54292137 uganda  Uganda profile

Since the late 1980s Uganda has rebounded from the abyss of civil war and economic catastrophe to become relatively peaceful, stable and prosperous.

In the 1970s and 1980s Uganda was notorious for its human rights abuses, first during the military dictatorship of Idi Amin from 1971-79 and then after the return to power of Milton Obote, who had been ousted by Amin.

During this time up to half a million people were killed in state-sponsored violence.

After becoming president in 1986 Yoweri Museveni introduced democratic reforms and was credited with substantially improving human rights, notably by reducing abuses by the army and the police.

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At a glance

Politics: Multi-party politics restored in 2005. The opposition accuses President Museveni of authoritarian tendencies

Security: Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) forced out of northern Uganda in 2005/06 and has been under military pressure in border regions in recent years

Economy: Uganda is vulnerable to changes in the world price of coffee, its main export earner. Oil discoveries have boosted prospects

International: Uganda has been actively involved in the DR Congo conflict. LRA leaders are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Western-backed economic reforms produced solid growth and falls in inflation in the 1990s, and the discovery of oil and gas in the west of the country boosted confidence.

The global economic turndown of 2008 hit Uganda hard, given its continuing dependence on coffee exports, and pushed up food prices.

This galvanised the opposition, which disputed Mr Museveni's victory in the 2011 presidential elections and went to to organise street protests about the cost of living and political freedoms.

The president has also come under fire for Uganda's military involvement, along with five other countries, in neighbouring DR Congo's 1998-2003 civil war.


DR Congo accuses Uganda of maintaining its influence in the mineral-rich east of the country. Uganda says DR Congo has failed to disarm Ugandan rebels on its soil.

Until relatively recently, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in northern Uganda were blighted by one of Africa's most brutal rebellions.

The cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, began its activities more than 20 years ago and its forces became notorious for abducting children to serve as sex slaves and fighters. At the height of the conflict, nearly two million people in northern Uganda were displaced.

The LRA was forced out of Uganda in 2005/06 and since then has wreaked havoc in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the LRA's departure, northern Uganda has undergone a positive transformation. Thousands of former LRA fighters and abductees have left the group and been reintegrated through Uganda's Amnesty Commission.

Some critics have wondered why the conflict went on for so long and questioned Mr Museveni's commitment to ending the insurgency. The government in turn has pointed to progress since 2011, when the US committed itself to tracking down LRA bases in nearby countries.

Uganda has won praise for its vigorous campaign against HIV/Aids. This has helped to reduce the prevalence of the virus – which reached 30% of the population in the 1990s – to single-digit figures.

The country has gained international attention for its hardening anti-homosexual attitudes, culminating in anti-gay legislation introduced in 2014.

wpid 75675238 uganda stanley g7 Uganda profile Uganda is home to equatorial glaciers found in the Rwenzori mountains, which form the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo


 54199073 cape verde Cape Verde profile

Poor in natural resources, prone to drought and with little arable land, the Cape Verde islands have won a reputation for achieving political and economic stability.

The former Portuguese colony comprises 10 islands and five islets, all but three of which are mountainous.

During the 20th century severe droughts caused the deaths of 200,000 people and prompted heavy emigration. Today, more people with origins in Cape Verde live outside the country than inside it. The money that they send home brings in much-needed foreign currency.

From the mid-1990s, droughts cut the islands' grain crop by 80%, and in 2002 the government appealed for international food aid after the harvest failed.

wpid 52277376 capeverde migrant2 afp3 Cape Verde profile Increasing numbers of Europe-bound migrants have been intercepted in Cape Verde's waters

Nonetheless, Cape Verde enjoys a per capita income that is higher than that of many continental African nations. It has sought closer economic ties with the US, EU and Portugal.

In 2008 Cape Verde became only the second country after Botswana to be promoted by the United Nations out of the ranks of the 50 least developed countries. In recent years it has seen economic growth averaging 6%, the construction of three international airports and hundreds of kilometres of roads.

