Languages: English (official), Bantu (Luganda, Swahili), Nilotic (Acholi, Lango)
This is where the mad dictator Idi Amin Dada terrorized, tortured and murdered his opponents, tribes, for nine years until he had to flee in 1979 before the Tanzanians which he had unwisely attacked. More than 300 000 Ugandans had been murdered.
This tragic country was not out of its misery for a military coup replaced the puppets the Tanzanians had installed, by the equally murderous Lango dictator, Milton Obote. This second madman ravaged the country, and particularly the Baganda tribes in the southwest, from 1980 to 1985 when he was overthrown by a coup led by Tito Okello.
Obote's excesses led to the rapid development of a disciplined guerrilla force called the National Resistance Army led by Yoweri Museveni By the time Obote was ousted by Okello, the MRA controlled most of western Uganda. Fighting continued until Okello's forces had been chased over the border into Sudan in 1986.
Museveni had much to do to rehabilitate the moribund economy and to heal the inter tribal rancours left by the passage of the two tribal dictators. He declared an amnesty and 300 000 refugees returned home from Sudan. He proved irreplaceable and easily won elections held in 1994 and again in 1996. Uganda was on the mend but it had a long way to go!
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The bus ride from Nairobi to Kampala took all day from 7 AM to 7 PM. We went through immigration and customs formalities in this round tin shack at the Ugandan border town of Busia.
Just outside of Busia these baboons seemed curious about visitors to their land but they did not ask to check our passports.
Parliament Buildings in Kampala.
Matt, Scott and I arrived in Kampala in the evening and took a matatu (mini bus) to the Backpacker's Hostel on Natete road in a western suburb. The next day, they left for Fort Portal and the Ruwenzori mountains on the Zaire border and I went exploring Kampala.
Central Kampala which had been badly damaged by street fighting and looting during Adi Amin's fall before the Tanzanian army in 1979 and during the MRA takeover from Okello in 1986 had been nicely rebuilt when I visited in 1995. This city which had seen so much violence is now a modern thriving busy place showing the result of good government by the Museveni regime.
Kampala has risen out of its ashes but there are very few Asians left in Uganda now out of the 70 000 that were given 90 days to leave the country by Idi Amin Dada in 1972. This great Hindu temple bears witness to the prosperity that the industrious Indian community had achieved before their businesses were confiscated by Idi Amin and his cronies (an estimated 1000 million dollars worth).
The economy has improved steadily under Museveni. Its average GDP rate of growth of 6 % from 1985 to 1995 is one of the highest in Africa. This view of a small part of the sprawling Nakasero Market reflects this booming economy.
Next to the market are a bus station and a matatu station. Scheduled buses do the longer distances and these matatu (mini vans) go everywhere on set routes leaving only when full.
I took a bus from Kampala to Kabale close to the Rwanda border. At each stop crowds of vendors would materialize offering not only food and drinks but also clothes, sandals and all kinds of goods. During the 6 hour ride, an elderly gentleman next to me told me how northern tribes were persecuted and how Hindus were run out of the country during Idi Amin Dada's reign of terror.
A room is only 2.70 US$ and dinner only 3.00 US$ at the Visitours Hotel where I stayed before and after going to Rwanda. When I came back from Kigali I had the pleasant surprise of finding Matt and Scott, the two travellers I had met on the truck ride across the northern Kenyan desert from Moyale to Marsabit and who had travelled with me to Nairobi and Kampala.
This view from my hotel balcony in Kabale shows a line of trucks waiting to drive down the side road to the right to bring international aid to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. It was only 100km so I hitched a ride with one of them to Kigali. I had the luck of meeting a crew of IRC (International Rescue Committee) drivers who invited me to stay with them in the house that had been allotted to them by the UN.
Rwanda countryside. My hosts, the Dutch Glenn, the English Geordie and the Kiwi Moochie were of that unusual breed that thrive on danger. They had come here from a trucking job in Bosnia and still had the bullet proof vests they had to wear there. They were a hard working, hard drinking tough bunch that did not like to be photographed.
I took very few photos in Kigali but I did manage to take this shot of Geordie and three of IRC's four wheel drive 5 ton Bedford trucks that are built to go almost anywhere. The crew was making good money here but the situation was quiet and they were toying with the idea of taking on a trucking job in Angola where they would get a considerable danger premium. I could readily imagine these guys joining a mercenary group if there was a high paying civil war nearby! Meeting them was an interesting experience.
After Rwanda I came back to Kampala and set off the same day in a matatu for the bush village of Bukalagi 150 kms to the north where I hoped to meet Father Pierre Landry, a friend of a friend of mine back in Montreal. I got there late in the day only to learn that Pierre Landry who had founded and built up this Catholic mission had moved away. I was nevertheless very well received by John, the headmaster and Father Vincent Bakkabulindi shown here in front of St Peter's church.
The school's children also gave me a warm welcome so I took their photo with Father Vincent and John before going back to Kampala and from there to Nairobi on my way to Arusha in Tanzania.