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The political history of Uganda

Posted by African Press International on February 18, 2007

Before you attack my articles Mr.Mutebi, I would like you to go through the article below. I will on a later stage comment on the issues you raised on my earlier articles.

Buganda and British Overrule 1900-1955 by D. Anthony Low, R.
Cranford Pratt:
Review author[s]: Roland Young
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 334, Latin America’s Nationalistic Revolutions (Mar., 1961), pp. 171-172″, then we can discuss about the land issue.


Political History of Uganda:
The political history of Uganda is long and complex. From the “Cradle of Civilization” to present date, Uganda’s history has been both varied and fascinating.
This section attempts to give a chronological account of Uganda’s political history.

Before Colonisation:
The present-day Uganda was forged by the British between 1890 and 1926. The name Uganda was derived from the Buganda Kingdom.It is important to note that the British were not the first people to unite Uganda. Before the British united Uganda, the Bachwezi dynasty controlled or influenced parts of Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Tanzania between 1100 AD and 1600AD. Names like Ndahura (Ndawula), Mulindwa, Wamala, Kagoro, Kyomya, Mugasha (Mukasa), which are Bachwezi names are found throughout these areas.
Further evidence is provided by historical sites like Bigo bya Mugyenyi and Omunsa. Also, the Luo were linked to the Banyoro and Batoro through the Babiito dynasty.
Names like Olimi, Oyo, Winyi and Achaki that are found amongst the Babiito of Bunyoro and Toro are Luo names. The Luo equivalents of these royal names are Olum, Oyo, Owiny and Acak, respectively.
Buganda was also linked to the Luo.
For instance the main entrance at the Lubiri (palace) is called wankaki, the same word as Wangkac, which in Luo also means entrance. The Bachwezi dynasty collapsed around 1600. It was replaced by Kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole, Toro and Busoga, and the chieftains of Beni-Butembo and Husi (in Congo); and Karagwe and Buhaya (in Tanzania). Parts of Rwanda such as Mutara were also part of this domain.
Before colonialism, present-day Uganda was made up of Kingdoms and societies that were headed by chiefs or clan leaders.
These societies i.e. those without a central leadership, included the langi, Lugbara, Acholi, Karimojong, Bakiga, Iteso, Bagishu, Sebei and the various Bantu and Padhola groups of Bukedi.
Power in these societies was wielded by clan leaders. Inter-clan feuds were common among the non-kingdom societies. Land was owned communally under clan leaderships.
On the other hand, societies of the present-day Bunyoro, Buganda, Ankole and Toro were organized as Kingdoms each with a central leadership under a king who exercised power through chiefs and clan leaders.
The kingdom areas had developed into small states that had at times fought each other for supremacy and expansion of territory. This state of affairs was to change with the arrival of foreigners.

The first foreigners to arrive in Uganda were Arab traders in 1845. In 1862, John Hannington Speke arrived in Buganda followed by Grant in 1865, and by Henry Morton Stanley in 1865.
These Europeans were referred to as ‘explorers’ – exploring territory for British expansion. Stanley helped
Buganda raid the Islands of Buvuma and extracted a letter of invitation from Kabaka Mutesa I, inviting the white men to come to his kingdom. Mutesa felt threatened by the spread of Egyptian imperialism and the old rivalry from the
Kingdom of Bunyoro. He wanted guns to defend his kingdom and invited the whites thinking that they would help him in this task.In his letter of March 24 1876, inviting missionaries, Kabaka Mutesa explained that he wanted to be “a friend to the white man”.This letter was published in London in the Daily Telegraph.
After the publication of the letter, a follow up article was published a week later in the same paper enjoining missionaries who might respond to Mutesa’s invitation to “teach the natives to wear clothes” and design such clothing to be “slightly longer than the normal” with the assertion that “if the Africans increase their clothing by even two inches longer than the normal that would keep the Lancaster Mills in operation for a full year.”
The two extra inches on African clothes showed how colonialism was the battering ram for the expansion of European economic interests in the search for markets.
The colonization of Africa took different forms and different methods were used in different places. These included the use of anthropology, the Bible and the gun. The gun, assisted by the Bible and the Koran were the most effective means through which Uganda was colonized.
The Bible and Koran teachings were so effective that a decade within the arrival of missionaries some Baganda had offered themselves to “die for God and fighting other men of God”, something that had rarely happened in other places where organized religion had existed for centuries.
By 1867, Islam was established in Buganda, having been introduced by Arabs during the reign of Kabaka Ssuna II. It is recorded that Mutesa I was already observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and had learned to read the Koran. He also exchanged gifts with parts of the Islamic world, like Zanzibar, but never converted fully to Islam. However the young pages at his court went further than the king and eagerly accepted initiation into Islam.
They refused beef from the king’s table saying beef from that was not slain by a Muslim was unfit for consumption. Mutesa responded by ordering the execution of all pages that had converted to Islam.
In June 1877, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) arrived in Buganda from England led by Shergold Smith and Reverend CT Wilson.They started preaching “the good news” to the pages at the Kabaka’s court.
Two years later, in February 1879, another batch of preachers arrived. These were the Roman Catholic White Fathers, Father Lourdel and Brother Amans.
Fathers Barbot, Girault and Livinhac reinforced them in June the same year. Thus, in
Buganda, within a period of two years, there were to different groups both teaching Christianity. This confused the Baganda as to which one was right or better.
The competition among Catholics and Protestants in Buganda was a reflection of the global rivalry between France and England for spheres of influence where they could sell their products and obtain cheap raw materials. Suspicious of their motives, Mutesa had confined the missionaries at the court and hence, the conversions started with loyal chiefs and the pages. As the two religious sects started advancing their agendas, they started conflicting with each other.They had endless quarrels and disputes in front of Mutesa but failed to provide arms and ammunition to the expectant king. In this atmosphere, the Arabs took advantage of the conflicts and started spreading Islam; they improved trade and generally discredited the Christian factions in front of Mutesa, thus gaining ground.