Tourism is on the rise, but there are concerns that it poses a threat to the Cape Verde's rich marine life. It is an important nesting site for loggerhead turtles and humpback whales feed in the islands' waters.

Cape Verde became independent in 1975, a year after its sister colony, Guinea-Bissau, won freedom from Portugal. The two countries planned to unite, but the plan was ditched after a coup in Guinea-Bissau in 1980 strained relations.

In 1991 Cape Verde held its first free presidential elections, which were won by Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro, who replaced the islands' first president, Aristides Pereira.

wpid 61771385 cape verde citadel g3 Cape Verde profile The 15th century town of Cidade Velha – listed as a World Heritage Site – was the first European settlement in the tropics


 54027812 zambia Zambia profile

Zambia, in south-central Africa, is the continent's biggest copper producer and home to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

The Victoria Falls – also known locally as the ''Smoke that Thunders'' – are to be found along the Zambezi River and have UNESCO World Heritage status.

They are one of the country's many natural features which have been enticing a growing number of tourists, along with the wide variety of wildlife to be found in large game parks.

wpid 64453466 zambia elex3 20066 Zambia profile Zambia has generally been peaceful since gaining independence

Another draw for visitors is the fact that Zambia has been peaceful and generally trouble-free, especially compared to most of the eight neighbours with which it shares a border.

The area was colonised in the 1800s and ruled by Britain as Northern Rhodesia until 1964, when it made a peaceful transition to independence.

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At a glance

Politics: Michael Sata won the presidency in 2011, unseating a government that had been in power for 20 years. He died while in office in 2014

Economy: Improved copper prices and investment in mining have improved prospects for export earnings

International: Thousands of refugees from the Angolan civil war have yet to return home

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring


Kenneth Kaunda – who led the country at independence and for the next three decades – introduced central planning into the economy and nationalised key sectors including the copper mines. His policies, together with a drop in copper prices, are blamed for the country's economic woes during his time.

The country was also made to suffer for its support of liberation movements trying to remove white rule in South Africa and what is now Zimbabwe.

The country's economic fortunes began to change in the late 1990s when the privatisation of the mining sector began to draw in foreign investment and improve output. Government support for agriculture is also said to have contributed to economic growth, averaging around 6% a year in recent years.

China in particular has invested heavily in Zambia, creating jobs and new infrastructure. Census date suggests about 100,000 Chinese live in the country, and about 500 firms are active in sectors across the economy.

On the flipside, labour relations at Chinese-owned firms have sometimes been tense, and some Zambians complain of being exploited.


President Kaunda imposed single-party socialism, in which his United National Independence Party (UNIP) was the only legal political party within a ''one-party participatory democracy''.

Constitutional change was introduced in 1991 under popular pressure, allowing a multi-party system and a change of leadership.

Zambia has a reputation for political stability and a relatively efficient, transparent government.

However, social conditions are tough. Poverty is widespread. Life expectancy is among the lowest in the world and the death rate is one of the highest – largely due to the prevalence of HIV/Aids.


 52639145 eritrea Eritrea profile

Eritrea emerged from its long war of independence in 1993 only to plunge once again into military conflict, first with Yemen and then, more devastatingly, with its old adversary, Ethiopia.

Today, a fragile peace prevails and Eritrea faces the gigantic tasks of rebuilding its infrastructure and of developing its economy after more than 30 years of fighting.

A former Italian colony, Eritrea was occupied by the British in 1941. In 1952 the United Nations resolved to establish it as an autonomous entity federated with Ethiopia as a compromise between Ethiopian claims for sovereignty and Eritrean aspirations for independence. However, 10 years later the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to annex it, triggering a 32-year armed struggle.

wpid 65416293 eritea church g3 Eritrea profile The Cathedral and Catholic Mission in Eritrea's capital Asmara

This culminated in independence after an alliance of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and a coalition of Ethiopian resistance movements defeated Haile Selassie's communist successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam.

