Before 1906, Jinja was a fishing village that benefited from being located on long-distance trade routes. The origin of the name “Jinja” comes from the language of the two peoples (the Bagandaand the Basoga) that lived on either side of the River Nile in the area. In both languages “Jinja” means “Rock”. In most of Africa, rivers like the Nile hindered migration, this explains the ethnic boundaries along the Nile as one moves north from the river’s source on the northern shores of Lake Victoria.
However the area around Jinja was one place where the river could be breached due to the large rocks near the Ripon Falls. Here, on either bank of the river, were large flat rocks where small boats could be launched to cross the river. These rock formations were also accredited with providing a natural moderator for the water flow out of Lake Victoria. For the original local inhabitants, the location was a crossing point, for trade, migration and as a fishing post.
This might explain why, despite this barrier, the two tribes have very similar languages, and the more powerful Baganda had an enormous influence on the Basoga. The area was called the ‘Place of Rocks’ or ‘The Place of Flat Rocks’. The word for stones or rocks in the language of the Baganda is ‘Ejjinja (Plural Amayinja), and in the Basoga dialect this became Edinda. The British used this reference to name the town they established – “Jinja”
In 1954,with the building of the Owen Falls Dam, (later renamed Nalubaale Power Station, the Ripon Falls were submerged. Most of the ‘Flat Rocks’ that gave the area its name disappeared under water as well. However a description of what the area looked like can be found in the notes of John Hanning Speke, the first European to lay eyes on the Source of the Nile:
- “Though beautiful, the scene was not exactly what I expected, for the broad surface of the lake was shut out from view by a spur of hill, and the falls, about twelve feet deep and four to five hundred feet broad, were broken by rocks; still it was a sight that attracted one to it for hours. The roar of the waters, the thousands of passenger fish leaping at the falls with all their might, the fishermen coming out in boats, and taking post on all the rocks with rod and hook, hippopotami and crocodiles lying sleepily on the water, the ferry at work above the falls, and cattle driven down to drink at the margin of the lake, made in all, with the pretty nature of the country—small grassy-topped hills, with trees in the intervening valleys and on the lower slopes—as interesting a picture as one could wish to see.”
Cotton-packing, nearby sugar estates, and railway access all enabled Jinja to grow in size. By 1906 a street pattern had been laid out, and Indian traders moved in starting around 1910. The Indians were Catholic Christians and English-speaking, and originated in the former Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India.
The town was founded in 1907 by the British, as an administrative centre for the Provincial Government Headquarters for Busoga region. This was around the time that Lake Victoria’s importance in transport rose due to the Uganda Railway linking Kisumu, a Kenyan town on the lake, with Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, 900 miles (1,400 km) away. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) established a tobacco processing factory in Jinja in 1928.
Location & Size
Jinja District is located in the Southeastern part of Uganda. It is a small district found east of the Nile River and along the northern shores of Lake Victoria. Jinja District has an area of 767.7sq Km of which 701.9 sq km is land and the rest (65.8 Sq km) is covered by water bodies.
The district is subdivided into 3 counties namely, Butembe, Kagoma and Jinja Municipality. There are 6 Sub-Counties; 46 Parishes and 381 villages. Jinja Municipality has three sub-counties and 55 villages.
Jinja District is bordered Kamuli District to the north, Luuka District to the east, Mayuge District to the southeast, Buvuma District to the south,Buikwe District to the west and Kayunga District to the northwest. The district headquarters at Buwenge are located 96 kilometres (60 mi), by road, east of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. The coordinates of the district are: 00 30N, 33 12E. (Latitude:0.5000; Longitude:33.2000).