Arua is town in the West Nile region of Uganda. Its name comes from the word ‘Aru’ in the local Lugbara language, which means ‘little prison’, on account of the prison built by the colonialist .
Arua was under Belgian rule as part of the Congo Free state until 1914, when the British took control. The locals who resisted the move were imprisoned by the British, giving the town its name. The design of the town was planned by the first district commissioner of the West Nile, Arthur Evelyn Weatherhead. The town has a distinct grid style layout, and several colonial era buildings still stand, such as the town library. The missionaries followed shortly after, with the Catholics and Protestants building cathedrals in the town.
The largest town in West Nile, Arua is only 10 miles from the Congolese border. Arua is accessible to the rest of Uganda by only one road, from Pakwach. The river Nile cuts off the rest of the West Nile region.
There are four main ethnic groups in the West Nile – the Lugbara, Alur, Madi and Kakwa. When the boarders of modern day Congo, South Sudan and Uganda were drawn up, they portioned the tribes, with the Alur and Lugbara being split with the Congo and the Kakwa and Madi with South Sudan.
Arua gained prominence in recent times, as it is the birthplace of former President Amin, who comes from just outside the town, and whose family still owns land along the airstrip. The area suffered thanks to this association after Amin lost power in 1979.
Visit Arua on our Keepers of the White Nile tour, and learn more about the history of the town voted the second best in Africa.