Known primarily for one of the last protected areas of refuge for the endangered Mountain Gorilla, Uganda is also home to the Rwenzori Mountains – known also as both the iconic Mountains Of The Moon and the ultimate source of the Nile – Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls and many others places of unique interest and beauty.
Background & Facts about Uganda
Uganda is one and the most dramatic recovery stories in Africa in the last 30 years has been Uganda. In that time the nation has successfully rehabilitated itself from being the homicidal playground of an utter madman – Idi Amin Dada – to one of the most effectively governed, safest and pleasant of African travel destinations.
Uganda is one of the Rift Valley states with its southern and eastern frontiers abutting Tanzania and Kenya, both of which are traditionally among of the strongest tourist destinations in Africa. The three nations, that at one time a loose confederation of British Administered territories, share between them the jewels of the African crown. Lake Victoria is perhaps the most obvious of these, but each nation also has one of the principal mountain ranges of the region that in combination form one of the most important mountaineering destination on the globe.
The capital city Kampala is an engine of regional economic growth, with the fastest growing economy on the continent, and while not without some questions of legitimacy, the Ugandan government is led by regional strongman Yoweri Museveni. Museveni’s brand of benign dictatorship, although not absolute, is extremely pervasive and enduring. It has been a success so far, however, and bearing in mind how badly mauled Uganda has been by the lunatic fringe in the past, that is a fact worth celebrating.
Uganda is a green and pleasant land. In this regard it typifies its location, and although heavily populated and almost entirely deforested, it lacks the bone dry desperation evident in many other quarters of the region.
Land use, although traditional, tends be practical, and in fact Uganda owns a remarkable small scale farming structure that is most evident in the unbelievable ubiquity of bananas.
It is a happy nation, and even if a little too steeped in the gun culture, it exists in a rough neighborhood, and effectively keeps the peace to a degree that there are few places in the country that do not feel fundamentally safe and welcoming.
East Africa customarily has two wet seasons, the long rains between March and May, and the short rains between October and November. In the west of the country, and in particular in the mountainous region within and surrounding the Rwenzori National Park, there are also said to be two periods of rain. The short rains, which are usually in the morning, and the long rains which are usually in the afternoon.
If it is your intention to trek in the Rwenzori Mountains then January and February are the optimum months, with a second window of opportunity available between mid-June and August. However, with raspberries the size of golf balls, giantification evident among all the most prominent plant species and with bogs everywhere it is not difficult to ascertain that it rains all the time in the Rwenzoris, and that in some months it simply rains more.
It is hardly surprise therefore that Uganda is so green. However during the period between December and late February the weather is dry(ish), and therefore this is generally regarded as the optimum period to visit the country. On the whole though Uganda has a very agreeable climate. While not quite the highlands of Kenya, or the central plateau of Zimbabwe, it is nonetheless one of the most European friendly eco-regions of the continent.
Not much is known about the origins of Uganda's five monarchies, mainly because their early history was not written down. Almost the whole vast region between the great lakes of Victoria, Albert, and Tanganyika is occupied by centralized native states headed by monarchies. They are all hereditary monarchies, sometimes with extreme distinctions of class and status.
All the people of Buganda, Bunyoyo, Ankole, Toro, and Busoga speak related Bantu languages, and it has become usual in ethnographic literature to refer to them collectively as Inter lacustrine Bantu. These monarchies have had a history of contact with western culture for over 100 years, as well as their own traditional dynastic history that stretches back through the centuries.
They also share the concept of super-ordination and subordination: the notion that some people are always above others- the abalangira (royals) - and some are always below - the bakopi (peasants). The status destinations are more strongly marked in some kingdoms than in others, but in general they are not rigid, castle-like discriminations. It has always been theoretically possible for able bakopis to rise to positions of high authority in the state.
For the majority of these kingdoms, human history begins with a first family whose head is called Kintu, 'the created thing'. A legend shared by them all provides a 'mythical charter' for the social and political order. Nothing is known about the origins of Kintu. The legend maintains that the mythical man, who came from heaven, represents creation itself. Everything concerning the tribes was attributed to Kintu: it is said he must have been the first king of the vast area incorporating all the present five kingdoms and beyond, before they became independent kingdoms.
The Buganda monarchy is one of the best documented of any African monarchy. It remained almost the only kingdom where extensive historical, political, sociological, and anthropological studies have been carried out. Two important means in which the royal was geology was kept were the preservation of artefacts inside the royal tombs and the custom of removing and preserving the lower jaw bone of all the important people, which goes back to the earliest remembered history of Buganda.
In most regions of Uganda there are quite distinctive wet and dry seasons. In much of the southern half, rainfall occurs around March to May and September to November, with the period of June-July and December-January being relatively dry. In northern Uganda the two rainy seasons run together, in effect extending from April to October. In most of Uganda rain falls in the afternoons - although early morning and evening rains do occur at times. However, in parts of western Uganda, the rainfall is predominantly in the form of thunder-storms, and severe hailstorms are frequent, damaging crops and soil cover.
The region surrounding Lake Victoria - sometimes called the Lake Victoria crescent - receives well-distributed rainfall throughout the year, with a relatively dry season between December and March and June-July. The afternoon rains common in the region clear away after a few hours and the land dries up rapidly when the sun appears.
The north-eastern part of Uganda (the Karamoja region) is drier than the rest of the country, partly as a result of the influence of the passage of wind from Somalia (the water vapour content is low the time the winds reach the region after passing through the Ethiopian and Kenyan highlands).
The rainy season in the north-east is April to August, with a marked minimum in June and marked peaks in May and July.
The hilly areas attract more rains, but they are generally heavy and brief, causing sheet erosion and carrying everything down in the seasonal stream and river valleys miles beyond where they originated.
The mean temperature over the whole of Uganda shows little variation, save for the mountainous districts of western Uganda and around Mount Elgon. In west 4 degrees centigrade (39 degrees F) and rise to 21 degrees centigrade (70 degrees F) IN kabala District, whereas in Mbarara District it can climb as high as 29.5 degrees centigrade (85 degrees F), with drastic daily variations. In Karamoja, temperatures can reach 35 degrees centigrade (95 degrees F) during the dry season and 26.6 degrees centigrade (80 degrees F) during the wet months.