Straddling the equator, Uganda has a diverse terrain, with plains, forests, lakes, swamps, and mountains. Much of the south is forested, and most of the north is grassland. The country's high altitude moderates the tropical climate. The population is largely rural; its density is highest in the south. Sixty percent of Ugandans are Christian; about five percent are Muslim. English is the official language, with Swahili used for commerce. An AIDS epidemic has killed many.

By the fifteenth century, an African kingdom ruled much of what is central Uganda. European explorers entered the area in 1862. Following civil war, a British protectorate took control in 1896. Independence movements of the 1950s came to fruition in 1962 when Uganda was granted self-rule. In 1971, army commander Idi Amin took control through a coup, looting the country and killing opponents during an eight-year reign of terror. Since then, Uganda's economy has strengthened, and the government remained stable, but the 1990s have seen a rise in antigovernment terrorism in the north.

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