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Land of Milk.
Mbarara at Sundown.jpg
Motto: Ebirungi Biruga Omutuutu (Good things come from sweat)
Mbarara is located in Uganda
Location in Uganda
Coordinates: 00°36′48″S 30°39′30″E / 0.61333°S 30.65833°E / -0.61333; 30.65833
Country Flag of Uganda.svg Uganda
Region Western Region of Uganda
Sub-region Ankole sub-region
District Mbarara District
Founded 1901
Township 1957
Municipality 1974
 • Mayor Wilson Tumwiine
Population (2014 Census)
 • Total 195,013[1]
Time zone +3 (East African Standard Time)

Mbarara is a town in the Western Region of Uganda. It is the main municipal, administrative, and commercial center of Mbarara District and the site of the district headquarters. It is also the largest urban centre in the Western Region.[citation needed]


Mbarara is about 290 kilometres (180 mi), by road, southwest of Kampala, Uganda's capital and largest city.[2] Mbarara is an important transport hub, lying west of Masaka on the road to Kabale, near Lake Mburo National Park. The coordinates of the Mbarara central business district are 00 36 48S, 30 39 30E (Latitude:-0.6132; Longitude:30.6582).[3]


The name "Mbarara" has its roots in the English colonialists' mispronunciation of the word mburara - a certain type of grass that was a favorite of the cows.[citation needed] Mbarara was formerly the capital for the Southern Region.[citation needed]

Mbarara has six main divisions which are Kamukuzi Division, Nyamitanga Division, Kakoba Division, Biharwe Division, Kakiika Division, and Nyakayojo Division.[citation needed]

Mbarara is crossed by the permanent River Rwizi that drains the area and supplies it with water for both domestic and industrial use.[citation needed]

Mbarara has a number of streets, including Mbarara High Street (Main Street), Mbaguta Street (named after a former Prime Minister of Ankole), Bishop Willis Street (named after Bishop Willis, one of the first Whites to visit Ankole and Mbarara), Garage Street, Makhan Singh Street, Buremba Road (named after a village where the road heads which is located south of Bishop Stuart University approximately 5 km south of the main Business District), Bucuku Street and Victor Bwana Road (named after a Ugandan Bush War comrade), Bananuka Drive, Bishop Strencher Road, Galt Road.


In 2002, the national census estimated the population of the town at 69,400. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) estimated the population at 82,000 in 2010. In 2011, UBOS estimated the mid-year populatiation at 83,700.[4] In August 2014, the national population census put the population at 195,013.[1]


Mbarara originates back in the pre-colonial era, as it was the capital of the Ankole Kingdom with the Omugabe's (King) Palace, Mugaba located at Kamukuzi Hill.[citation needed]

With the coming of the colonialists, the Omugabe of Ankole signed the Ankole Agreement of 1901 which made Ankole part of the British Protectorate of Uganda.[citation needed] This made the British establish a fort for easy governance and named it Mbarara after mispronouncing the native name Mburara, a local grass that covers the most part of Mbarara.[citation needed] It was a common phenomena for the Whites to misspell or mispronounce several Runyankore names including Ankole itself which was originally Nkore.[citation needed]

Mbarara later received several missionaries of both Roman Catholics and the Protestants who established churches in Nyamitanga Hill and Ruharo Hill respectively.[citation needed] These were followed by a group of Indian businessmen who opened shops on the current location of the town.[citation needed]

In 1957 during the colonial era, Mbarara was elevated to the Township status.[citation needed] The town started growing rapidly since it was the capital of western Uganda and had roads connecting to Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 1974, during the administration of President Idi Amin Dada, the town was elevated to Municipality status.[citation needed] It was later destroyed seriously during the 1979 Tanzania-Ugandan war that removed Amin from the presidency. Together with Masaka, they were the most destroyed towns in Uganda.