The traditional religious and political leaders, who had lost ground with the arrival of the new religions, came back and gained momentum.
Mutesa himself lost confidence in missionaries and, consequently, the Roman Catholics thought it important to remove themselves and establish a station at Kagei south of Lake Victoria in 1882. They remained there until Mwanga summoned them back to Rubaga in 1885. Mutesa died in 1884 and was succeeded by Mwanga, who was threatened by outside events like the news of Karl Peters signing treaties with local leaders in present-day Tanzania.
Then there was the coming of Bishop James Hannington who came from the east, a route superstitiously believed to cause trouble to the kingdom. Mwanga ordered the arrest of the bishop, his detention and later execution. With the coming of the missionaries and their idea of a supreme God, the influence of the Kabaka started waning and the ‘readers’ (abasomi) were gaining ground.
Religion started spreading to the entire kingdom; the pages started giving respect to the preachers; they started questioning the Kabaka, denouncing authoritarian rule and preaching what they regarded as the new ‘democracy’. This marked the decline in the traditional system of governance.

Increasingly seeing his authority being undermined, in 1885, Kabaka Mwanga ordered the execution of three converts in a bid to re-assert his authority. By 1886, Mwanga who was ill advised by traditionalists ordered the denunciation of religion by every Muganda. Those who refused to denounce their faith were burnt alive at Namugongo.
This changed the pace of events, for Christians were determined to have a political platform. This perturbed Mwanga so much that he was determined to get rid of the preachers and the ‘readers’ from his kingdom.
He planned to lure them onto a boat and maroon them on one of the islands on Lake Victoria and starve them to death. The plot did not succeed as the very people who were supposed to implement it leaked it to the concerned parties.

In the same year, 1888, Christians and Muslims combined forces and deposed Mwanga. For the first time since the establishment of the kingdom, the king was overthrown by his subjects with the help of foreigners.
Therefore, within a decade of their arrival, the missionaries had created a new class in
Buganda. This ‘class’ of the readers had become a powerful interest group, which, although supposed to be religious, had turned itself into a political faction. This may have been inevitable, given the lack of knowledge of the traditional rulers about affairs beyond their immediate areas; their decadence; and their authoritarianism.

The new Christians and Muslims opposed the attempt to exterminate the readers but in the process they weakened the kingdom in their fight for ascendancy over one another.
In October 1888, following Mwanga’s defeat, the Muslim converts wanted to trim the influence of Christians and they chased them out of Kampala.
They attempted for force Kiwewa, the then reigning king, to undergo circumcision. He resisted, was overthrown and replaced by his brother, Kalema, who agreed to be circumcised.

The Catholics fled south and later regrouped in Buddu (present day Masaka). The Protestants took cover in Nkore where the Omugabe (king) gave them the counties of Kabula and Mawogola.
They later co-coordinated and twice but separately, tried to overthrow the reigning Islamic order. But in both cases they were defeated by Kalema’s forces. Mwanga later joined the Catholics in Buddu. They coordinated with the Protestants and an agreement was reached to mount a joint attack to restore Mwanga.
In October 1889, they defeated the Muslims and restored Mwanga to power. With these developments, the rulers of Buganda had become mere instruments in the hands of the religious factions.

