Hailed as “The Pearl of Africa”, Uganda boasts incredibly diverse landscape and wildlife. From the shores of Lake Victoria, to white water rafting on the Nile River, to silverback gorilla tracking, there are plenty of once-in-a-lifetime activities for every type of adventurer to enjoy. Uganda is home to 10 national parks run by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, each diverse in landscape and wildlife.
Uganda is also home to all the Big Five game animals – elephant, lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhino. It is also known as one of the best birding destinations in the world, as 12% of the world’s bird species can be found here, as well as half of all species found in Africa.
Uganda’s history is almost as colorful as its wildlife. Uganda’s tribes were primarily hunter-gatherers for about 2,000 years. Arab traders arrived in Uganda in the 1830s, followed by British explorers looking for the source of the great Nile River in the 1860s. The arrival of Anglican missionaries in 1877 marked the beginning of almost a century of British occupation as a part of the Imperial British East Africa Company.
Uganda gained independence from the British on October 6,1962. Power tensions between the newly-formed central government and the Buganda kingdom, the largest regional kingdom in Uganda, led to many years of struggle that ended in a state-led attack on the Buganda palace on May 1966. The attack, ordered by then-Prime Minister Obote, was led by Idi Amin. The palace fell and a new constitution was chartered that declared Uganda a republic, abolished traditional kingdoms, and established Obote as President.
In 1971, General Amin staged a coup against President Obote and instated himself as the next president. He ruled as a dictator who’s military carried out the massacre of between 300,000-500,000 civilians in eight years. Amin also forcibly removed non-Ugandan businesses and entrepreneurs, who were primarily Indian, in an effort to promote Ugandan businesses and companies. Amin’s regime ended in 1979 when he fled Uganda after the Tanzanian-Ugandan War.
Since Museveni became president in 1986, Uganda has struggled with two Congo wars, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army that created massive displacement of civilians in the North, and widespread political corruption. Uganda has also struggled with human rights issues, including LGBT & women’s rights and a high HIV rate. Much of the country still lives in extreme poverty; in 2012, 37.8% of the population was living on less than $1.25 per day.
However, since 1986 Uganda has been enjoying a fast-growing economy and a steady infrastructure thanks to international investments and tourism. The growing film, art, music, fashion and food scenes continue to make waves as entrepreneurs and voices continue to celebrate their thriving and diverse Ugandan culture.