After the war, Mbarara developed at a high speed and is ranked among the fastest growing cities in Uganda.[citation needed]

Mbarara is looking forward to a city status and on 1 July 2014 the neighboring subcounties of Biharwe, Kakiika and Nyakayojo were consolidated to it so that it can have the required population and size to get the City status. The town is also looking forward to getting the sub-counties of Rwanyamahembe, Birere, Masha, Bubaare and Rugando consolidated to get enough space of expansion with a Metropolitan containing suburbs of Bwizibwera, Rugando, Kashaka and Kaberebere. With this land, if granted, Mbarara will be the Largest City in Uganda by size and Second Largest City in Uganda by Population.

Growth and expansion[edit]

Mbarara City has received remarkable growth and development within the last 3 decades.

The town was first located at Rwebikoona then later shifted to the current location.[citation needed]

When it was elevated to Municipality status in 1974, it was among the cities in Uganda growing at the fastest speed. People had started establishing long term investments. This changed very soon 5 years later in the 1979 war that removed Amin from power. Most of the buildings that had four storeys or more were demolished. The town received an economic and infrastructure setback.[citation needed]

When Apollo Milton Obote came back to power, people could no longer feel safe and would fear to establish long term investment because they were unsure of the political stability.[citation needed]

The town regained the development gear with the coming of the current president Yoweri Museveni. Because people were assured of political stability, they started making long term investments.[citation needed]

Mbarara came from behind and developed to surpass Entebbe, Masaka, Gulu, and Jinja as the second-largest town in Uganda after Kampala and also second to Kampala in importance, industry, and infrastructure,[5] 3rd largest town in Uganda by population after Kampala and Kira and the fastest growing town in Uganda followed by Gulu.

Starting with 2000, modern buildings have been established including malls, arcades, plaza, and hotels. Modern hospitals have also been constructed including Mbarara Hospital, which is now a National Referral Hospital, Mbarara Community Hospital a private hospital located in Kyamugorani, Kakiika Division,[6] and Mayanja Memorial Hospital located in Nyamityobora Kakoba Division.[7]

Multibillion industries and factories were also constructed including Coca Cola Bottling Factory, Nile Breweries Plant and Pearl Diary Industries.[citation needed]

In July 2014, Biharwe, Nyakayojo and Kakiika became part of the town, giving it more space for expansion. With this vast area, modern buildings and residential houses, industries and general infrastructure, Mbarara is striving to be designated a City.

On 07 August 2015 the Uganda cabinet approved Mbarara Municipality alongside other 5 municipalities to be granted a city status. As of 14 August 2015, the town is waiting for the approval of the parliament and the President.


Mbarara Municipality for effective administration is divided into 6 divisions which oversee local planning. The divisions are further divided into wards and wards divided into villages. The municipality is headed by the Lord Mayor elected by the people. Wilson Tumwiine is the current Mayor of Mbarara. The Mayor rules with the council, a council composed of councillors from divisions of the city.

Besides the Mayor, there is the Town Clerk who acts as the government representative in the city. The town clerk is appointed not elected.

The Divisions are headed by LC III Chairpersons, Wards headed by LC II Chairpersons and Villages headed by LC I Chairpersons.


Mbarara is a centre of various educational institutions starting from Baby Care, up to University and other tertiary institutions.

Tertiary institutions[edit]

Secondary schools[edit]

  • Ntare School, established 1955, located 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) on Ntare Road
  • Mbarara High School, established in 1911 by the Anglican Church of Uganda, located on Ruharo Hill approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) on Kasese Road
  • Maryhill High School, all girls school located on Nyamitanga Hill
  • Nyakayojo Secondary School, founded in 1984 by Anglican Church of Uganda, located on Bwenkoma Hill, in Ruti 6 miles (9.7 km) on Kabale Road
  • Mbarara Comprehensive Sec. School, founded in 1999, located along Mbarara Isingiro Road (4 miles)
  • Eden International School, located in Kyamugorani
  • Sentah College, located in Kakoba, Mbarara
  • St Josephs Vocational School Nyamitanga Hill, Catholic founded

Economic activity[edit]

The city of Mbarara has the largest number of milk processing plants in Uganda. The majority of milk processed is transported to Kampala and other major cities in Uganda.