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At a glance

Politics: The government has been accused of repression and of hindering the development of democracy

Economy: Eritrea is said to be on the brink of a mining boom; it is heavily dependent on earnings of the diaspora

International: Eritrea and Ethiopia remain in dispute after their 1998-2000 border war; in 2009 the UN imposed sanctions on Eritrea after accusing it of backing anti-Ethiopian Islamist insurgents in Somalia

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

In 1993, in a referendum supported by Ethiopia, Eritreans voted almost unanimously for independence, leaving Ethiopia landlocked.

The two countries hardly became good neighbours, with the issues of Ethiopian access to the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab and unequal trade terms souring relations.

In 1998 border disputes around the town of Badme erupted into open hostilities. This conflict ended with a peace deal in June 2000, but not before leaving both sides with tens of thousands of soldiers dead. A security zone separates the two countries. The UN patrolled the zone at one time but pulled out, unable to fulfil its mandate.

In recent years Eritrea has become one of the world's most secretive countries.

It doesn't have any privately-owned indigenous media, and sits alongside North Korea in global media freedom rankings.

It also reportedly doesn't welcome foreign journalists unless they agree to report favourably about the government.

Information ‘black hole’

United Nations officials have complained that the country hasn't shared information about food supplies in times of drought.

While agencies warned that millions in the Horn of Africa were being affected by famine in 2011, Eritrea was denying a crisis.

“It's been a black hole for us, we don't know what's going on there,” said Matthew Conway, spokesman for the UN humanitarian coordination office in Nairobi at the time. “But that's not to say it's not happening.”

The World Bank says that by virtue of its location in the Sahel, Eritrea suffers periodic droughts and chronic food shortages hampering development efforts. It says however that the government indicated that it was managing food stocks carefully.

The UN has been investigating human rights in Eritrea, but its special rapporteur has been denied entry. She said in 2014 that a refugee exodus was being fuelled by alleged abuses including extrajudicial executions, torture and forced military conscription that can last decades.

In 2014 Eritreans were reportedly among the most numerous of those attempting the risky crossing from North Africa to Europe by boat.

Eritrea has become a gold producer, with mining expected to become an important source of revenue and growth.

wpid 65425437 eritrea bisha nevsun3 Eritrea profile Gold, produced by mines such as Bisha – which began operations in 2011 – has fuelled economic growth


 54199922 zimbabwe Zimbabwe profile

The fortunes of Zimbabwe have for almost three decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, the pro-independence campaigner who wrested control from a small white community and became the country's first black leader.

Until the 2008 parliamentary elections, Zimbabwe was effectively a one-party state, ruled over by Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

A power-sharing deal agreed after the polls raised hopes that Mr Mugabe might be prepared to relinquish some of his powers.

The partnership was shaky and often acrimonious, but the coalition succeeded in agreeing a new constitution, which was approved by referendum ahead of fresh elections in July 2013.

However, following Mr Mugabe's re-election as president in 2013 and Zanu-PF's gaining of a two-thirds majority in the parliamentary poll, the power-sharing coalition was ditched.

Mr Mugabe continues to preside over a nation whose economy is in deep crisis, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political strife and repression commonplace.

wpid 64432075 zim cattle g8 Zimbabwe profile Control over the land has been a major issue in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, the stone enclosures of Great Zimbabwe – remnants of a past empire – and to herds of elephant and other game roaming vast stretches of wilderness.

For years it was a major tobacco producer and a potential bread basket for surrounding countries.

But the forced seizure of almost all white-owned commercial farms, with the stated aim of benefiting landless black Zimbabweans, led to sharp falls in production and precipitated the collapse of the agriculture-based economy. The country has endured rampant inflation and critical food and fuel shortages.

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At a glance

Politics: President Robert Mugabe, in office since 1980, gained a new term in controversial elections in 2013

Economy: Economy appears to be stabilising after years of crisis with rampant inflation, “de-industrialisation” and shortages of food and fuel. Agricultural production has shrunk

International: Several countries shun Zimbabwe in the hope of promoting democratic reform

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Many Zimbabweans survive on grain handouts. Others have voted with their feet; hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, including much-needed professionals, have emigrated.

