About Masaka - Love in Action

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About Masaka

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Masaka District is a district in Central Uganda, situated about 37 kms away from the equator towards the south with an average altitude of 1150m above sea level.  Its main town is Masaka, whose estimated population in 2011 was 74,100. It is bordered by Bukomansimbi District to the northwest, Kalungu District to the north, Kalangala District to the east and south, Rakai District to the southwest and Lwengo District to the west.

Masaka District was first
established in the 1900's comprising what were the Kingdom counties of Buddu, Kooki, Kabula and Mawogola. Initially, Kooki and Kabula were peeled off to form Rakai District. Later, the northern part of Rakai District was removed to form Lyantonde District. In 1997, Mawogola County was split from Buddu and was named Sembabule District. Buddu remained as Masaka District.

It Masaka was Uganda’s second biggest town for a long time, today this status has changed as it was largely destroyed in the liberation war of 1979 and again in the 1981-1986 civil war which removed Obote 2 from power. So Masaka District is one of the districts in Uganda, which has suffered the terror of bad governance, epidemics and total collapse of the service delivery system.  This bad situation resulted in bringing down Masaka to her knees both socially and economically between 1971 and 1986.  The former local administration structures were all destroyed and a few which remained, were dilapidated.

The origin of Masaka is not very clear, but the local traditions have two views on how Masaka got its name:

1. The Local traditions say, “that there were big shrubs which were found in the area commonly known as a masaka”. So from that they named the area as Masaka.

2. Others say, “that Long ago there was a famine in Ankole and so the Ankole people migrated from their home land looking for food, when they reached in this area, they found millet, which in their language called Omugusha”. So according to the presence of Millet or Omugisha as it was commonly known by the Ankole people, when they reached in the area they started asking for Omugusha (millet) to eat. But the people who were in this area were Baganda and they would not pronounce the word as the Ankole people, so they called it Masaka and that was the beginning of the word hence naming that word to the area.

During the colonial period  Uganda was split into administrive districts
and Masaka was one of them.

The district has a rich cultural heritage. It has also a diversity of ethnicities of about 40 ethnic groups though the majority of the people are Baganda followed by the Banyankole, Banyarwanda and Banyoro. But most of the tribes practice Buganda culture. The main language spoken is Luganda and the staple food of the area is Matooke.
The major economic activities in Masaka include food crop agriculture for example m
atooke, sweetpotatoes, pineapples, and tomatoes. Cash crop agriculture including coffee and cotton, Animal Ranching consisting of cattle, goats, pigs and chicken. Further more there is also fishing on Lake Victoria and fishing farming. Some people earn a living in small scale industries like Coffee processing, manufacture of soft drinks, metal fabrication/welding and Retail trade.

Standard Bank in the 1950's (Photo Malcolm Crow)

Now DFCU Bank (2011)

In 1979 The same bank (then Co-operative Bank) was badly damaged by the Tanzanians.

Equator Line between Kampala and Masaka 1950's

2011The Banana Plantation has been replaced by a brick wall.


The Sports Clubin the 1950's had a swimming pool, tennis courts and a golf course.

The Sports club in 2011. The swimming pool is unuseable and the golf course long gone! The tennis court is still there but in poor condition.

Hobart Street

View from outside Masaka Internet Services 2004

The same view in 2011 and the Taxi park has gone and building is taking place.

A typical goverment workers bungalow in 1956, this picture was taken in Fort Portal but the same design was used in many places.
The picture above right shows a house built to the same design but in Masaka. On the left is the same house today showng what can be acheived.


Old Photos repoduced by permission Malcom Crow (http://www.mccrow.org.uk)
There are a lot more photos of East Africa on Malcom's site.

(c) Love in Action 2016
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