Official name: Republic of Uganda
Area: 236,040 square kilometers (91,136 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Margherita Peak (5,110 meters/16,765 feet)
Lowest point on land: Lake Albert (621 meters/2,037 feet)
Hemispheres: Northern, Southern, and Eastern
Time zone: 3 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 787 kilometers (489 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 486 kilometers (302 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest
Land boundaries: 2,698 kilometers (1,676 miles) total boundary length; Sudan 435 kilometers (270 miles); Kenya 933 kilometers (580 miles); Tanzania 396 kilometers (246 miles); Rwanda 169 kilometers (105 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo 765 kilometers (475 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Uganda is located in eastern Africa, west of Kenya, south of Sudan, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and north of Rwanda and Tanzania. With an area of about 236,040 square kilometers (91,136 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. Uganda is divided into forty-five districts.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Uganda has no outside territories or dependencies.
Situated right on the equator, temperatures do not vary much on the plateau. At Lake Albert, annual temperatures range only from 22° to 29°C (72° to 84°F). Temperatures drop significantly at the higher altitudes, however. At Kampala, for instance, the average extremes are 17°C to 27°C (63°F to 81°F).
While most of Uganda receives an annual rainfall of at least 140 centimeters (40 inches), the northeast receives only 69 centimeters (27 inches). The areas around the lakes receive more rainfall on average. The city of Entebbe, on Lake Victoria, receives 162 centimeters (64 inches).
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Uganda lies on the great plateau of east-central Africa straddling the equator. Surrounding the plateau are rows of volcanoes along the eastern and western branches of the Great Rift Valley. Its location on the middle of the African Tectonic Plate is a relatively stable geological position. Recently, however, the warping that created the western rift valley has led to an accumulation of waters in the lower zone to the east that now forms the basin of Lake Victoria along the southern border.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Uganda is a landlocked country.
6 INLAND LAKES
Lakes Albert, Edward, and George are troughs in the western Great Rift Valley system, while Lakes Victoria and Kyoga are shallow basins on the plateau. Uganda shares Lake Albert and Lake Edward with the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Lake George, which is connected to Lake Edward by the Kazinga Channel, is wholly within Uganda.
All of the lakes are relatively shallow. The maximum depth recorded in Lake Victoria is 82 meters (270 feet); in Lake Albert, 51 meters (168 feet); in Lake Edward, 117 meters (384 feet); in Lakes Kyoga and Kwania, 7.3 meters (24 feet); and in Lake George, 3 meters (10 feet). A large swamp surrounds Lakes Kyoga and Kwania in the center of the country. Lake Salisbury, to the northeast of Lake Kyoga, provides an outlet for the waters north of Mount Elgon to the Nile River system. West of Lake Victoria, in the south, six lakes are connected by swampland. In the upland areas of the southwest, a number of swampy areas have been reclaimed.
Lake Victoria is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world, with its water volume estimated to be about 2,760 trillion liters (729 trillion gallons). Only Lake Superior in North America is larger. Lake Victoria has an indented coast with many deep gulfs and tributary outlets. Of Lake Victoria's 69,484 square kilometers (26,828 square miles), 20,430 square kilometers (11,749 square miles) are in Uganda; the remainder is divided between Kenya and Tanzania. Within the lake are many archipelagos, reefs, and more than two hundred species of fish. The Sese Archipelago, a chain of sixty-two islands in the lake off the coast southwest of Kampala, contains inhabitants known as the Basese, most of whom are fishermen. The Basese are a distinct tribal group with their own language, culture, and folklore. The densely populated Ukerewe is the largest of the islands. It rises over 200 meters (650 feet) above the lake's surface.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
With a total length of 6,693 kilometers (4,160 miles), the Nile River is the longest river in the world, although others carry more water. The Nile begins in Uganda, where Lake Victoria overflows at a low point near Jinja to form the Victoria Nile. The Victoria Nile flows through Lake Kyoga to Lake Albert. Lake Albert drains through what is called the Albert Nile, which flows north into Sudan, where it becomes known as the White Nile. From the Owen Falls at Jinja to the point at which the Albert Nile crosses the northern border with Sudan, the river descends over more than 518 meters (1,700 feet), accomplished for the most part through a series of falls and rapids. The Nile continues through Sudan and Egypt, where it drains into the Mediterranean Sea.
In Uganda, nearly 5,180 square kilometers (2,000 square miles) of swamp lie in the lowland area that borders the Nile. The Nile River Basin, which includes all the generally fertile lands surrounding the river as it cuts through the Sahara Desert, is the world's largest oasis.