Aid agencies and critics partly blame food shortages on the land reform programme. The government blames a long-running drought, and Mr Mugabe has accused Britain and its allies of sabotaging the economy in revenge for the redistribution programme.

The government's urban slum demolition drive in 2005 drew more international condemnation. The president said it was an effort to boost law and order and development; critics accused him of destroying slums housing opposition supporters.

In 2010 the government passed a controversial indigenisation law as part of its policy to force foreign firms to cede economic control to black Zimbabweans. The policy has so far been applied to the mining industry.

Indigenisation was one of Mr Mugabe's key campaign issues in the 2013 election, and on being re-elected he vowed to pursue the policy with renewed vigour.

The former Rhodesia has a history of conflict, with white settlers dispossessing the resident population, guerrilla armies forcing the white government to submit to elections, and the post-independence leadership committing atrocities in southern areas where it lacked the support of the Matabele people.

Zimbabwe has had a rocky relationship with the Commonwealth – it was suspended after President Mugabe's controversial re-election in 2002 and later announced that it was pulling out for good.

wpid 64432074 zim ruins afp8 Zimbabwe profile The ruins of Great Zimbabwe are the remains of a lost civilization


 54199925 niger Niger country profile

A vast, arid state on the edge of the Sahara desert, Niger endured austere military rule for much of its post-independence history and is rated by the UN as one of the world's least-developed nations.

The drought-prone country sometimes struggles to feed its people. Its main export, uranium, is prone to price fluctuations and agriculture is threatened by the encroaching desert. Niger is bargaining on oil exploration and gold mining to boost its fortunes.

Historically a gateway between North and sub-Saharan Africa, Niger came under French rule in the late 1890s.

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At a glance

wpid 55186331 ngr tuaregwomen afp4 Niger country profile

Politics: President Tandja changed the constitution to stay in power, but was ousted in a coup in 2010. Polls to restore civilian rule were held in January 2011

Security: Tuareg nomads seeking greater autonomy for the north have been waging a low-level war. Fears of Al Qaeda activity have been heightened by the kidnapping of foreigners

Economy: Niger is a leading producer of uranium, and is rich in other minerals. It started pumping oil in 2011. UN rates it as one of world's poorest countries

International: Niger shares borders with seven countries. Some boundaries are disputed

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

After independence in 1960 its progress was stymied by political instability and a five-year drought, which devastated livestock and crops.

With little primary education, Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Its health system is basic and disease is widespread.

After a break of a decade, Niger again experienced an insurgency by Tuareg rebels in the north in 2007.

The Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) complained that a 1995 peace deal that ended the previous insurgency has never been fully implemented and that the region remains marginalised. The group demands greater autonomy and a larger share of uranium revenue.

In 2009, the MNJ and the government held talks in Libya, at which they committed themselves to a “total and comprehensive” peace.

In 1999 voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution providing for presidential and legislative multi-party elections. These took place later in the year and saw Mamadou Tandja elected as president.

Mr Tandja introduced a new constitution in 2009 to extend his powers in a move described by the opposition as a coup. He was himself overthrown in a coup at the beginning of 2010.

Niger banned the centuries-old practice of slavery in 2003. But anti-slavery organisations say thousands of people still live in subjugation.

wpid 61232926 niger millet g4 Niger country profile A farmer harvests a plentiful crop of millet in Niger, which however, is frequently at the mercy of food shortages


 54270745 ceuta melilla Ceuta, Melilla profile

Ceuta and Melilla, fragments of Europe on north Africa's Mediterranean coast, came under Spanish control around 500 years ago.

Madrid says they are integral parts of Spain. On three sides they are surrounded by Morocco, which views the Spanish presence as anachronistic and claims sovereignty.

But improving relations were jeopardised in November 2007 by Spanish King Juan Carlos's first visit to the territories in more than 30 years, which King Mohammed VI strongly condemned.

