Leader: President Yoweri Museveni
Population: 27.6 million
Language: English is the official language. Other languages include Swahili, Ganda, and various Bantu languages
Religion: Roman Catholic 33%, Protestant 33%, indigenous beliefs 18%, Muslim 16%
Economy: GNI per capita: USD $270
Main Exports: Coffee, fish, tea, tobacco, cotton, corn, beans, sesame
Monetary Unit: Ugandan Shilling
Net primary school enrolment: 79%
Net primary school enrolment of girls: 79%
Health: Life Expectancy: 46 years (men), 47 years (women)
Infant mortality rate: 80/1000 live births
HIV Prevalence: 4.1%
Income Distribution: 55% of the population lives below the poverty line. The richest 20% earn 45% of the national income.
Culture: Uganda’s diverse population includes the following ethnic groups: Baganda 17%, Ankole 8%, Basoga 8%, Iteso 8%, Bakiga 7%, Langi 6%, Rwanda 6%, Bagisu 5%, Acholi 4%, Lugbara 4%, Batoro 3%, Bunyoro 3%, Alur 2%, Bagwere 2%, Bakonjo 2%, Jopodhola 2%, Karamojong 2%, Rundi 2%.
Environment: Problems include the draining of wetlands for agricultural use, deforestation, overgrazing and soil erosion.
Politics: The National Resistance Movement has been in power since 1986. In 2004, the Constitutional Court restored multiparty politics and eliminated restrictions on the organization of political parties. At the same time, the court removed a two-term restriction on the presidency, allowing President Museveni to seek a third term in office. In the north of the country, two decades of conflict between government forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have produced a humanitarian crisis marked by massive displacement and human rights abuses.
Current Political Climate: Elections scheduled for February 2006 were overshadowed by the arrest of President Museveni’s main rival, Kizza Besigye, for treason, rape and terrorism. Although Besigye was released on bail and is still expected to contest the elections, the army’s involvement in his arrest led to criticisms of the government’s commitment to democratic freedom. Meanwhile, the conflict in the north has been described by the UN as the world’s most neglected humanitarian crisis.
Position of Women: The government has introduced affirmative action policies in favour of women and has constitutionally enshrined women’s rights. Uganda is also the first African country to have a female vice president. Yet economic dependency on males and persisting structural disadvantages prevent women from achieving true gender parity. Ugandan law does not address the widespread problems of sexual harassment and domestic violence, and even female parliamentarians have complained of sexual harassment by their male colleagues. In the north of the country, conflict has left women increasingly vulnerable to violence, displacement, and HIV/AIDS infection.
Children in Uganda: Uganda has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the government has introduced a policy providing free education to four children per family. Problems persist, however, as nearly one million children have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS and children continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in the north. The LRA has abducted more than 25,000 children since 1986, and in the affected regions around 40,000 unaccompanied children, or ‘night commuters,’ walk each night from their homes in the villages to urban centres, in search of protection from the threat of abduction and attack.
Freedom: Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, harassment of journalists has led to some self-censorship. Nevertheless, independent print media outlets are often highly critical of the government and offer a range of opposition views.
FEMRITE is an association of Ugandan women writers that aims to be a channel for the development of women’s literature, to work for the promotion of female authors, and to use literature generated from communities as a basis for literacy programs. In January 2006, a 25-year-old member of FEMRITE named Glaydah Namukasa won the third Macmillan Writers' Prize for Africa. Her story, “Voices of a Dream” describes the life of a teenage girl whose family is coping with the effects of HIV/AIDS.