Uganda now has a multiparty democracy but its president is reluctant to step aside
Uganda lies on the equator, but because of the altitude the climate is relatively mild. The country forms part of the East African Plateau, most of which lies between 1,000 and 2,000 metres. To the west the boundary is formed both by mountain ranges and by the Western Rift Valley which incorporates lakes Edward and Albert. The eastern and north-eastern borders are also marked by mountains.
Most of the southern border runs across the world's second largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria, which is shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda's landscape shows great variety, from swampy river banks, to forests, to snowy peaks.
Uganda's population is also very diverse. It comprises dozens of major groups, but these can be divided into two main groups—the Bantu and the Nilotic. The Bantu, who live mostly in the south, make up around 70% of the population. The largest of these are the Ganda, also called the Baganda. The Nilotic group, mostly found in the north, include the Teso. While the Bantu groups have provided most of the political élite, the Nilotic people have in the past dominated the armed forces.
One-third of the population live below the poverty line. And they have one of the world's lowest life expectancies, a result partly of poor health services, but mainly of the AIDS epidemic. Uganda has, however, been a pioneer in the fight against the disease, with a pervasive and frank information campaign. This has helped reduce HIV prevalence detected in ante-natal clinics from 29% in 1992 to 5% in 2007.
Nevertheless, Uganda has already made some progress in reducing poverty and also has a donor-funded Poverty Eradication and Action Plan to boost the incomes of the poor.
More than 80% of the workforce depend on agriculture, generally working on small family farms growing basic food crops such as cassava, plantains, sweet potatoes, millet, and sorghum, mostly for their own consumption. They also grow a number of cash crops, notably coffee, which is the leading source of export income, and cotton, as well as raising cattle, sheep, and goats. In addition, a number of estates also produce tea.
With ample access to inland water Uganda is also able to catch large quantities of freshwater fish, notably Nile perch, which provide the second largest source of export income.
Manufacturing is mostly for domestic use and consists largely of processing agricultural output.
A bizarre and violent cult
One of the most serious challenges to security comes from a rebel group in the north, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, who claims communication with the spirits. The LRA has been killing thousands of people, kidnapping children to fight as soldiers, and generally wreaking havoc. In 2005 Kony and his commanders were indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. In 2008 another round of peace talks broke down and the government destroyed LRA bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has made the north more secure.