Country profile: Uganda

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Country Profile: Uganda


Left to right, from top: Jessica Agiro washes clothes with her baby in Angica; children at the primary school in Obalang; jumping for joy in Teso, central Uganda; a midwife in the Aketa health centre; and farmer Tom Opila and his daughter in Opot, near Obalang. © Mikkel Ostergaard / Panos Pictures

If you visit Uganda, be careful if you get public transport to State House, the official home of the President. The real building is in Entebbe – a town on Lake Victoria with the local UN offices, where the British colonialists had their administration until independence in 1962. But maybe you will go along the dirt road to Kasangati instead. This is a neighbourhood outside the capital, Kampala, where opposition leader Kizza Besigye lives.

In February, Uganda had a presidential election. Besigye’s campaign was against President Yoweri Museveni. He had been in control for 30 years – many people now see this as a dictatorship. After the elections, they put Besigye in prison for treason, and he is still there. He has now lost to Museveni in four elections. In all these elections, there was bribery, threats to voters and charges against the opposition. So Besigye’s supporters now say Kasangati is the the real home of the presidency.

Before the 2016 elections, there was not so much foreign investment. Investors were afraid that Uganda would never be stable. But after the elections, many investors returned. Many of the investors were Chinese. Many African countries are turning to China now.

Museveni does not say Uganda is a democracy now. He tells the West to do like the Chinese and do business with African countries without thinking about human rights and their government. When the West criticize him, he says he will take Uganda’s troops away from peacekeeping missions in Somalia and the Central African Republic.

Uganda is like the police officer of the region. Ugandan forces go to help in South Sudan, Congo and other places of instability. Museveni has warned that, if people stopped him being President, he could start a guerrilla war like to the five-year war that brought him to power in 1986.

To keep peace and stability, the world lets Museveni continue. People don’t talk about the inequality, corruption and poverty because he makes a lot of investments in infrastructure and promises to get Uganda middle-income status by 2020. They will now probably get help to change from a lot of money from new oilfields - even if there is corruption and human rights violations.

The country had some success in the fight against HIV and AIDS. But now they have introduced morality laws eg. the Anti-Homosexuality Act. This has brought more discrimination and is not helping the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Uganda is beautiful, with green vegetation, good soil and wonderful wildlife. Winston Churchill called it the Pearl of Africa. But it is hard to see that in all the problems.

Patience Akumu

Country Profile: Uganda Fact File

Leader President Yoweri Museveni. Economy GNI per person $670 (Tanzania $920, UK $43,430). The economic growth (about 5% per year) is impressive but it has not been able to give the people a better life. In 2015 the shilling lost 22% against the dollar, inflation rose from 3% to 9%, and interest rates went up from 11% to 17%.

Money Ugandan shilling.

Main exports Coffee, tea, fish, cocoa, vanilla, tobacco, cotton.

People 39.0 million. People per square kilometre: 164 (UK 267). The population growth of 3% every year is one of the highest in the world. About three quarters of the population is under 30.

Health Infant mortality 38 per 1,000 live births (Tanzania 35, UK 4). Lifetime risk of maternal death 1 in 47 (UK 1 in 5,800). HIV 5.3%. Hospitals often don’t have enough staff or drugs.

Environment The National Environmental Management Authority tries to make people keep the laws to protect the environment, but often the investors are stronger. Oil exploration is a big threat to wildlife reserves.

Culture Uganda has more than 57 ethnic groups. The biggest is the Baganda (17%); other are Banyankore, Bakiga, Basoga, Iteso and Langi.

Religion About 85% are Christian, Catholics and Protestants. Pentecostal churches are mainly responsible for the anti-gay feeling in Uganda.

Language English (official). Some schools teach Kiswahili. There were plans to make Kiswahili the national language, but this has not happened.

Human development index 0.483, 163rd of 188 countries (Tanzania 0.521, UK 0.907).

Country Profile: Uganda in detail

Income distribution Poverty has gone down: it was 24% in 2009 and is about 20% now. The rich people have very good lives but most Ugandans don’t have enough money for one meal a day. 2006 ★★

Life expectancy 59 years (Tanzania 66, UK 81). Ten years ago this was 48 years, twenty years ago it was 42 years. It has gone up mainly because of success fighting against HIV and AIDS. But healthcare is not reliable and most people don’t have enough money for it. 2006 ★★

Literacy 73%. Uganda says there is primary education for all children. But the government schools are not good and many children do not complete primary school - 72% - the highest in East Africa. 2006 ★★★

Position of women There was progress after the 1995 Constitution, but now it has got worse again. The government wants to control reproduction and how women dress in public. 2006 ★★★

Freedom The government often arrests people from the opposition party with no charge, closes down media if it reports things they do not want, and controls protests. 2006 ★★★

Sexual minorities The gay community successfully resisted the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014. But homosexuality is still illegal; gay people often cannot get work and have to leave their homes. 2006 ★

NI Assessment (Politics) Politics President Museveni’s government is corrupt. He has publicly given money to members of parliament so they will pass laws, increase the presidential budget and in 2005, change the law so he can be president for longer. His NRM party is now trying to change the age limits so that Museveni, now 71, can run for president again in 2021. In 2021 he will have been in power for 35 years. A lot of Uganda’s money goes into the military, which gives him more power. Ironically, Museveni once said that Africa’s biggest problem is leaders who stay too long in power.

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).