Spain also controls a scattering of islets along the north African coast, including uninhabited Perejil, which was at the centre of a spat in 2002 when Moroccan soldiers occupied it before being removed by the Spanish army.

wpid 62842730 ceuta 20057 Ceuta, Melilla profile Moroccan youths survey Ceuta: The territories have been used as staging posts for immigration to Europe

More recently, differences over Ceuta and Melilla have not prevented a warming of relations between Morocco and Spain, particularly economic ones. Morocco's premier has advocated “neighbourly” talks on the issue.

With its rebuilt 15th century cathedral, shipyards and a fish-processing plant, Ceuta is viewed by Spain as the more strategically-valuable enclave. The town is a 90-minute ferry ride from mainland Spain.

Melilla, conquered in 1497, is a modern town with a distinctive old quarter.

The territories are surrounded by fences, intended to deter illegal immigrants. But Ceuta and Melilla are nonetheless used by many Africans as stepping-stones to Iberia. Many migrants are caught and some drown while attempting to make the sea crossing. People trafficking is common.

After a series of increasingly-desperate attempts by would-be immigrants to surmount the barriers in 2005, Spain and Morocco agreed to deploy extra troops to try to secure the borders.

Ceuta and Melilla are linked to Spain by ferry services to Malaga, Algeciras and Almeria. Borders and defence are controlled by Madrid. Tourism is an important money-earner with duty-free goods being a big draw for visitors.

wpid 70295348 ceuta king g7 Ceuta, Melilla profile Spanish King Juan Carlos to Ceuta in 2007 angered Morocco, which claims sovereignty over the territory


 54199220 comoros Comoros country profile

Potentially a holiday paradise with picture-postcard beaches, the Comoros islands are trying to consolidate political stability amid tensions between semi-autonomous islands and the central government.

A history of political violence has left the Comoros desperately poor. At times, the country has teetered on the brink of disintegration.

The three Indian Ocean islands have experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups, beginning just weeks after independence from France in 1975 when President Ahmed Abdallah was toppled in a coup assisted by French mercenary Colonel Bob Denard. Colonel Denard featured in several power struggles over the years.

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At a glance

wpid 52390855 comoros voters2 afp 1066097465 Comoros country profile

Politics: After coups and secession bids, the Comoros gained some stability under a 2001 constitution granting the islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, Moheli greater autonomy within a federation.

Economy: Comoros is heavily reliant on aid and remittances from the diaspora

International: The African Union and South Africa have been involved in helping to stabilise the Comoros politically

Profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

To add to the country's troubles, the islands of Anjouan and Moheli declared unilateral independence in a violent conflict in 1997.

In an effort to bring the breakaway islands back into the fold, Moheli, Anjouan and the largest island, Grande Comore, were granted greater autonomy under a 2001 constitution.

The Union of the Comoros retained control of security and financial matters.

The people of the Comoros are among the poorest in Africa and are heavily dependent on foreign aid.

Natural resources are in short supply and the islands' chief exports – vanilla, cloves and perfume essence – are prone to price fluctuations. Money sent home by Comorans living abroad is an important source of income.

The descendants of Arab traders, Malay immigrants and African peoples contribute to the islands' complex ethnic mix.

wpid 61794022 comoros kids g5 Comoros country profile The Comoros islands have experienced several coups since gaining indendence from France


 54272259 garowe Puntland profile

Puntland, an arid region of north-east Somalia, declared itself an autonomous state in August 1998.

The move was in part an attempt to avoid the clan warfare engulfing southern Somalia. Nevertheless, the region has endured armed conflict, and grabbed the world headlines with an upsurge in pirate attacks on international shipping in the Indian Ocean.

Unlike its neighbour, breakaway Somaliland, Puntland says it does not seek recognition as an independent entity, wishing instead to be part of a federal Somalia.

