Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents




Roughly 10,000 Ugandans of Sudanese descent are classified as Nubians, referring to their origin in the area of the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. They are descendants of Sudanese military recruits who entered Uganda in the late nineteenth century as part of the colonial army and were employed to quell popular revolts (see Early Development , ch. 5). Their ethnic identities varied, but some spoke Western Nilotic languages. The Acholi people were their closest relatives in Uganda, but Nubians spoke a variant of Arabic, and they practiced Islam. Moreover, they believed they were superior to Ugandans because of their mercenary status. Nubian armies raided surrounding villages, capturing slaves and wives. Their villages were organized around their military status. They raised cotton, most of which was used for making uniforms, and they were paid salaries throughout most of the protectorate years.

Both colonial and independent governments attempted to regularize the status of the Nubian community. Many Nubians settled in northern Buganda, near the site of the colonial military headquarters. Others lived among the Acholi in northern Uganda and among other Ugandan Muslim communities in the north. In the 1980s, they were primarily a dispersed urban population. They have generally avoided Western education, opting to send their children to Quranic schools instead. Nubians often work as unskilled or semi-skilled laborers, or as traders. Most speak Swahili--a Bantu language with strong Arabic influence. Baganda tolerate, but do not especially welcome, the Nubian population that lives among them, along with other non-Baganda.

Data as of December 1990