Mbarara is the home of Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST), founded in 1989. There were many educational institutions well before then, including Bishop Stewart Teacher Training College now known as Bishop Stuart University which is located on Kakoba Hill, southeast of downtown. Other institutions of learning in the town include Maryhill High School, an all-girl school. Mbarara High School (MHS) and Ntare School are both all-boys schools. Built during the colonial days, these three schools were state boarding schools whose graduates go on to make major contributions to today's Uganda. Alumni of these schools include President Museveni (Ntare), Mzee Boniface Byanyima (MHS), Sam Kutesa, Minister of Foreign Affairs (MHS), and the academic Sam Nahamya PhD (MHS). Winnie Byanyima, the current Director of Gender Issues at the UNDP headquarters in New York City is a native of Mbarara. She had her early education in area schools. She represented the town in the Ugandan Parliament from 1994 until 2004.

With significance for all Ugandan cities, Mbarara was the host to the 2004 Annual General Meeting of the Uganda Local Governments Association on 1 October, which saw the changing of the organisation to its current structure in order to represent all Ugandan local governments. Mbarara remains an active member of this governmental association.[8]


The following financial institutions maintain branches in Mbarara:


Most people who live in Mbarara are pedestrians. They walk from the nearby places and head to town for work. The other popular means of transport in Mbarara are Boda Bodas. They carry people from their place of residence to work places. The transport charge when travelling within Mbarara is between UGX 1000-3000.

Taxis and public cars are not common within Mbarara. They are mainly destined for long journeys. However, very few 5 seater public cars have started operations within the city. They are available only on two routes that is the Katete, Mbarara route and the Ruharo route.

Mbarara is a transport hub of Western Uganda

Road transport[edit]

  • Masaka Road comes from Kampala to Masaka and passes through Mbarara via the main street and it passes through to Ntungamo and Kabale and it becomes Kabale Road after passing through Mbarara. The road continues south west and connects to Rwanda and Burundi.
  • Kasese Road runs westwards to Bushenyi then to Kasese and continues to Democratic Republic of Congo via the Mpondwe border as it continues as the Mombasa-Lagos Highway.
  • The Kikagate Road is being completed (2015), it starts from Mbarara Town in Nyamitanga (4 km off Kabale Road) then heads southwards through Isingiro up to the Kikagate Border with Tanzania.
  • Ibanda Road, which starts from then northwards via Mbarara Airport, through Bwizibwera and finally to Ibanda.
  • Mbarara Bypass Road, a 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) bypass road, currently under construction, circling the northern half of the city.
  • Other roads which are unpaved include Buremba Road and Katete Road which head to Isingiro, Mwizi Road which starts from Ruti and goes off to Mwizi and the Kyamugorani Road which goes north up to Kashongi.

Air transport[edit]

  • Mbarara Airport - A public airport, located about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), by road northwest of town

Water transport[edit]

Water transport is almost insignificant as the town lacks large water resources. Small scale water transport is done on River Rwizi


Besides the face to face communication, mobile phones are the most common mode of inter-personal communication for casual talks, business discussions and official communication in Mbarara. For public notice, radio stations and newspapers are preferred.

Almost all mobile telecommunication networks in Uganda have their coverage extended to Mbarara. These include MTN Uganda, Airtel Uganda, Orange Uganda, Uganda Telecom, K2 Telecom and Smart Telecom. They jointly provide services mainly in form of calls, SMS and Internet data.

Mbarara has one of the oldest post offices in East Africa. This mainly helps in mail message communications

Five major national Ugandan newspapers are always available in Mbarara and they include Daily Monitor, New Vision, Redpepper, Observer and Hello. In addition to these, two other local Runyankole newspapers are also available and printed in Mbarara that is Orumuri and Entatsi. These two publish twice a week.

