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Uganda History- Ancient & Turbulent

Written in the soil and the fossils on the floor of the western Rift Valley, where Acheulian culture is well established on the shores of Lake Albert and in the Semuliki and Kagera river valleys, is evidence of human presence in Uganda, beginning emerge around 500,000 years ago.

By around 50,000 years ago the living in the land now known Uganda had discovered fire, which enabled them to move into the more forested areas around the margins of Lake Victoria. Some 40,000 years later they had conquered most of the regions of Uganda and were living throughout the land, from the Ruwenzori Mountains to Mount Elgon; from the Lake Victoria Basin to Karamoja.

Upto 500 BC it is not easy to put a label on the communities living in Uganda. Although human speech had developing for a long time before this, it is not possible to identify specific language groups or tribes. All we know is that Uganda was inhabited by Negroid peoples living in very small communities.

Ugandans speak Bantu languages in the west, south and, to a large extent, to the east; Sudanic languages to the north-west; and Nilotic languages in the rest of the north. The Bantu languages are closely related and mutually understood.

The Bantu-speaking people of Uganda are associated with the beginning of agriculture and and iron working. Agriculture practices began around 5000 BC and were augmented by the establishment of iron-working industry between 600 BC and 300 BC and the introduction of south-eastern Asian crops - such as yarms and bananas around AD 500. By AD1000, the agricultural Bantu were well established in western and southern Uganda and were organised in small political units, of which the clan was the norm.

Also setting the grassland regions of western and southern Uganda during the late first millennium AD were the pastoralists associated with the Sanga (long-horned and big-humped) cattle. The Sanga originated in Ethiopia and had spread as far south as Zimbabwe by the seventh century AD. These pastoralists - formerly apeakers of Cushitic languages - adopted the Bantu languages as they settled among them. By the beginning of the second millennium AD these pastoralists - now the Bahima and the Bahuma of western Uganda - were solidly establishing themselves between the Kafu and Kagera rivers. It was as a result of the fusion of these pastoralists and Bantu agriculturalists that pastoral aristocracies such as Bachwezi and the Bahinda emerged in western and central Uganda.

The Sudanic and Nilotic linguistic groups were firmly established in northern Uganda - as well as southern Sudan and south-western Ethiopia - by the first millennium BC but were largely concentrated in the southern Sudan. During the first millennium AD a Sudanic people, the Madi, moved south into the largely Bantu region of Bunyoro and established one of the earliest recognizable dynasties in Bunyoro, the Batembuzi. The western Nilotic speakers from the Sudan began to move southwards into the northern Uganda in the 15th century and into eastern Uganda in the following century.

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