In reality the groups were not fighting for religion, but they had become vehicles for politically ambitious commoners seeking power. The Muslims were not ready to relinquish power easily. They went northwestwards, befriended Omukama (king) Kabalega of Bunyoro, taking advantage of the old rivalry between Bunyoro and Buganda and the whites that regarded Bunyoro as a white man’s grave ever since Samuel Baker’s defeat.
Baker, who had been appointed governor of Equatorial Province by King Ismail of Egypt had attempted to annex Bunyoro but was defeated by Kabalega in 1872. This defeat had created hostility between the British and Bunyoro. The Muslims acquired more soldiers and guns and in November 1889, they found their way back to Mengo. Again the Christians were on the run with Mwanga who was exiled to the
island of Bulingugwe in Lake Victoria. Kalema was reinstated. In 1890, Christians again combined and defeated the Muslims and Mwanga took the throne a third time.
This time he was no longer the powerful king he had been because his authority had been curbed – the real power now lay in the hands of the Christians, his pages and chiefs. By this time, religious affiliation had become more of a source of political power than a source of faith, and more disorder awaited the kingdom. Since Mwanga had been kept in exile by the Wafaransa (as Catholic converts were known, since they had come from France), they took a leading role in the aftermath of the war and the Wangereza (English or Protestant converts) saw themselves as less privileged. The Kabaka was seen as an instrument of the Catholics who were promoting French interests.
The Christians who had earlier united against the Muslims became divided and hatred between Catholics and Protestants ensued. The Baganda converts did not seem to realize that they were fighting the wars of the Arabs, the British and French imperialists.

Around this time, the British Government sent FJ Jackson as an agent of the Imperial British East Africa Company. His role was to oversee the British sphere of influence, which included
Buganda. While on his way, Jackson heard the news that Karl Peters, a German who was preferred by the Catholics, had come to Buganda. He rushed to Buganda and negotiated with Mwanga who, however, refused to sign a treaty with him because of the Catholic influence. The Catholics’ fear was that any treaty with
Jackson’s company would favour the Protestants. This was put to rest by the Heligoland Treat of July 1 1890. Under the treaty signed in Europe, the territory known today, as Uganda was to become a British sphere of influence and in return the island of Heligoland in the North Sea was ceded to Germany by Britain. At the same time, Emin Pasha was in Sudan planning to annex the kingdoms of Buganda and Bunyoro for
Turkey. Also Charles stokes a missionary defector had become a stubborn dealer in arms and was believed to be on the way to sell arms to Kabalega, the major enemy of the whites.

Against this background, Captain Frederick Lugard was dispatched to forestall the Egyptian threat and to prevent Stokes from selling arms to Mwanga and Kabalega. The Catholics and Mwanga, whom they regarded as their sympathizer, saw the coming of Captain Lugard, a representative of the Imperial British East Africa Company, in December 1890 as a triumph for the Protestants.
With the use of threats, Lugard managed to secure from Mwanga and the Catholics an agreement he had initially refused to sign. He later helped to beat off one invasion of Muslims from Bunyoro, proceeded to Nkore and signed a treaty with Ntare V to stop arms reaching Kabalega.

He left Captain Williams who openly favoured the Protestants in Buganda. Lugard reinstated Omukama Kasagama in Toro who hand been defeated by Kabalega. He later enrolled the Sudanese troops that had been abandoned by Emin Pasha, whom he made to join the Imperial British East African Company’s force. In 1892, as a result of wrangles between the Catholics and the Protestants, a Catholic shot and killed a Protestant. Mwanga carried out a trial and acquitted him. Lugard protested and wanted a new trial but the Kabaka refused. This led to hostilities between Mwanga and Lugard. Lugard had two maxim guns and a large force and he also issued guns to the Protestants.

Inevitably when fighting broke out, the Catholics were defeated. Rubaga itself was stormed and the Catholics escaped to Bulingugwe Island in Lake Victoria. In a bid to end hostilities, Lugard sent emissaries to Mwanga and the Catholic group asking them to return to the capital. His offer was rejected, and he sent Captain Williams who stormed Bulingugwe.
The Catholics were in disarray and some followed Mwanga to Bukoba. Eventually, Mwanga and his group found their way back to Buddu where they started regrouping. Sensing the danger of a kingdom without a king, Captain Lugard secretly contacted Mwanga and his Catholic group and an agreement to reinstate Mwanga was reached. Mwanga was reinstated on March 30 1892.

