Uganda’s Culture and Customs Identification. Lake Kyoga serves as a rough boundary between Bantu speakers in the south and Nilotic and Central Sudanic language speakers in the north. Despite the division between north and south in political affairs, this linguistic boundary actually runs roughly from northwest to southeast, near the course of the Nile. However, many Ugandans live among people who speak different languages, especially in rural areas. Some sources describe regional variation in terms of physical characteristics, clothing, bodily adornment, and mannerisms, but others claim that those differences are disappearing. Location and Geography. Bantu speakers probably entered southern Uganda by the end of the first millennium. They had developed centralized kingdoms by the fifteenth or sixteenth century, and after independence from British rule in 1962, Bantu speakers constituted roughly two-thirds of the population. They are classified as either Eastern Lacustrine or Western Lacustrine Bantu. The Eastern Lacustrine Bantu speakers include the Baganda people whose language is Luganda, the Basoga, and many smaller societies in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. The Western Lacustrine Bantu speakers include the Banyoro, the Bastoro, the Banyankole, and several smaller populations in Uganda. Nilotic language speakers probably entered the area from the north beginning about C.E. 1000. Thought to be the first cattle-herding people in the area, they also relied on crop cultivation. The largest Nilotic populations in Uganda are the Iteso and Karamojong ethnic groups, who speak Eastern Nilotic languages, and the Acholi, Langi, and Alur, who speak Western Nilotic languages. Central Sudanic languages, which arrived in Uganda from the north over a period of centuries, are spoken by the Lugbara, the Madi, and a few small groups in the northwestern part of the country. Demography. The population was about twenty-three million in mid-1999. The Eastern Lacustrine Bantu include the Baganda, the Basoga, and the Bagisu. The Baganda, the largest ethnic group, account for about 17 percent of the population, or approximately 3.9 million people. The second largest ethnic group, the Basoga, make up about 8 percent of the population, or 1.8 million people, while the Bagisu constitute roughly 5 percent of the population, or just over a million people. The Western Lacustrine Bantu—the Banyoro, Batoro, and Banyankole people—probably constitute around 3 percent of the population, or 700,000 people each. The Eastern Nilotic language groups include the Karamojong cluster, the Iteso and the Kakwa. The Karamojong account for around 12 percent of the population (2.8 million), the Iteso
amount to about 8 percent (1.8 million), and the Kakwa constitute 1 percent (about 230,000). The Western Nilotic language groups include the Langi and Acholi as well as the Alur. Together they account for roughly 15 percent of the population, or about 3.4 million people, with the Langi contributing 6 percent (1.4 million), the Acholi 4 percent (900,000), and the Alur probably about 2 percent (460,000).
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