History of Uganda

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The history of Uganda comprises the history of the territory of present-day Uganda in East Africa and the peoples inhabating the region.


Uganda before 1900

The earliest human inhabitants in a contemporary Uganda were hunter-gathers. Remnants of these people are today to be found among the pygmies in western Uganda. Between approximately 2500 to 1500 years ago, Bantu speaking populations from central and western Africa migrated and occupied most of the southern parts of the country. This culture was part of the Urewe, or early eastern Bantu cultural complex. The migrants brought with them agriculture, ironworking skills and new ideas of social and political organization, that by the fifteenth or sixteenth century resulted in the development of centralized kingdoms, including the kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro-Kitara and Ankole.

Nilotic people, including Luo and Ateker entered the area from the north probably beginning about AD 1000. They were cattle herders and subsistence farmers who settled mainly the northern and eastern parts of the country. Some Luo invaded the area of Bunyoro and assimilated with the Bantu there, establishing the Babiito dynasty of the current Omukama (ruler) of Bunyoro-Kitara in the mid second millennium AD. Luo migration proceeded until the 16th century, with some Luo settling amid Bantu people in Eastern Uganda, and proceeding to the western shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania. The Ateker (Karimojong and Teso peoples) settled in the north-eastern and eastern parts of the country, and some fused with the Luo in the area north of lake Kyoga.

When Arab traders and slavers moved inland from their enclaves along the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa and reached the interior of Uganda in the 1830s, they found several kingdoms with well-developed political institutions. These traders and slavers were followed in the 1860s by British explorers and abolitionists searching for the source of the Nile River and to end slavery. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879.

Colonial Uganda

In 1888, control of the emerging British "sphere of interest" in East Africa was assigned by royal charter to William Mackinnon's Imperial British East Africa Company, an arrangement strengthened in 1890 by an Anglo-German agreement confirming British dominance over Kenya and Uganda. The high cost of occupying the territory caused the company to withdraw in 1893, and its administrative functions were taken over by a British commissioner. In 1894, the Kingdom of Uganda was placed under a formal British protectorate.

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