Until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago, Ugandans were hunter-gatherers. Bantu-speaking people came to the country’s southern regions, most likely from central and western Africa. The Empire of Kitara, which existed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, was the first organized organization, followed by the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, then Buganda and Ankole in subsequent years.
In the 1830s, Arab merchants migrated interior from East Africa’s Indian Ocean coast. British explorers looking for the Nile’s source followed them in the 1860s. In 1877, Protestant missionaries arrived, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879. In 1888, the United Kingdom established the British East Africa Company and governed the region as a protectorate until 1894. In 1914, the final protectorate known as Uganda arose through the amalgamation of numerous previous provinces and chiefdoms. A sleeping sickness pandemic killed over 250,000 individuals between 1900 and 1920.
Uganda gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, and the country’s first elections took place on March 1, 1961. The Democratic Party’s Benedicto Kiwanuka was elected as the first Chief Minister. The next year, Uganda became a republic while remaining a member of the Commonwealth. Supporters of a centralized state fought against those who favored a flexible federation and a significant role for tribally-based local kingdoms in subsequent years. The political maneuvering reached a peak in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote violated the constitution and seized complete control of the government, ousting the president and vice president from office. Uganda became a republic in September 1967, with a new constitution that granted the president considerably more powers and eliminated the ancient kingdoms.
Obote’s administration was deposed on January 25, 1971, by a military coup headed by Idi Amin Dada, the leader of the armed forces. Amin proclaimed himself “president,” disbanded parliament, and rewrote the constitution to give himself complete authority. Idi Amin’s eight-year reign resulted in economic collapse, societal breakdown, and widespread abuses of human rights. Because they had backed Obote and formed up a significant portion of the army, the Acholi and Langi ethnic groups were targeted by Amin’s political persecution. During Idi Amin’s reign of terror, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that more than 100,000 Ugandans were killed; other authorities put the number as high as 300,000.
Tanzanian military forces repelled an invasion by Amin’s soldiers into Tanzanian territory in October 1978. The Tanzanian army, supported by Ugandan exiles, fought Amin’s forces and the Libyan soldiers who had been sent to assist him. Kampala was seized on April 11, 1979, and Amin and his surviving troops withdrew. This resulted in the restoration of Obote, who was ousted by General Tito Okello in 1985. Okello reigned for six months until being ousted after a “bush war” between the National Resistance Army (NRA) headed by the current president, Yoweri Museveni, and other rebel factions, including Andrew Kayiira’s Federal Democratic Movement and another led by John Nkwanga.
Museveni has been the president of Uganda since 1986. He was hailed by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders in the mid to late 1990s.
Uganda has recently made headlines due to a contentious legislation that makes homosexual sex punishable by life in prison and makes failing to notify an offender a criminal offense.