Uganda, or Republic of Uganda, a country in East Africa. It is landlocked and lies astride the Equator, bounded by Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Uganda's area is 91,134 square miles (236,036 km2).
Most of Uganda consists of a plateau, some 3,000 to 5,000 feet (900 to 1,500 m) high and rimmed by mountains, old volcanic peaks, and lakes. The interior around Lake Kyoga is lower and often swampy. Along the western border runs part of Africa's Great Rift Valley, containing Lakes Albert, Edward, and George. Here, too, is the Ruwenzori, a mountain range rising to 16,763 feet (5,109 m) at Margherita Peak, highest in Uganda. Part of the southern border passes through Lake Victoria, source of the Victoria Nile—a major headstream of the Nile River. It flows northward out of the lake to Lake Kyoga and on to Lake Albert, from which it emerges as the Albert Nile. On its way to Lake Albert, the river drops 130 feet (40 m) at Kabalega (formerly Murchison) Falls. Peaks up to 14,000 feet (4,300 m) high mark the eastern border.
Because of its elevation, Uganda has a modified tropical climate, with lower temperatures and less humidity than are found in tropical lowlands. Average monthly temperatures at Kampala, the capital, near Lake Victoria, are about 70° F. (21° C.). Rain falls during all months of the year, but is generally heaviest during March through May and August through November. The total amount varies from roughly 40 to 60 inches (1,000 to 1,500 mm), depending on location.
Savannas and other grasslands cover most of Uganda. There are some forests, chiefly in the Ruwenzori region. Big-game animals still roam the savannas, but most of them are found in national parks and game reserves.
Uganda has considerable potential for economic development, but decline has marked the economy since the early 1970's, partly because of corrupt dictatorial rule and military coups. In the early 1990's it was one of the poorest countries in the world. The people live mainly by subsistence farming, growing a variety of foods, such as plantains, millet, corn, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Coffee is the leading cash and export crop, followed by cotton and tea. The herding of livestock, chiefly cattle, is widespread. Fishing is carried on in all major waters, especially Lakes Kyoga and Victoria. Uganda's basic currency unit is the Ugandan shilling.
Numerous mineral resources are known, but they are virtually unexploited. Tin, gold, phosphates, tungsten, and salt are produced in small amounts. Industrialization has been slow, with industries generally limited to the processing of agricultural products and the manufacturing of animal feeds, fertilizers, and consumer goods.
Railways connect most of Uganda's principal cities and provide access to the Kenyan port of Mombasa. An extensive system of dirt and all-weather roads supplements rail transportation. Freight and passenger vessels operate on Lake Victoria. There is an international airport at Entebbe.
Nearly all of the people are Africans, most belonging to Bantu groups. The Baganda form the largest group. There are a few thousand non-Africans—mainly Asians and Europeans. In 1991 Uganda's population was 16,582,674. Kampala and its suburbs had 773,463 inhabitants.
English is the official language. Many indigenous languages are spoken; Bantu tongues predominate, especially Luganda, the language of the Baganda people. Swahili is widely understood. About 60 per cent of the people are Christians; the rest are Muslims or practice animism. Makerere University is located at Kampala.
Under the 1995 constitution, there is an elected president and a one-house legislature.
Uganda consisted of a number of small kingdoms when the British moved into the area in the 1890's. The most powerful kingdom, Buganda, became a British protectorate in 1894, and two years later British authority was extended to cover most of the rest of the region. Great Britain retained control of this territory until 1962, when Uganda became an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. A federal republic was established in 1963, with the king of Buganda as president. In early 1966 the prime minister, Milton Obote, seized the presidency. In 1971 he was deposed in a military coup led by General Idi Amin.
Amin established an extremely repressive dictatorship. Tens of thousands of Ugandans were put to death. In 1972 he deported all residents of East Indian descent. They had owned most of the nation's businesses, and after their departure the country's economy deteriorated.
In 1979 an invasion force of Ugandan exiles and Tanzanians overthrew Amin. Obote returned from exile and in 1980 was elected president by the national legislature. During his rule thousands of Ugandans died at the hands of his security forces and undisciplined troops. In 1985 the army leaders deposed Obote. The military government, in turn, was overthrown in 1986 by rebel forces led by Yoweri Museveni, who became president. In 1996 Museveni was elected president in the country's first direct elections for that office. He was reelected in 2001.