Most other rivers in Uganda are sluggish; in fact, some are not much more than vegetation-covered swamps. The Katonga runs into a swamp at the northeast corner of Lake Victoria. The Kafu flows into the western end of Lake Kwania, but its headwaters connect with those of the Muzizi, flowing westward into the southern end of Lake Albert. Other major rivers are the Aswa, Pager, and Dopeth-Okok of the northeast and the Mpongo, a tributary of the Kafu. Clear, swiftly flowing streams run only through the hills and along the slopes of the Western Rift Valley.
There are no significant desert regions in Uganda.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Scattered patches of elephant grass dominate the southern reaches of the country, while long grasses colonize the western highlands. The drier northern savannah consists mostly of grassland, but the grass here is significantly shorter. Open woodlands of thorn trees, borassus palms, and scrub can also be found in the north.
West of the mountains on the eastern border are a number of other smaller mountain ranges including the Labwor Hills, which range from 1,798 to 2,530 meters (5,900 to 8,300 feet). These hills are more or less isolated from one another, rising abruptly out of the plains.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
In the extreme southwest are the Mufumbiro Volcanoes, of which only the northern side is in Uganda. From these volcanic highlands, an elevated area that is more than 1,524 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level extends northeastward through Kigezi District into western Ankole District. The Mufumbiro range includes the 3,645-meter- (11,960-feet-) high Mount Sabinio, the intersection of borders between three neighboring countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Uganda's highest mountain is Muhavura, at 4,127 meters (13,540 feet).
These highlands are separated from the Ruwenzori Mountains, also known as the Mountains of the Moon, by a low valley containing Lake George and the Kazinga Channel, an outlet into Lake Edward. The Ruwenzori range, skirting the western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) long and rises into a number of peaks which exceed 4,267 meters (14,000 feet), the highest of which is Margherita Peak, at 5,110 meters (16,765 feet). Above 4,267 meters (14,000 feet), the mountains are capped with snow and large glaciers.
To the east, volcanic centers and hills mark the approach to the Kenya borderlands. Mount Elgon, between Sebei District and Kenya, is 4,321 meters (14,178 feet) at its highest point. Mount Debasien, in Karamoja District, is 3,068 meters (10,067 feet); while Mount Moroto, still further north, is 3,083 meters (10,116 feet). Mount Morungole near the northeast border is 2,750 meters (9,022 feet); and Mount Zulia in the extreme northeast is 2,148 meters (7,048 feet) high. Along the northern border are the southern outlines of the Imatong Mountains of the Sudan, all of which reach 1,828 meters (6,000 feet).
DID YOU KNOW?
Uganda has two national parks which have been designated as UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in southwestern Uganda, contains more than 160 species of trees and more than 100 species of ferns. It also serves as a habitat for the mountain gorilla, which is an endangered species.
Ruwenzori Mountains National Park covers the main part of the Ruwenzori mountain chain in the west and includes its highest peak. The park contains glaciers, waterfalls, and lakes and also serves as a habitat for many endangered species and unique plant life, such as the giant heather.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
The western branch of the Great Rift Valley forms the border between Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Great Rift Valley is a massive fault system that stretches over 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) from the Jordan Valley in Israel to Mozambique. In general, the Great Rift Valley ranges in elevation from 395 meters (1,300 feet) below sea level at the Dead Sea to 1,830 meters (6,000 feet) above sea level in south Kenya. The western branch contains the troughs and rivers that have become part of the African Great Lakes system. One of these lakes, Lake Albert, marks the lowest point in Uganda at 621 meters (2,037 feet).
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
Between the east and west mountain masses, Uganda's prominent relief feature is a plateau dissected by numerous rivers, swamps, and lakes. The plateau is fairly regular, with an altitude between 800 and 2,000 meters (2,600 and 6,600 feet) above sea level. In the southwest this region is known as the Ankole, named after the native kingdom that used to occupy the land.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Owen Falls Dam, near Jinja on the Nile, is a hydroelectric power station that supplies most of the electricity in Uganda.
14 FURTHER READING
Africa South of the Sahara 2002: Uganda. London: Europa Publishers, 2001.
Nzita, R., and Mbaga-Niwampa. Peoples and Cultures of Uganda . 2 nd ed. Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers, 1995.
Pirouet, M.L. Historical Dictionary of Uganda . Meutchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995.
Caputo, Robert. "Uganda—Land Beyond Sorrow." National Geographic , April 1988, 468-492.
ThinkQuest: The Living Africa. http://www.library.thinkquest.org/16645/contents.html (accessed May 5, 2003).
Uganda Tourist Board. http://www.visituganda.com/inside.htm (accessed May 5, 2003).