How Jinja Became a Town

How Jinja Became a Town

Jinja is famous as the start of the Nile’s 4000 km journey to the Mediterranean. It is the second largest urban area (with Njeru) after Kampala, and is the third most visited town in Uganda (after Kampala and Entebbe). But Jinja has not always been so prominent nor popular. When the source of the Nile was identified by John Hanning Speke in 1862, Jinja was a small fishing village. It was not until 1906 that it became a township, when the district headquarters moved from Ibanda to Jinja.

The town slowly began to develop, with industry and businesses taking off with the arrival of the Asian traders, and the development of the Uganda Railway, which passed through Jinja.

In 1930, the British government asked A. E. Mirams to draw up an urban layout for Jinja, which has resulted in Jinja’s organised, grid like street patterns. The Main street is almost 2km end to end, making it one of the longest streets in Uganda.

A year later, in 1931, the Railway bridge was finished, linking Buganda and Busoga across the Nile, a journey that previously could only be undertaken by boat.

By 1938, Jinja was declared a town council, and it gained municipality status in 1956. Jinja suffered greatly after the expulsion of the Asians in 1972, and many of the industries that were the backbone of the town’s success shrank or closed altogether.   Jinja has recovered and is even more prosperous in terms of its economy than it was before 1972.

Jinja has played host to several famous visitors, including HM Queen Elizabeth of England in 1954, President Richard Nixon in 1957, and President Bill Clinton in 1998. Former Ugandan President Milton Obote was educated in Jinja, at the prestigious Busoga College, as was the current Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.