West Nile sub-region is a region in North-western Uganda, Northern Uganda. It received its name from being located on the western side of the Albert Nile. The sub-region is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the South and to the West; by Republic of South Sudan to the North and by the Albert Nile to the East. The town of Arua is the largest town in the sub-region and is on a quest to achieve city status. Arua lies approximately 420 kilometers (260 miles) by road, Northwest of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and the largest city in the country. West Nile gained global notoriety as the origin of the former Ugandan military head of state Idi Amin. The location of West Nile places it at the center of thriving cross border commerce and this region is arguably now one of the fastest growing economic centers in Uganda.
History of West Nile
Throughout the colonial era, West Nile was significantly under-developed in comparison with most of Uganda, and the region has a pre-colonial past characterized by slave-raiding by Turkish slave traders and ivory poaching by Europeans. West Nile was once fought over by the Belgians, French, Germans and British and its fascinating history includes personalities like ‘Gordon of Khartoum', Henry Morton Stanley, and President Theodore Roosevelt of America. The changing sovereignty over the years saw the region administered as part of the Anglo Egyptian Sudan (1899) under British and Egyptian condominium administration (as part of modern day South Sudan; as part of Congo Free State and later Belgian Congo (various periods between 1894 – 1910); as autonomous Lado Enclave (1911 -1914); and then in 1914 West Nile became part of the British Uganda Protectorate until Uganda gained independence in 1962 when West Nile became part of Republic of Uganda. A detailed account of the history of West Nile has been commissioned West Nile Web and will be made available online. A good account of the history of West Nile is Mark Leopold’s Inside West Nile - Violence, History, & Representation on an African Frontier
Population, Ethnicity and Religion
West Nile has a total projected population of 2,988,300 people living in approximately 500,000 households (as per 2018 Uganda Bureau of Statistics estimates). While the household is the primary unit of social life, the village is the centre of local governance throughout the region.
In terms of ethnic composition, West Nile is composed of the largely Sudanic ethnic groups of Lugbara, Kakwa, Madi, and the Nilotic Alur. Other ethnicities include the Ukebu, Kuku, Nubians. West Nile is also home to a considerable number of other Ugandan tribes, Indians, other Asians, Congolese, South Sudanese and
The people of West Nile are predominantly (80%) rural. The exception is Koboko (34%) and Maracha (34%) districts were more people, even by national standards (23%), live in urban areas. In terms of faith, 52% of the population is Catholic. Anglicans and Muslims constitute only 28% and 18% of the people respectively. District variation exists with Yumbe being largely Muslim and Maracha largely Anglican. Other religious beliefs are also practiced. However, cases of religious conflicts are extremely rare; indicating the strong ecumenical lifestyle of the people.
With the exception of Adjumani where there are fewer people compared to the Uganda national average engaged in subsistence farming, in all the other districts; especially in Yumbe and Nebbi districts, subsistence farming is the main livelihood activity. With increasing urbanization in the key urban centers; Non-governmental organization activity; and the implementation of decentralization of sub-national government, the number of waged employment is fast rising. Local and cross border trade is a key activity in West Nile. Fishing is practiced along the River Nile with main commercial fishing activities centered around Panyimur, Pakwach, Rhino Camp and Obongi.
West Nile sub-region has a large number of international and national Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs); a large number involved with the approximately 1 million South Sudanese refugees in West Nile. The sub-region also has a huge number of local Community Based Organisations (CBOs). Majority of these CBOs are engaged in food and income security related activities and HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation. A negligible number are undertaking human rights and advocacy and water and sanitation activities. This is in part because these themes depend on high quality technical skills that many CBOs lack.
Administratively West Nile sub-region consists of the following nine districts, which are further sub-divided into urban councils, sub counties, parishes, wards and villages.
- Adjumani District
- Arua District
- Koboko District
- Maracha District
- Moyo District
- Nebbi District
- Pakwach District
- Yumbe District
- Zombo District