Cultural Diversity of Uganda

Cultural Diversity of Uganda

Over 40 ethnic groups live in Uganda and they all belong to certain regions of the country. The Baganda form the largest group, comprising almost 17% of the population and live in the south. Originally, Uganda had four kingdoms that enjoyed a certain level of autonomy under British colonial rule. The Buganda Kingdom was one of these, apart from the Kingdoms of Bunyoro, Toro and Ankole. Other important ethnic groups are Ankole (8%), Iteso (8%), Basoga (8%,) Bakiga 7%, Banyarwanda (6%), Langi (6%), Bagisu (5%), Acholi (4%), Lugbara (4%).

None of these ethnic groups constitutes a majority, thus limiting the ability of one group to control the others. However, inter-ethnic conflicts occur, though not on a large scale. An example are the repeating clashes between the Karamojong and other groups over cattle. Ethnicity does play a role in the protracted conflict in northern Uganda, where the Lord Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, has committed violence since 1986. This conflict is, however, not a purely inter-ethnic conflict.

The most prominent cleavage is the one between the north and south of Uganda, or between the people from the north and the Baganda from the south. The history of this divide goes back to pre-colonial times, but was worsened under colonial rule. The British stimulated economic and political activities in the south of Uganda and especially among the Baganda. They invested in infrastructure and education. The south has therefore grown wealthier. The Acholi from the north, comprising 4% of the population, produced raw materials for the south and served in the army.

Apart from socio-economic cleavages, the ethnic groups are different in how they have participated in the political rule of the country after independence in 1962. The Baganda have traditionally delivered the political rulers of the country and are therefore often perceived as the dominating elite.

Successive governments did not address the issue of national identity, leaving tensions between ethnic groups for what it was worth. They were often preoccupied with maintaining their positions and fighting their pre-successors. Moreover, each president seemed to favor particular ethnic groups, not in the least one’s own. Uganda is thus struggling with fragmentation over ethnic lines and lacks a sense of nationalism.


Christians make up 85.2% of Uganda's population. There were sizeable numbers of Sikhs and Hindus in the country until Asians were expelled in 1972 by Idi Amin, following an alleged dream, although many are now returning following an invitation from the new president, Yoweri Museveni. There are also Muslims who make up 12% of Uganda's population.


The cuisine of Uganda consists of traditional cooking with English, Arab, and Asian (especially Indian) influences. Like the cuisines of most countries, it varies in complexity, from the most basic, a starchy filler with a sauce of beans or meat, to several-course meals served in upper-class homes and high-end restaurants.

Main dishes are usually centered on a sauce or stew of groundnuts, beans or meat. The starch traditionally comes from ugali (maize meal) or matoke (boiled and mashed green banana) in the south, or an ugali-like dish made from pearl millet in the north. Cassava, yam, and African sweet potato are also eaten; the more affluent include white (often called "Irish") potato and rice in their diets. Soybeans were promoted as a healthy food staple in the 1970s and this is also used, especially for breakfast. Chapati, an Asian flatbread, is also part of Ugandan cuisine.

Chicken, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor, meats are consumed less than in other areas, and mostly eaten in the form of bushmeat. There would also have to be a good reason for slaughtering a large animal, such as a goat or a cow. Nyama (Swahili word for "meat") would not be eaten every day.

Various vegetables are grown in Uganda. These may be boiled in the stews, or served as side dishes in fancier homes. Amaranth (dodo), nakati, and borr are examples of regional vegetables.

Ugali, which is maize flour, is mixed with water to make porridge for breakfast mainly for children. For main means, maize flour is added to some water in a saucepan and stirred into the ugali to become firm like American cornbread. It is then turned out onto a serving plate and cut into individual slices (or served onto individual plates in the kitchen).


Uganda is ethnologically diverse, with at least 40 languages in usage. Luganda is the most common language. English is the official language of Uganda, even though only a relatively small proportion of the population speaks it. Access to economic and political power is almost impossible without having mastered that language. The East African lingua franca Swahili is relatively widespread as a trade language and was made an official national language of Uganda in September 2005. Luganda, a language widespread in central Uganda, has been the official vernacular language in education for central Uganda for a long time.


In Uganda, the kanzu is the national dress of men in the country. Women from central and eastern Uganda wear a dress with a sash tied around the waist and large exaggerated shoulders called a gomesi. Women from the west and northwest drape a long cloth around their waists and shoulders called suuka. Women from the southwest wear a long baggy skirt and tie a short matching cloth across their shoulders. Women also wear a floor long dress called a busuti, which was introduced by the 19th century missionaries.

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