|Uganda Table of Contents
Roughly 10,000 Ugandans of Sudanese descent are classified as Nubians, referring to their origin in the area of the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. They are descendants of Sudanese military recruits who entered Uganda in the late nineteenth century as part of the colonial army and were employed to quell popular revolts. Their ethnic identities varied, but some spoke Western Nilotic languages. The Acholi people were their closest relatives in Uganda, but Nubians spoke a variant of Arabic, and they practiced Islam. Moreover, they believed they were superior to Ugandans because of their mercenary status. Nubian armies raided surrounding villages, capturing slaves and wives. Their villages were organized around their military status. They raised cotton, most of which was used for making uniforms, and they were paid salaries throughout most of the protectorate years.
Both colonial and independent governments attempted to regularize the status of the Nubian community. Many Nubians settled in northern Buganda, near the site of the colonial military headquarters. Others lived among the Acholi in northern Uganda and among other Ugandan Muslim communities in the north. In the 1980s, they were primarily a dispersed urban population. They have generally avoided Western education, opting to send their children to Quranic schools instead. Nubians often work as unskilled or semi-skilled laborers, or as traders. Most speak Swahili--a Bantu language with strong Arabic influence. Baganda tolerate, but do not especially welcome, the Nubian population that lives among them, along with other non-Baganda.
Almost 6 percent of the population was of Rwandan descent, comprising Hutu and Tutsi (Watutsi) ethnic groups, in 1959, but at that time, most Rwandans in Uganda were citizens. They were Bantu-speakers, culturally related to the Hima and Iru of the southwestern kingdoms of Bunyoro, Toro, and Ankole. Most Rwandans lived in Buganda, where they worked in agriculture, business, and a variety of service occupations. Most were Roman Catholics. In the early 1980s, as refugees migrated freely across national boundaries throughout East Africa, the government attempted to limit Rwandan influence by restricting those who lacked Ugandan citizenship to refugee camps and by expelling some to Tanzania. In the late 1980s, more than 120,000 Rwandans were recognized as refugees in Uganda by the UNHCR.
The 1969 census enumerated about 70,000 people of Indian or Pakistani descent--generally referred to as Asians in Uganda. They were officially considered foreigners despite the fact that more than one-half of Uganda's Asians were born in Uganda. Many of their forebears had arrived in Uganda by way of trade networks centered on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar (united with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania), which brought iron, cotton, and other products from India even before the nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth century, many indentured laborers from India remained in Uganda after their service ended, but the government refused to sell them land, and most became traders. Wealthy Baganda traders were almost eliminated as their earliest rivals when the Buganda Agreement of 1900 made land ownership more lucrative than commerce for most Baganda. Indians gained control of retail and wholesale trade, cotton ginning, coffee and sugar processing, and other segments of commerce. After independence, and especially when the Obote government threatened to nationalize many industries in 1969, Asians exported much of their wealth and were accused of large-scale graft and tax evasion. President Amin deported about 70,000 Asians in 1972, and only a few returned to Uganda in the 1980s to claim compensation for their expropriated land, buildings, factories, and estates. In 1989 the Asian population in Uganda was estimated to be about 10,000.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress