Uganda is called the Pearl of Africa as a result of Winston Churchill's reference to the East African country in this manner in his 1908 book, "My African Journey." Churchill's use of the descriptive metaphor was inspired by his impression of the country as an example of magnificence in its "variety of form and color" and its "profusion of brilliant life." Among its many notable landscape features, the landlocked nation contains a significant portion of the largest lake on the African continent, Lake Victoria, and is home to the Nile River's Murchison Waterfall.
A British colony until its independence in 1962, Uganda contains mountains, valleys, widespread savannas and supports a great diversity of wildlife. National parks and primate nature sanctuaries afford international researchers opportunities for field studies and help to promote tourism. More than 1,000 species of birds can be found in Uganda, representing over half of the bird varieties in Africa. As a result of regular rainfall and an extensive supply of fresh water, there are wetlands and dense rainforests supporting a wide array of vegetation.
Transitions of power in the Ugandan government have not always been peaceful and the dictator, Idi Amin, who seized power through a military coup, ruled the nation between 1971 and 1979 to the detriment of the nation's economy and human rights protections. Although initially viewed in a favorable light by the West, the most recent government, headed by President Yoweri Museveni since 1986, has come under criticism for its participation in the Second Congo War, poor human rights record and widespread corruption.