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Uganda: The Society and Its Environment
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment


Uganda's Rift Valley foundation provides the country with an alluvial plateau and plentiful lakes and rivers. Mountain peaks mark geological fault lines along its eastern and western boundaries and provide cooler temperatures and ample rainfall. This environment was peopled by successive waves of immigrants, some of whom displaced indigenous hunting societies during the first millennium A.D. Most of the newcomers eventually settled in the region that would become southern Uganda, and their evolving political and cultural diversity contributed to conflicts that flared up over several centuries. These enmities still simmered in the twentieth century, but none of them seriously derailed the modernization process that was occurring in Uganda as it approached independence in 1962.

Some local beliefs reinforced the process of acculturation, emphasizing patronage as a means of advancement and valuing education as a necessary step toward that advancement. British educational systems and world religions were readily accepted in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The focus of modernization was clearly in Buganda, however, and during the decades after independence, national progress toward modernization slowed as the nation's non-Baganda majority attempted to adjust this balance in their favor. Military rule -- a precarious alternative to dominance by the Baganda -- failed to implant a sense of nationhood because the notion of government as a mechanism for expropriating wealth was merely replaced by that of government as a brutalizing force.

In the late 1980s, Uganda's recovery from the damage of more than two decades of corrupt government and civil war was slowed by the scourge of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This disease shook but did not destroy most people's confidence in human institutions as the major determinants of their future, and it also provided a fertile environment for new religions that might claim to control the disease. Religions provided channels for political organization and protest, especially the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM), which challenged government controls in the northeast.

One of the challenges facing the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government was balancing traditional forces against pressures for modernization brought to bear by Uganda's growing educated elite. Women, too, have often been a force for modernization, as they demanded educational and economic opportunities denied under traditional and colonial rulers. The focus of these pressures in the 1980s was Uganda's still strong educational system. Through education, people struggled to bolster the institutions that underlay civil society in an environment that bore scars from government neglect and abuse.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Uganda was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 20 of 169


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