The region's leadership refused to take part in peace talks in Djibouti in 2008 that led to the formation of a new transitional federal government headed by a moderate Islamist PM, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, but later reluctantly recognised the new administration.

wpid 62820915 som puntland7 Puntland profile Puntland is a destination for displaced Somalis from the south

Sporadic fighting has broken out between Puntland and Somaliland over the ownership of Sool and Sanaag regions, which are claimed by Puntland on the basis of ethnicity. Violence also accompanied a political power struggle in 2001 between rival claimants to the Puntland leadership.

Livestock herding and fishing sustain the people – many of them nomads – of the drought-prone region. The money sent home from overseas workers is an important source of foreign exchange.

Maritime piracy

Since 2005, the region has become infamous as the hub of a burgeoning piracy operation in the seas around Somalia, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, where the pirates prey on key international shipping lanes to and from the Suez Canal.

The issue has achieved a high profile internationally, and several states, including the US, France, Britain and China, have deployed warships to the seas around Somalia to protect shipping.

Piracy has brought vast amounts of money into the region, leading to accusations that the authorities are turning a blind eye to the problem. Puntland's leaders have frequently promised to curb the pirates' activities, but with little apparent success.

It is widely viewed a socially acceptable and lucrative lifestyle, and has attracted former fishermen, ex-militiamen and technical experts.

Many in Somalia defend the attacks on foreign ships as a justified response to illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste along Somalia's long and poorly policed coastline.

Puntland is a destination for many Somalis displaced by violence in the south; some of them attempt to make the sea crossing to Yemen.

The region's coast was hit by the December 2004 Asian tsunami; more than 300 people were killed and thousands lost their livelihoods. A famine in 2011 and a cycloone in late 2012 added to the region's woes.

The territory takes its name from the Land of Punt, a centre of trade for the ancient Egyptians and a place shrouded in legend.

wpid 71094239 puntland migrants g7 Puntland profile Puntland's coast has been a jumping off point for migrants, such as those seen in this 2007 picture waiting to cross to Yemen


 52802752 ghana Ghana country profile

Ghana was the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade – first in gold, later in slaves.

It was also the first black African nation in the region to achieve independence from a colonial power, in this instance Britain.

Despite being rich in mineral resources, and endowed with a good education system and efficient civil service, Ghana fell victim to corruption and mismanagement soon after independence in 1957.

In 1966 its first president and pan-African hero, Kwame Nkrumah, was deposed in a coup, heralding years of mostly-military rule. In 1981 Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings staged his second coup. The country began to move towards economic stability and democracy.

wpid 61818031 ghana elmina castle g3 Ghana country profile Elmina Castle, an important centre of the slave trade

In April 1992 a constitution allowing for a multi-party system was approved in a referendum, ushering in a period of democracy.

A well-administered country by regional standards, Ghana is often seen as a model for political and economic reform in Africa.

Cocoa exports are an essential part of the economy; Ghana is the world's second-largest producer.

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At a glance

Politics: Ghana is one of the more stable nations in the region, with a good record of power changing hands peacefully

Economy: Ghana is the world's second largest cocoa producer behind Ivory Coast, and Africa's biggest gold miner after South Africa. It is one of the continent's fastest growing economies, and newest oil producer

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

The discovery of major offshore oil reserves was announced in June 2007, encouraging expectations of a major economic boost.

Production officially began at the end of 2010, but some analysts expressed concern over the country's ability to manage its new industry, as laws governing the oil sector had not yet been passed.

The Ghanaian economy proved to be relatively resilient because to the world economic shock of 2008-9, mainly because of the high prices of cocoa and gold. It has continued to post some of Africa's highest annual GDP growth rates.

Ghana has a high-profile peacekeeping role; troops have been deployed in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and DR Congo.

Although Ghana has largely escaped the civil strife that has plagued other West African countries, in 1994-95 land disputes in the north erupted into ethnic violence, resulting in the deaths of 1,000 people and the displacement of a further 150,000.

wpid 60996903 ghana street g3 Ghana country profile Ghana has generally managed to avoid civil strife