Key facts about Uganda, a major regional player

2016-02-16 09:56


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Kampala - Uganda, which holds presidential elections on February 18, plays a key role in East Africa as a major regional economic and military power.

A diplomatic heavyweight, President Yoweri Museveni has sent troops into multiple nations, as well as led efforts to end regional crises, most recently in troubled Burundi.

Museveni, who seized power in 1986, is one Africa's longest ruling presidents, beaten by Equatorial Guinea's President Theodore Obiang Nguema, Angola's Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Cameroon's Paul Biya.

Aged at least 71, Museveni is widely expected to be re-elected, having changed the constitution in 2005 to allow him to run again.

With a consitutional age limit of 75, it would be his last term in power if he wins - unless another change is made.

Here are some key facts about Uganda.

Landlocked but strategic

Sharing borders with troubled countries including Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan - Museveni has sent troops into both - Uganda lies in Africa's volatile Great Lakes region.

It covers 241 038 sq km, about the same size as Britain or Ghana.

Ugandan troops have served with the African Union Mission in Somalia since 2007, forming the backbone of the 22 000-strong force battling al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.

The Shebab have struck back in Somalia and in Uganda: on July 11, 2010, Shebab suicide bombers in Kampala killed at last 76 people watching the World Cup final.

Growing population

With some 37.8 million people, according to the World Bank, it has one of the fastest population growth rates on the continent.

A mainly Christian population - with believers making up more than three-quarters of the people - Pope Francis was given a rapturous welcome on a visit in November 2015.

Memories of Amin violence

Britain's protectorate in Uganda was forged in 1894 from a group of neighbouring and sometimes rival kingdoms, including the dominant Buganda kingdom in the south and Bunyoro in the northwest.

The country became independent in 1962, with the Buganda monarch, Edward Mutesa, named as first head of state.

But Mutesa was deposed and exiled by then prime minister Milton Obote in 1966, the first in a series of violent regime changes, including Obote's fall in 1971 in a military coup to dictator Idi Amin.

Up to a half million Ugandans died under Amin's regime, which grabbed world headlines in 1976, when Israeli commandoes freed more than 100 hostages held by Palestinian militants at Entebbe airport.

Amin's ouster in 1979 was followed by half a decade of instability that ended when Museveni seized power in 1986.

While Museveni enjoyed Western support for much of his early regime, criticism of human rights abuses as well as anti-democratic legal and constitutional reforms, have tarnished his image.

Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels led by Joseph Kony have long since been chased out of Uganda, but the jungle guerrillas continue their three-decade long war across five central African nations, in which more than 100 000 people have been killed and 60 000 children abducted.

Coffee, aid ... and perhaps oil

Agriculture accounts for around 23% of Uganda's national output but employs more than 80 percent of the workforce. The main export is coffee.

Uganda does not generate enough revenue to cover government operating costs, and relies on a consortium of foreign donors to balance its national budget.

The discovery of an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil in the northwest Lake Albert region is hoped to boost the economy and stem reliance on foreign aid. But plans for an oil refinery producing 200,000 barrels per day have made little progress so far.

GNI (gross national income) per capita: $670 (World Bank, 2014).

Read more on:    yoweri museveni  |  uganda

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