Developments in Uganda

Published: 17 June 2009 Updated: 18 May 2015

Good economic growth, newfound peace in the north and potential oil revenues make Uganda a country full of opportunities. But there are also extensive human rights violations. President Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986, and his party has a firm grip on power.

Uganda gained independence from colonial power Great Britain in 1962 and in the 1960s the country was one of the richest in Africa. The relative prosperity was devastated during the bloody regime of dictator Idi Amin in the 1970s, when several hundred thousand people were killed and many were expelled from the country.

President Yoweri Museveni and his party the National Resistance Movement Party (NRM) have ruled Uganda since 1986. In 2005, a multi-party political system was introduced, but the political opposition is being thwarted.

For many years, there have been continuous conflicts between Museveni's government forces and different guerrilla movements. The guerrilla group that has caused the most suffering for the civilian population is the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which waged a guerrilla war from bases in northern Uganda and southern Sudan 1987-2006. Today, the rebel movement has been banished from the country, the majority of the internally displaced persons have returned to their villages and reconstruction has been initiated. LRA has however continued their attacks in neighbouring DRC.

Despite democratic deficits, Uganda has seen a lot of development since the gruesome dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. Uganda's economy has since the early 1990s been among the strongest in Africa with a growth rate of over five per cent annually.

Uganda has a favourable climate, fertile soils and is rich in natural resources. The discovery of oil in the western part of the country is expected to accelerate the economic growth. The majority of the population, however, still makes a living through small-scale farming.

The proportion of young people is among the highest in the world and the population is growing rapidly – if the population increase continues at the present rate, the population will have doubled by 2030.

The poverty rate has been almost halved since 1992. However, the social and economic development has been geographically disproportional and the country is still suffering from great regional differences and injustices. Corruption and poor infrastructure also hamper development. In 2013 Uganda repaid funds to several donor countries, including Sweden, after allegations that aid funds were misappropriated.

The human rights situation has deteriorated gradually. In 2014 President Museveni signed a bill that increased the penalties for homosexuality, despite widespread international criticism. The law was later declared invalid on technical grounds and it is uncertain whether there will be a law.

In 2003 free primary education for all children was introduced and a few years later all fees for middle and high school were also removed.

Women hold high positions in politics and administration. Roughly one third of parliamentarians and one in four ministers in Uganda are women, partly as a result of a quota system.

Uganda used to be among the countries worst affected by AIDS. But it was also the first country in Africa to successfully combat the epidemic, and the HIV prevalence rate is today around seven per cent.


Page owner: Department for Africa

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