In this agreement, Buganda’s land was divided among the religious sects. It was to have 20 counties. Ten went to Protestants; eight went to Catholics and two to the Muslims.
The Ssese Islands were shared between Catholics and Protestants because of their strategic location. Following these divisions of Buganda’s counties, some people moved from one area to another, preferring to live under a chief of their religion, where they could expect preferential treatment.

The Catholics were deliberately denied active political participation, as they could not hold important political offices in the kingdom, not for lack of ability to perform but for their religious affiliation.

Mwanga’s reinstatement was not the end of the story. In July 1897 he escaped from his palace where he was being kept as a puppet king. With some of his followers, he boarded a canoe and crossed
Lake Victoria to go to Buddu. From there he started a rebellion against the combined forces of the British and their Protestant collaborators to reassert his authority.

He later linked up with some elements in Ankole, Busoga, Lango and finally with Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro. They fought with gallantry and refused to surrender to the British led forces that were fighting to control their land.
However, this countrywide resistance to colonialism had come too late. Omukama Kabalega had been fighting a lone guerilla war for nearly eight years. With the depletion of their forces, Mwanga and Kabalega were captured on April 4 1899 in Dokolo, present-day Lira, in a house of a Langi chief.
They were both exiled to Seychelles Islands where Mwanga died. Kabalega lived there for a long time and was permitted to return but was kept in Jinja where he died in 1926. His body was taken to Mparo in Hoima for burial.

With Mwanga and Kabalega off the political scene and Mwanga having been succeeded by his infant son in 1900, the Buganda agreement was signed between Sir Harry Johnston and the Buganda regents with negotiations being undertaken by the missionaries. Clauses mainly touched the administrative structure,
Buganda’s position in the region, matters of finance, land clauses and others that were more general. The provisions of the agreement made recognition of the Kabaka and his government conditional upon their loyalty to the Governor; the Buganda courts were made subordinate to the Protectorate courts; and the Kabaka lost his power of maintaining an army in his kingdom.

Additionally, the Lukiiko was created with its functions defined and, above all, it was subjected to the overall control of the colonial government. Buganda lost its independence through the agreement. In fact, the 1900 Agreement was a capitulation document, because an established kingdom was ceding its power to a foreign authority. It is not clear whether the regents were conscious of what they were signing. As Samwiri R Karugire writes in a Political History of Uganda (1980): “The last two provisions dealt with definitions and the interpretation of the agreement – interpretation in the sense that it was laid down that the English version of the agreement, not the Luganda one, would be binding on both parties and, of course, none of the Baganda signatories understood English.”

The recommendations of Captain (later Lord) Lugard for the colonization of Uganda had now become clear. Following his conquest of the people of Buganda and their supporters, Lugard had argued that
Britain should colonize the region for commercial purposes. He wrote: “The Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom have unanimously urged the retention of East Africa on the grounds of commercial advantage. The new avenues for commerce such as that in East Equatorial Africa should be opened up, in view of the hostile tariffs with which British manufacturers are everywhere confronted.”

Lugard added: “The scramble for Africa by the nations of Europe… was due to growing commercial rivalry which brought home to civilized nations the vital necessity of securing the only remaining fields for industrial enterprise and expansion. It is well, then to realize that it is for our advantage and not alone at the dictates of duty that we have undertaken responsibilities in East Africa. It is in order to foster the growth of trade of this country, (England) and to find an outlet for our manufacturers and our surplus energy, that our far-seeing statesmen and our commercial men advance colonial expansion.”

Lugard’s advocacy of colonial rule in Uganda was ultimately victorious. In 1900 the British government sent Sir Harry Johnston as a special commissioner to implement Britain’s plans for the new colony.
When Johnston arrived in Uganda, he took immediate steps to transform the economic base of the country by introducing a new system of land tenure and a monetary system. Both measures were incorporated in the
Buganda agreement of 1900.
Firstly the land of Buganda was apportioned among the people of Buganda and the British Crown. Whereas previously the land was publicly owned so that the people derived the right to use it from the Kabaka, now they could take individual possession of it.

