Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, consists of savanna plateau with mountains and lakes. "The pearl of Africa," wrote Winston Churchill of this former British protectorate that embraces Lake Victoria, source of the White Nile, and the misty Ruwenzori Mountains—a home of the endangered mountain gorilla.
Prosperous at independence in 1962, the country was brutalized under the chaotic regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin, when as many as 800,000 Ugandans were murdered. In 1986 Yoweri Museveni, leader of the National Resistance Army, came to power and, despite continued military and economic challenges, restored stability to a large extent. Museveni was elected president in May 1996 in the first popular election for president since independence—and reelected in 2001.
In 1998 Uganda sent troops into the Democratic Republic of the Congo's civil war. It withdrew the last of its forces in 2003—and thousands of Congolese crossed into Uganda to seek asylum. An insurgent militia, known as the Lord's Resistance Army, continues to terrorize northern Uganda—abducting some 20,000 children over the years and making them soldiers. Fertile soil keeps farms and coffee plantations flourishing, but AIDS—epidemic in some areas—may now be Uganda's greatest enemy.