard since 1866, when he went to search for the source of the Nile. Stanley reached Zanzibar in January 1871 and proceeded to Lake Tanganyika, Livingstone's last known location. There he found the sick explorer, greeting him with the famous words 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" When Stanley arrived in Uganda he was welcomed by king Kabaka Mutesa I (ruled 1852-1884) and reported the king's eagerness to understand Christianity. Soon both Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries were working in Buganda. When Livingstone died in 1873, Stanley resolved to take up his search for the source of the Nile. His epic journey is described in "Through the Dark Continent."

After the Treaty of Berlin in 1890, Buganda, Kenya and the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba became British protectorates. The colonial administrators introduced coffee and cotton as cash crops and adopted a policy of indirect rule, giving the traditional kingdoms considerable autonomy, but favoring the recruitment of Buganda tribes people for the civil service. A few thousand Bugandan chiefs received huge estates from the British, on the basis of which they made fortunes. Other tribes people, unable to get jobs in the colonial administration or make inroads in the Buganda-dominated commercial sector, were forced to seek other ways of gaining influence. Thus were planted the seeds for the intertribal conflicts that were to tear Uganda apart in later years.

In 1962 Uganda gained independence from Great Britain and Milton Oboe, a school teacher from the Lingo tribe became president. But, tribal warfare caused a state of near anarchy until Oboe was overthrown by the Uganda Army in 1971, which then set up a military government. Major General Id Akin Dada, commander of the armed forces, headed the new government as president. However, Amens crazed dictatorship destroyed Uganda's economy and social fabric. the country's prolific wildlife was machine-gunned by soldiers for meat, ivory and skins, and the tourism industry evaporated. Over two million Ugandans murdered during Amen's eight year reign of terror. Uganda also suffered intense religious persecution during his dictatorship.

In 1978, a border dispute led to fighting between Uganda and Tanzania to the south. In 1979, Tanzanian troops, aided by Ugandans opposed to Akin, overthrew the government and took control. Milton Oboe returned from exile in Tanzania to an enthusiastic welcome in many parts of the country and swept to victory in a blatantly rigged election.

Shortly after Oboe became president in 1980, a guerrilla army opposed to his tribally biased government was formed in western Uganda. It was led by You're Museveni, who, like Oboe, had lived in exile in Tanzania during Amens reign. From a group of 27 grew a guerrilla force of about 20,000, many of them orphaned teenagers. In the early days few gave the guerrillas, known as the National Resistance Army (NRA), much of a chance, but by the time Oboe was ousted and Oakley had taken over, the NRA controlled a large slice of western Uganda. Fighting proceeded in earnest between the NRA and Oakley government troops, and by January 1986 it was clear that Equalize days were numbered. The NRA launched an all-out offensive and took the capital.

Despite Massiveness Marxist leanings, he proved to be a pragmatic leader, appointing several arch-conservatives to his cabinet and making an effort to reassure the country's influential Catholic community. Meanwhile, almost 300,000 Uganda refugees returned from across the Sudanese border. The economy took a turn for the better and aid and investment began returning to the country. Museveni won elections in 1994 and again in 1996 and 2001. The 1996 elections were seen as Uganda's final step on the road to rehabilitation and the country was rewarded by a visit from US President Bill Clinton in 1998, despite its blemished human rights record. In August 1999, Uganda signed onto the Congo peace agreement.

Uganda has come a long way from the days under Edit Akin, and in many ways reflects the new face of emerging Africa. There is now religious freedom and economic prosperity. Today, professing Christians comprise 95% of the population. Under leadership of President Museveni, Uganda has been transformed into a politically stable country with a secure democratic government and a dynamic economy based on free market principles. Although Museveni has won praise among Western governments for cutting government spending and urging African self-reliance, he has also come in for criticism over Uganda's involvement in conflicts in neighboring Sudan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For the most part, however, Uganda has become a model for other developing African nations in terms of human rights, economic development, and political stabilization. Moreover, Uganda has greatly reduced the HIV infection rate and the number of deaths from AIDS, which has ravaged much of its adult population, leaving orphans with little means of support for the future. In Uganda, there are 1.2 million children who have lost at least one parent to AIDS, a figure that is unfortunately increasing.

Against this background Uganda sits as a critically strategic nation in Africa both economically and spiritually. Saving Uganda's children and bringing up a generation that is healthy, educated and filled with love for Jesus will enable them to transform their own country and reach out to the rest of Africa.

Here are some basics about Uganda you may want to know, especially if you choose to participate in a ChristAid-sponsored mission trip:

Uganda has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and is one of Africa's most stable and prosperous countries. Though largely flat, the country is high, with an average altitude of over 3,280 feet (1000 meters). The bulk of the country enjoys a tropical climate tempered by altitude. The hottest months are from December to February, when it gets up to 84 F (29 C). The rainy seasons in the south are from April to May and October to November, the wettest month being April. In the north the wet season is from April to October.

Below: Kampala, the modern, bustling capital of Uganda

view of kampala uganda

The White Nile, the most important source of the Nile River, the longest river in the world (4,184 miles/6695 km), begins in Uganda. But, for centuries the real source remained a mystery that baffled indigenous populations and explorers alike. Noted Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy (c.100-70 AD) attempted to map the immortal waterway. In the 18th and 19th centuries many European explorers dreamed of locating the source of the waterway that Egyptians saw as the source of life. Many tried, and many died in the attempt.

Eventually it was discovered that the Nile is actually comprised of several small streams that form two main tributaries joining at Khartoum in Sudan: the Blue Nile, which starts at Lake Tan in the highlands of western Ethiopia, and the aforementioned White Nile, originating in Burundi and Uganda, where it flows out of Lake Victoria.

Below, Lake Victoria at Jinja, Uganda's second largest city

 Lake Victoria at Jinja

Below: White Nile River, here known as the Victoria Nile, flowing out of Lake Victoria

White Nile River, here known as the Victoria Nile, flowing out of Lake Victoria

Today, a plaque (below) looks out towards the source explorers sought for so long.

Nile source marker

On leaving Lake Victoria at the site of the now-submerged Owen Falls, the Nile rushes for 300 miles/483 km over rapids and cataracts, at first northwest and then west, until it enters Lake Albert. The section between the two lakes is called the Victoria Nile. The river leaves the northern end of Lake Albert as the Albert Nile, flows through northern Uganda, and at the Sudan border becomes the Bahr al Jabal. It then continues through Sudan and Egypt, finally emptying into the Mediterranean Sea after a 4100 mile/6600 km journey. Ten countries make up the Nile River Basin: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Uganda is extraordinarily diverse in natural resources. Within its borders are fresh water lakes, elevated plains, swamps, arid depressions, high, snowcapped mountains, forests, woodland and grassland, all supporting an incredible range of plant and animal life. Uganda is, in fact, 2nd in Africa and 9th in the world in mammal species and bird life (the country is home to half of Africa's bird species).

Below, rolling hills near Kabale in extreme southwestern Uganda

olling hills near Kabale

Continue this tour
See some of Uganda's diverse natural resources,
including mountains and wildlife..
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