History of Kampala

Published on 30th May 2006

Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, is the largest urban settlement in Uganda. It lies on a plateau, spread over more than twenty rolling hills. With an altitude of 1180m above sea level, Kampala has a pleasant weather, with annual temperatures averaging 17 degrees (minimum) and 21 degrees (maximum) Celsius. It has a population of 1.5 million people.

Kampala’s history is derived from both folklore and historical fact. According to folklore, much of the area where Kampala stands today was dominated by wetlands and rolling hills. This made it an ideal habitat for the Impala and other members of the antelope family which grazed on the slopes of the hills and came down to the wetlands for water. The palace of the Kabaka (king) of Buganda, located on one of the hills, overlooked this landscape rich in Impala. He turned it into his hunting grounds.

Folklore merged with history when the British Empire builders arrived at the end of the 19th century. "Impala" was the English name for that particular antelope family, so the British referred to the area as the "hill of the Impala".

The Baganda, eager to adopt foreign words into the local language, translated "hill of the Impala" into Luganda as "kasozi k' Impala" (pronounced "ka Impala" and eventually "ka mpala"). So whenever the Kabaka left his palace to go to hunt his favorite game, royal courtiers would say "the Kabaka has gone to Kampala to hunt" and the name stuck.

Kampala grew up around a port constructed by Frederick Lugard in 1890 for the British East Africa Company. In 1890, Kampala was declared the headquarters of Uganda's colonial administration. The name Uganda itself is said to have derived from the inability of the British to pronounce the word "Buganda". When the British arrived in Uganda in the late 19th century, they found the people of Buganda Kingdom, the Baganda, "a cultured people with a government and parliament (Lukiiko)". Buganda formed the foundation of their colonial empire, and that's how Kampala, lying near the Kabaka's palace, came to be declared Uganda's capital.

Although it now spreads over more than 20 hills, it is still sometimes referred to as the city of seven hills. The first hill in historical importance is Kasubi Hill, where the Kasubi Tombs of the previous Kabakas are housed. The second is Mengo Hill where the present Kabaka's Palace and Headquarters of the Buganda Court of Justice are. The third is Kibuli Hill, which is home to Kibuli Mosque. Islam was brought to Uganda before the Christian missionaries came. The fourth is Namirembe Hill, home to Namirembe Protestant Cathedral. The Protestants were the first of the Christian Missions to arrive. The fifth is Rubaga Hill, where Rubaga Roman Catholic Cathedral is, and was the headquarters of the White Fathers. The sixth Nsambya, was the Headquarters of the Mill Hill Mission. It now houses Nsambya Hospital and the seventh hill, the hill of the Impala is where the ruins of Lugard's Fort can be found. This is where Kampala got its name.

The city grew as the capital of the Buganda kingdom, from which several buildings survive, including the Kasubi Tombs (built in 1881), the Buganda Parliament, the Buganda Court of Justice and the Naggalabi Buddo Coronation Site. Severely damaged in the Ugandan-Tanzanian War, the city has since been rebuilt.

The main campus of Makerere University, one of East and Central Africa's premier institutes of higher learning, can be found in the Makerere Hill area of the City. Other features of the city include the Ssezibwa Falls, Ugandan National Theatre, St. Balikuddembe Market (formerly Owino Market) and Nakasero Market.

The city also hosts one of only seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship in the world. It is known as the Mother Temple of Africa and is situated on Kikaya Hill on the outskirts of the city. Its foundation stone was laid in January 1958, and was dedicated on January 13, 1961.



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