The earliest known human inhabitants in contemporary Uganda were hunter gatherers. Between about 2000 and 1500 years ago Bantu speaking populations, who were probably from central and western Africa, migrated to the southern parts of the country. These groups brought and developed ironworking skills and new ideas of social and political organization. The Empire of Kitara in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries represents the earliest forms of formal organization, followed by the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, and, later, Buganda and Ankole in later centuries.
Nilotic people including Luo and Ateker entered the area from the north, probably beginning about A.D. 120. They were cattle herders and subsistence farmers who settled mainly the northern and eastern parts of the country. Some Luo invaded the area of Bunyoro and assimilated with the Bantu there, establishing the Babiito dynasty of the current Omukama (ruler) of Bunyoro-Kitara. Luo migration proceeded until the 16th century, with some Luo settling amid Bantu people in Eastern Uganda, with others proceeding to the western shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania. The Ateker (Karimojong and Teso) settled in the north-eastern and eastern parts of the country, and some fused with the Luo in the area north of Lake Kyoga.
Arab traders moved inland from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s. They were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879. The United Kingdom placed the area under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888, and ruled it as a protectorate from 1894. As several other territories and chiefdoms were integrated, the final protectorate called Uganda took shape in 1914.