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For other uses, see Gulu (disambiguation).
Lira is located in Uganda
Coordinates: 02°46′48″N 32°18′00″E / 2.78000°N 32.30000°E / 2.78000; 32.30000
Country  Uganda
Region Northern Uganda
Sub-region Lango sub-region
District Lira District
Elevation 1,100 m (3,600 ft)
Population (2011 Estimate)
 • Total 96,000

Gulu is a city in Northern Uganda. It is the commercial and administrative centre of Gulu District. The city is located at 2˚46'48N 32˚18'00E. The distance from Gulu to Kampala, Uganda's capital and largest city, is approximately 200 miles (320 km) by road.[1] The town is served by Gulu Airport and a railway line.


During British colonial rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, northern Uganda was less developed than the rest of the country. The people were conscripted into the army and policing as a source for the security.[2] Many were sent to fight in World War I and World War II.

Uganda gained independence in 1962, but this did not improve the situation for the people in the north. The local people have always been targeted, from the rule of Idi Amin to that of Yoweri Museveni. In 1986 attacks against civilians were initiated by the Museveni government force called the National Resistance Army, now known as Uganda People's Defence Force.

As Museveni's force continued to commit atrocities against civilians, several rebel groups were formed by the end of 1986. However, these rebel groups were ex soldiers, i.e., the UNLA from the government prior to Museveni. By 1987 most of these rebels had joined Museveni's force. Then came another rebel group led by Alice Lakwena from 1988 to 1989. The Lord's Resistance Army sprang up in the 1990s after Alice Lakwena left Uganda and went to Kenya. The LRA became increasing violent in Gulu and the surrounding communities.[3] The UPDF government army has equally been accused of brutality against the civilian population.

In 1996 the Ugandan government ordered all civilians to relocate to internally displaced person (IDP) camps. Several campaigns, such as Stop the Genocide in Northern Uganda StGiNU, demanded the immediate closure of the "concentration camps" in the north of the country. Since the spring of 2007, there has been relative peace due to international pressure calling for the Ugandan government to stop the war and to reach a peace agreement with the LRA leader Joseph Kony. Furthermore, the power of the Lord's Resistance Army to terrorize and intimidate has dramatically been reduced due to a gradual whittling away of their power. The LRA became a much less significant threat, killing 39 in 2012, and being hunted by a 2500 strong force. [4]

In 2012 the American and Ugandan Red Cross started a plan to accurately map the city in Open Street Map. The map was created using crowd-sourced mapping traced on satellite images donated by the US government, which were then tagged (street names, businesses and facilities names added) by local volunteers. The aim of the project was to improve disaster management. [5]


Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as tropical wet and dry (Aw).[6]

Climate data for Gulu
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 32.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 24.2
Average low °C (°F) 16.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 17
Source:, altitude: 1116m[6]


The Acholi people are the main inhabitants of the city of Gulu (80%). The majority are Christians. There are a range of spoken languages including Luo (sometimes spelled Lwo), Swahili, English and Luganda.

During the hostilities between the Uganda People's Defense Force and the Lord's Resistance Army there were many IDP camps throughout the area, where at one time, an estimated two million people lived. Effective April 2009, all IDP camps were closed and the people were allowed to return to their villages.[7] In July 2009, an estimated 1,452,000 (80.7%) IDPs out of a total of 1,840,000 had voluntarily left the camps to return home, leaving only 388,000, who are in the process of vacating or permanently settling where they are.[8]

Before the cessation of hostilities between the UPDF and the LRA, up to 15,000 children, known as "night commuters", were fleeing into the city for safety every evening. Since the cessation of hostilities in late 2006, the numbers of "night commuters" has significantly reduced.[9]

The national census in 2002 estimated the population of the city at 119,430. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), estimated the city's population at 141,500 in 2008.[10] In 2011, UBOS estimated the mid-year population of Gulu at 154,300.[11]

Economy and education[edit]

Ebola outbreak in Gulu Municipal Hospital

Gulu is the economic capital of Northern Uganda. The reduced violence since the peace talks began between the Ugandan government and the rebel LRA has resulted in an economic revitalization.

Gulu is the home of Gulu University, which has a wide range of programs ranging from agriculture to medicine, business management and conflict resolution. It is one of the two public universities in Northern Uganda, the other being Muni University in Arua. Gulu University is the parent institution of Gulu University School of Medicine, one of the five accredited medical schools in Uganda. The Uganda Management Institute, a government-owned tertiary teaching and research institution in management and administration, which is headquartered in Kampala, maintains a campus in Gulu. Its other upcountry campus is located in the city of Mbarara in Western Uganda.[12]

There are three hospitals providing services to the city: St. Mary's Hospital Lacor, Gulu Regional Referral Hospital and Gulu Independent Hospital. The headquarters of Gulu District Administration is also located in the city.



The city is serviced by Gulu Airport, which has a tarmac runway that measures 10,314 feet (3,144 m). Gulu Airport is the second biggest Airport in Uganda after Entebbe International Airport.


Gulu has a station on the metre gauge railway from Tororo to Pakwach, a line that had been out of use since 1993. Rift Valley Railways funded clearing the line of vegetation and repairing structure, thus allowing the first commercial train for 20 years to run through on the metre gauge track from the Kenyan port Mombasa over Nairobi and Eldoret to Tororo and onwards to Gulu on September 14, 2013; this line is referred to officially as the "Tororo – Gulu – Pakwach Line" or simply the Rift Valley Line. [13]


The home venue for Gulu United FC is the Pece War Memorial Stadium which has a capacity for 3,000 people.[14] The stadium was built by the British in 1959 but in recent years has been vandalised and misused. The stadium used to have running water and power but these have been disconnected. The stadium hosts a series of tournaments like the Ugandan Cup, district schools sports competitions, international awareness and sports and activities among others. Gulu district and education ministry are considering repairing the stadium and tendering it out to a private firm to undertake its management. [15][16]


Gulu is the base of several radio stations including Choice FM which broadcasts daily to an estimated 5 million to 6 million listeners each evening. Other radio stations in Gulu include Jal Fresh 96.9 (Gulu's first English speaking station), Mega FM 102.1, Radio Rupiny 97.5, Radio Four 89.4, King FM 90.2, Childcare International 91.5 & 98.9, Norah Radio 92.1, UBC Radio 102.1 & 103.1, and Radio Maria 105.7 Gulu FM Favor Of God (The only evangelical Station) ADF FN.

The Taks Center in Gulu is the sole Arts and Entertainment center. The center has vast lawns and locals arrange their wedding parties and other cultural activities like Acholi dance etc. It is on Churchil Drive next to JICA office.


The landmarks within the city of Gulu or near its borders include the following:

Other points of interest[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 02°46′48″N 32°18′00″E / 2.78000°N 32.30000°E / 2.78000; 32.30000