Indigenous peoples in Uganda

Indigenous peoples in Uganda include the traditional hunter/gatherer communities and pastoralists. These peoples are not specifically recognized as indigenous by the government

Former Hunter-gatherers include the:

  • Benet, who number around 20,000 people, live in the north-eastern part of Uganda 
  • Batwa (or Twa), numbering around 6,700 persons, who live primarily in the south-western region of Uganda

The Batwa were dispossessed of their ancestral land when the Bwindi and Mgahinga forests were gazetted as national parks in 1991. 

Pastoralists include the:

  • Ik number about 1,600 people and live on the edge of the Karamoja/Turkana region along the Uganda/Kenya border
  • Karamojong number around 988,429 people, who live in the north-east of Uganda 

The Current Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Uganda

All these communities have a common experience of state-induced landlessness and historical injustices caused by the creation of conservation areas in Uganda.

They have experienced various human rights violations, including continued forced evictions and/or exclusions from ancestral lands without community consultation, consent, or adequate (or any) compensation.

Violence and destruction of homes and property, including livestuck; denial of their means of subsistence and of their cultural and religious life through their exclusion from ancestral lands and natural resources; and in consequence, ther continued impoverishment, social and political exploitation and marginalization.

No Legislation Explicitly Concerns Indigeonus Peoples

The 1995 Constitution offers no express protection for indigenous peoples but Article 32 places a mandatory duty on the state to take affirmative action in favour of groups who have been historically disadvantaged and discriminated against.

This provision, while primarily designed or envisaged to deal with the historical disadvantages of children, people with disabilities and women, is the basic legal source of affirmative action in favour of indigenous peoples in Uganda.

The Land Act of 1998 and the National Environment Statute of 1995 protect customary interests in land and traditional uses of forests.

However, these laws also authorize the government to exclude human activities in any forest area by declaring it a protected forest, thus nullifying the customary land rights of indigenous peoples.

Uganda has never ratified the ILO Convention 169, but is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Uganda to learn about major developments and events during 2015