The dictatorship of Idi Amin; the devastation wrought by the Lord’s Resistance Army; and the Entebbe hostage crisis – for many people, Uganda’s name will always be inextricably linked with these tragic and heartbreaking events.
But Uganda is actually so much more. It is an amazingly beautiful country that is rich in natural resources, including copper, cobalt, crude oil, salt and gold. And because Uganda’s soil is very fertile, many crops are grown here, including tobacco, tea and cocoa beans. This country is also the largest exporter of coffee in East Africa, according to the Daily Nation.
Then there are Uganda’s ten national parks, which are home to some of Africa’s most magnificent and rare creatures, including the critically endangered mountain gorilla, chimpanzees and the Big Five — the lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and cape buffalo. This country is also a bird lover’s paradise, boasting more than 1,000 bird species. So it’s probably not surprising that tourism is now the fastest growing sector of Uganda’s economy, according to the Financial Times.
So how amazing is Uganda? In his 1908 book, My African Journey, Winston Churchill described the country like this, “For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.”
Uganda’s most important asset, however, is not its beauty or its natural resources. It is its people. Uganda’s citizens are strong. They are survivors. And, sadly, their strength has been tested often over the years.
A History of Turmoil
Uganda is a landlocked nation located in east-central Africa. To its north lies South Sudan; to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo; to the east, Kenya; and to its south, Rwanda and Tanzania. Uganda gained its independence from Great Britain in 1962. Not long afterwards, in 1971, a military coup brought the ruthless dictator Idi Amin to power. During his reign, the economy of the country collapsed, and it is believed that between 100,000 to 500,000 people were murdered by Amin’s government. Fortunately for Uganda, he was forced to flee the country in 1979. It was at that point that this nation began the slow process of recovery.
But it has not been a smooth recovery, especially in the northern part of Uganda, where a rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terrorized citizens for 20 years starting in the late 1980s. The LRA massacred and mutilated thousands of Uganda citizens and kidnapped countless children. In addition, approximately 2 million people were moved by the Ugandan government to refugee camps to protect them from LRA raids. Finally, in the mid-2000s, the Ugandan government was able to force the LRA out of the country.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Another crisis that hit Uganda extremely hard was the HIV/Aids epidemic. In the late 1980s, more than 30 percent of Uganda’s citizens had contracted the virus. But the country reacted quickly by educating its citizens. And by 2008, the infection rate fell to 6.4 percent. Unfortunately, complacency may have set in, and the country now appears to be going backwards instead of forwards in its war on HIV/Aids, according to the New York Times. Hopefully, Uganda will once again respond quickly to this news to rectify this unfortunate backwards trend.
All We Can in Uganda
Today, Uganda, which has a population of approximately 34.8 million people, is relatively peaceful and stable. However, despite almost halving the national poverty rate in the last 20 years, poverty remains high in Uganda’s rural areas where 87% of the population live. Here, basic services are limited and the majority of people depend on subsistence agriculture to make a living. All We Can is committed to working in Uganda and is currently identifying exciting new community initiatives to get behind… watch this space!