Over the course of the 20th Century Uganda suffered through protracted periods of economic crisis, civil war and brutal dictatorships. It is only recently that this landlocked country in central Africa has started to develop and prosper, as both the government and economy have achieved stability. However the legacy of years of upheaval remains ever present in Uganda, especially in the North where the scars of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s brutal rebellion remain evident.
Uganda achieved independence from Britain in 1962, having been ruled as a protectorate since 1894. Independence was followed by years of civil war and dictatorial oppression, most famously by Idi Amin, who ruled the country from 1971 until 1979. During his bloody reign Amin undertook mass killings of political enemies and the forcible removal of minorities. The violence of Amin’s reign was memorable portrayed in Giles Foden’s memoir The Last King of Scotland which also was made into a film.
More recently Uganda has been plagued by a prolonged struggle with Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a cult like guerrilla force operating throughout Northern Uganda. They have been responsible for a wide range of atrocities and have recently become notorious because of a social media campaign. However the LRA are not as potent a force as they once were and have largely left Uganda for Sudan and the DRC. Several books have been written about the LRA and their brutal practices, including China Keitetsi’s Child Soldier, Sverker Finnstrom’s Living with Bad Surroundings, Joshua Dysart’s Unknown Soldier and Peter Eichstaedt’s First Kill Your Family.
The cultural output of Uganda has necessarily suffered because of these upheavals, and much of the literature and cinema surrounding the country focuses on the violence of its recent history. However there have been several writers who have developed a reputation along different lines. These include prominent Ugandan writers like Julius Ocwinyo, the author of The Unfulfilled Dream and Footprints of the Outsider, and MosesIsegawa, whose Abyssinian Chronicles is widely considered one of the greatest African novels of the 20th century. Other Ugandan writers such as Okello Oculi, Okot p'Bitek and Glaydah Namukasa have also developed a reputation for their portrayals of Ugandan life.