Various radios are also in the city broadcasting mainly in Runyankole with a mixture of English. They include:

  • Radio West
  • Vision Radio
  • Endigyito Radio
  • Grace Radio
  • Crooze FM
  • Mbarara FM
  • Mercy Radio.
  • Radio Maria
  • Greater Africa Radio

Mbarara has one T.V. Station, TV West which predominantly broadcasts in Runyankole.

Mbarara Bypass Road[edit]

Main article see; Mbarara Northern bypass road.

As part of the modernization of the Mbarara-Katuna Road (2011 - 2015), a new northern bypass road is planned for the town. The bypass will start from the Coca-Cola Plant on Mbarara-Masaka Road at Makenke, pass through Rwebishuri, Nkokonjeru and join the Mbarara-Kabale Road at Katatumba Resort, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi), southwest of the central business district. The bypass is expected to decongest the city center by taking the long-distance trucks destined for and coming from Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, off the Mbarara city streets. The 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) road is expected to cost about €170 million (US$210 million), of which the European Union is expected to lend about €122 million (US$153 million) with the government funding the balance from its own resources.[9] (Official Exchange Rate: US$1 = Sh2,500). Construction has started with Reynolds Construction Company leading the way.

Points of interest[edit]

The following Points of Interest lie within the city limits or close to its edges:




  • Mbarara Brewery - A subsidiary of SABMiller; to be built at a cost of US$80 million.[10][11]
  • Mbarara Coca-Cola Plant - A bottling plant owned by Century Bottling Company Limited, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola International
  • Mbarara Steel Plant - Owned and operated by China Machine Building International Corporation (CMIC), a Chinese Government parastal company[12]
  • Home of BM Group of Companies(BM Investments, BM Technical Services and BM Steel) - Owned by Francis Mwebesa


Social services[edit]



  • Mbarara Airport - A public airport, located about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), by road northwest of town
  • Mbarara Bypass Road - A 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) bypass road, currently under construction, circling the northern half of the city.

Financial services[edit]

The following financial institutions maintain branches in Mbarara:

Radio stations[edit]

  • 91.2 Crooze FM
  • Grace Radio 94.2 FM
  • Radio West
  • Vision Radio
  • Endigito
  • Radio Maria
  • Greater African Radio


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b UBOS (27 August 2014). "The Population of The Regions of the Republic of Uganda And All Cities And Towns of More Than 15,000 Inhabitants". Quoting Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS). Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Map Showing Kampala And Mbarara With Distance Marker". Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Google (1 July 2015). "Location of Mbarara at Google Maps" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "Estimated Population of Mbarara Town In 2002, 2010 & 2011" (PDF). Uganda Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Pelikan, Archive (30 July 2013). "Mbarara The Second Largest City In Uganda". Pelikan. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  6. ^ AllAfrica, Archive (4 April 2004). "Mbarara gets a 2 Billion hospital". All Africa. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  7. ^ AllAfrica, Archive (3 April 2004). "Museveni launches Mayanja Memorial Hospital". All Africa. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "About ULGA". Uganda Local Governments Association(ULGA). Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Newvision, Archive (26 May 2010). "Mbarara Gets Sh459 Billion Bypass". New Vision. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Wafula, Paul (11 February 2012). "South Africa Firm Plans To Invest Sh6.5 Billion In New Brewery". Daily Nation. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "SABMiller Opens Second Brewery In Uganda". 22 August 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Vision, Reporter (24 September 2012). "China To Build US$100 Million Steel Plant In Mbarara". Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Turyakira, Fred (28 December 2010). "Private Hospitals Urged To Implement Government Programmes". New Vision. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "About Mayanja Memorial Hospital". Mayanja Memorial Hospital Foundation. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  15. ^ "About Uganda Bible Institute". Uganda Bible Institute. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 00°36′48″S 30°39′30″E / 0.61333°S 30.65833°E / -0.61333; 30.65833