Ugandan American

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Ugandan American
Ntare Mwine 2009.jpg
Mathias Kiwanuka in Uganda (cropped).jpg
Patrick Ssenjovu.jpg
Total population
(2013 American Community Survey)[1]
Regions with significant populations
American English, Ugandan English, Luganda[2]
Christians, minority Muslims and Practitioners of Ugandan traditional religion.

Ugandan American are Americans of Ugandan descent. The survey of 2010 counted 12,549 Ugandan Americans in United States.


Due to restrictions on immigration from Africa and Asia, there was little migration from Uganda to the United States until the latter half of the 20th century.

In the 1960s there was a gradual growth of Ugandans that immigrated to North America largely for political reasons, and for many it was pursuit for further studies, predominantly graduate school. Immigration records from 1975 cite Ugandans separately from other Africans and show the arrival of 859 immigrants, most fleeing Idi Amin's regime. Of note is the fact that Afro Asian, a group encompassing all brown-skinned people, usually Indians, Pakistani, and Konkani of Goa, are counted in a separate category from Ugandans, although many of them came from Uganda. In 1976, 359 Ugandans arrived, and 241 came in 1977. Also in these years, many Ugandans emigrated for further studies (some people of this group were seminarians and clerics, who settled in places such as Chicago to study and serve as pastors for African congregations, providing clerical leadership to Catholic and Protestant congregations[2]). In the 1980s, had a steady and gradual growth of Ugandans in North America, particularly in the US, where some emigrated with the DV -lottery visa, provided through the US federal government, for people around the world that would otherwise have no chance to migrate to the US to apply for a residency through a lottery system. The diversity lottery is conducted under the terms of Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. However, Ugandan immigration fell to less than 150 each year in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a time of political stability in Uganda.

Although the reasons as to why people migrate have evolved, more recently, to the political economy, the benefit thereof to today's Uganda, is indisputable.[3] The number of Ugandan refugees granted permanent residence status in the United States between 1946 and 1996 was generally less than 50 per year, with the exceptions of 1993, when 87 were admitted, and 1994, when 79 were admitted. Only ten Ugandan refugees were admitted in 1996. In 1998, 215 Ugandans were winners of the DV-99 diversity lottery.[4]


Most Ugandans who emigrate go to the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The reasons for migration is based on the low economic remuneration for workers in Uganda and the low political stability of the country compared with the west. Also, many Ugandans immigrated for chasing better educational opportunities.[4]

Most people migrating come from cities, so that rural emigration is low. Ugandans who want to work in rural areas or in public practice do not usually migrate.[5]

Many Ugandans in United States are medical, legal, computer scientists, workers or engage in civil service, work in blue-collar jobs or religious professions.[2]

Many Ugandan nurses migrate to the United States and Canada, and formerly migrated to the UK, due to high rates of pay. Due to emigration for financial benefit there are few nurses in Uganda and 70% of them want to emigrate. The U.S. is perceived to have better pay and less competition to enter the country. Most students who migrate learned about opportunities for the emigration of their friends and colleagues who had already emigrated, because information on migration in Uganda, isn't very accessible.[5]

Immigrants with professional employment are geographically scattered, though significant communities have developed in several metropolitan areas. The largest Ugandan communities (in alphabetical order) are: Atlanta, the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, Waltham, MA, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston (Texas), Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego (California), and St. Petersburg (Florida).[4]


Some newly arrived Ugandans receive assistance from Catholic Social Services and other humanitarian relief agencies. Because English is Uganda's official language, many Ugandan Americans do not face significant language barriers (although also is significative the use of Luganda Ugandan language in the community[2]). Refugees who lived in rural areas, however, find American culture is very different from what they left behind. American life poses challenges for those who have not seen escalators, refrigerators, traffic lights, and scan-your-own grocery checkouts.[4]

Recent statistics indicate that these Ugandans have become the country's biggest contributors to the economy, their contribution, amounting to US$1 billion in annual remittances. North America has become home to many, and although numerous Ugandans come home upon accomplishing the goals that brought them to the US or Canada, for many its home. This has prompted them to forge solidities, associations and clubs to foster unity, brotherhood and goals to bridge and maintain connectivity to their motherland. The solidarities are based on cultural/ethnic backgrounds, with UNAA, as the umbrella association that houses all Ugandans regardless their background, creed, tribe and/or social status. The month of August will see some three major events bring together Ugandans in North America in rather spectacular flair. These festivities include the Ttabamiruka, the International Community of Banyakigezi and the Uganda North American Association convention.

The Uganda North American Association (UNAA) is the oldest and largest of the Ugandan American organizations, holding an Annual Convention and Trade Expo each labor day weekend in different North American cities. The 27th Annual UNAA Convention and Trade Expo will be held in New Orleans, LA. UNAA serves as the umbrella association that houses all Ugandans regardless their background, creed, tribe and/or social status tracing its origins to the Thanksgiving weekend of 1988 in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA.[6]

Ugandan Americans tend to establish single-family homes where children learn reverence for God and their family. The choice of a marriage partners is up to the individual. Ugandan immigrants take part in community and school events in much the same way as other Americans.

Most Ugandan Americans are Christians, as about two-thirds of Uganda's population is Christian,[3] being Catholics (who make up the 60% of the Chicago's Ugandans) and Protestants (Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Evangelicals, at least).[2] The remaining third practice indigenous religions or follow Islam.[3]

Ugandan communities from places such as Chicago celebrate weddings and funerals together, as well as the June 3 Ugandan Saints' (or Martyrs') Day.[2]

Politics and government[edit]

Ugandan Americans have joined other Africans in organizations such as the National Summit on Africa to influence U.S. policy toward Uganda. A major piece of Africa-related legislation, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, was before Congress in 1999. The bill was designed to encourage the import of goods from sub-Saharan Africa by allowing them to come into the United States duty-free and in unrestricted quantity. The United States House of Representatives passed the bill in July 1999, but observers were uncertain that the Senate would pass it as well and send it to President Bill Clinton so that he could sign it into law. African immigrants in the United States were mostly split on the bill. Some believed it would help African workers, while others feared it would encourage multinational companies doing business in Africa to exploit these same workers.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopedia of Chicago: Ugandans
  3. ^ a b c d e Olivia Miller (November 26, 2008). "Everyculture:A Countries and Their Cultures: Ugandan Americans". Everyculture: Countries and their cultures. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Lisa Nguyen, Steven Ropers, Esther Nderitu, Anneke Zuyderduin, Sam Luboga and Amy Hagopian (February 12, 2008). "Poverty and migration: the Uganda experience". Hum Resour Health 6: 5. doi:10.1186/1478-4491-6-5. PMC 2275294. PMID 18267034. 
  5. ^

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