Indiginous Beleifs Roughly 19% of Ugandans profess belief
in local religions. Bantu speakers in southern Uganda adhere to a variety of
local religions characterized by belief in a creator god, usually known as
Ntu (or a variant of that term, e.g., Muntu). Most of these religions involve
beliefs in ancestral spirits. Prayers and sacrifices are offered to these spirits,
denoting respect for the dead and the importance of proper relationships among
the living. Ancestors also play an important role in the lives of the Lugbara
people of northwestern Uganda. Ancestors are held to communicate with the living
and influence their fortunes. The ancestral dead can be appeased by those in
power; a lineage elder is said to "own" an ancestral shrine, and this ownership
reinforces his power to communicate with the ancestors. Elders are said to
be able to curse relatives; those stricken with illnesses often consult diviners
to determine which elder might have caused their illness. Secular functions
of religion are also evident in the Ganda belief system, in which spirits reinforce
the institution of kingship. While the kabaka is not considered to
be descended from the gods, his skill as a leader is partly judged by his ability
to defend his people from spiritual danger. Religion in the Tepeth society
in northeastern Uganda also reinforces political values. Authority is concentrated
in the hands of a small group of priests and clan elders. They admit men judged
capable to a cult known as Sor. Sor initiates make sacrifices to enhance fertility,
ensure adequate rainfall, and avoid disease. Men can also become members of
a society of mediums or priests. Women receive spiritual communications regarding
social ills, such as crimes, but are held to be incapable of seeing the spirits
who communicate with them.
Christianity The largest Protestant denomination in Uganda
is the Anglican (Episcopal) church. In 1989 about 4 million Ugandans (roughly
22% of the population) worshipped in the nineteen dioceses of the Anglican
Church of Uganda. Other Protestant churches, including Methodist, Lutheran,
Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, together claim fewer than 1 million members.
About 5 million Roman Catholics (roughly 28 percent of the population) are
members of the thirteen Catholic dioceses in Uganda. The Catholic and Anglican
churches are headed by Ugandan archbishops. The first Christian missionaries,
who arrived in Buganda in 1877, represented the Anglican Church Missionary
Society (CMS). Roman Catholic priests from the Society of Missionaries of Africa,
a French religious order, arrived two years later. These and subsequent missions
competed for converts in southern Uganda, often becoming embroiled in local
politics. British and German military commanders called on Protestant and Catholic
converts to defend imperial interests against each other and against indigenous
Muslim armies. Many early converts to Christianity were persecuted by local
rulers. Several nineteenth century martyrs are commemorated in shrines in southern
Islam In 1989 Islam has an estimated 2.6 million followers
in Uganda, which represents roughly 15% of the population. Islam arrived in
Uganda in the mid-nineteenth century by two routes: from the north and through
the inland networks of the East African coastal trade. Some Baganda Muslims
trace their forebears' conversion to the nineteenth century, when kabaka Mutesa
I was converted to Islam. When Idi Amin, a Ugandan Muslim, became president
in 1971, his ascendance was seen as a victory for Uganda's Muslim community.
Then, in 1972, Amin expelled Asians from Uganda, reducing the Muslim population
significantly. As his administration deteriorated into a brutal and repressive
regime, Uganda's Muslims began to distance themselves from their Muslim leaders.
After Amin's overthrow in 1979, Muslims were the victims of a backlash directed
primarily against the Kakwa and Nubian ethnic groups, which had supported Amin.
Yusuf Lule, who served a brief term as president from 1979 to 1980, was also
a Muslim. Though he was not a skillful politician, Lule was nonetheless successful
in reducing the social stigma attached to Islam. In 1989 President Yoweri Kaguta
Museveni appealed to Uganda's Muslim community to contribute to the nation's
reconstruction, at the same time warning other Ugandans not to discriminate
against Muslims. This admonition was directed at all Ugandans, the Islamic
community as well as other ethnic and religious groups.
Millenarian Religions A number of millenarian religions
which promise a "golden age" or millennium, existed in Uganda in the 1980s.
Such religions often arose in response to rapid culture change or to calamities,
and often sought to overturn the political order held responsible for the crisis.
Many millenarian religions are cults led by charismatic prophets who promise
followers relief from suffering. Such prophets often make extraordinary demands
on believers and succeed in winning new converts when political upheaval is
compounded by natural disasters or epidemics (including the spread of AIDS
in the 1980s and 1990s).
Byrnes, Rita M. (ed.) 1992. Uganda A Country Study , Library
of Congress: Washington D.C. pp. 70-76