The immediate effect of this provision was a massive migration. People sought to claim lands that would now become their property on a more permanent basis.
Secondly, the necessity to own land was underscored by another provision in the agreement, which required that each household pay taxes to the colonial government.
This so called ‘hut tax’, which required every hut owner to pay three rupees to the colonial government annually, was intended to force the people to produce commodities for sale. Thirdly, apart from offering their services as hired labour, the people of Buganda traditionally had no other means of obtaining money to pay taxes.
The method of sharing one’s income with the government by either providing the king’s chiefs with physical quantities of commodities or by paying in local currency, mostly cowry shells, was now rendered inoperative.
Not only were the people forced to share their output with an extra authority, but they also had to pay in cash. In this way,
Johnston forced Ugandans to seek money and to enter into international trade by using cash to buy imported goods. With the Buganda agreement in place, effective colonization of had started. Although present-day Uganda had been declared a British protectorate in 1894, effective control of the various societies was not achieved until the late 1930s.

Control was through signing agreements that subordinated the kingdom areas to British Imperialism; military expansion in case of northern Uganda; and the deployment of Buganda chiefs like Semei Kakungulu to subdue most of Eastern Uganda.

The religious frictions that affected the politics of the country also affected the rest of society and the education sector was not spared. The first schools in Uganda were built by the missionaries: Gayaza High School and Kings College Buddo were the first to be established by the Protestants; St. Mary’s College Kisubi by Catholic White Fathers; and Namilyango College by the Mill Hill Mission from London.
Wherever there was a Catholic school, there was a Protestant one of the same level nearby, and these institutions were hostile to each other. Colonial and later post-colonial education did not set out to teach people to acquire productive skills. There was little or no vocationalisation of education and this lack of technical skills affected the development of a middle class in Uganda.

A skilled middle class would have been job creators rather than job seekers. No child was allowed to attend a school if it belonged to a denomination different from the one its parents subscribed to.
Muslim children were not able to receive education since both Catholic and Protestant founded schools mostly refused to accept them; and no funding was available from outside to establish Muslim schools since they had lost their benefactor, Turkey, in the First World War.

The colonial government did not participate in the establishment of formal education until 1925, when they started giving grants and facilitating the already established schools. They did not enter the education sector formally. The Muslims, therefore, as a result of lack of Muslim schools and neglect by the colonial government, were not able even to find clerical jobs, join the civil service, or even work as office messengers.
These Ugandans ended up in petty business, such as butchery, driving trucks and generally lagged behind other religious denominations.
The new religions not only divided people on who should go to which school, but the people also started discarding their cultural identities. As a result the people lost their unity, which was based on their cultural heritage. These religious based factions later became political parties, which exacerbated sectarianism, based on religious differences. Alongside the divisive colonial education system, there was also the local government system that was based on tribal entities, with each district being treated as if it were an independent state. The Lango district council knew little about the Ankole district council and vice-versa- all they had in common was the colonial governor at Entebbe.
The separation of districts and localization of district issues due to lack of unifying factors at the national level hindered the growth of supra-tribal national consciousness. The isolation later affected the emergence of nationally based political parties because the population lacked unifying causes and institutions across the country.

The first resistance in Uganda was directed at Buganda’s proxy colonialism. Examples are the Nyangire-Abaganda rebellion of Bunyoro and Ankole, which was against the Baganda chiefs whom the colonial administration deployed in Bunyoro after the fall the fall of the Omukama (king) Kabalega; the Nyabingi cult of Kigezi; the Lamogi of the Lamogi clan of Acholi. The latter two were trying to overturn the bitter legacy of the colonial administration. The religions that had brought the education paradoxically provided the base for future agitation in a more organized manner against colonialism.

It was the semi-educated elite who later absorbed the ways of the colonialists and organized themselves against exploitation, suppression and discrimination by the colonialists. The first organized resistance was the Bataka Movement of the 1920s. This was a movement of the Baganda clan heads against the new Mengo establishment.
With the coming into force of the Buganda Agreement of 1900, the Bataka had lost their ancestral lands to the newly created chiefs. The new chiefs were drawn from the Christian converts, abasomi, who were sectarian in orientation as described above. The clan leaders had been supplanted by these new colonially created chiefs who were given huge chunks of land totaling 8,000sq miles – hence the Luganda term kanana meaning eight thousand.

Each of the 1,000 chiefs got eight square miles of land and all the previous or new occupants became serfs paying rent to the new owners. The Bataka Movement was, therefore, a move by the clan heads to regain control of their land and authority. Then there was the Native Civil Servants Association of 1922, which was for the educated elite agitating for better conditions of service. There were other resistance groups, some mainly ethnically based, and they included the Young Basoga Association, the Young Acholi Association, the Young Lango Association, the Young Bagwere Association and the Bugisu Welfare Association.

These Movements were led by farmers whose major motivation was to find markets for their products; the African traders who were against the domination of trade by the Indians; the professionals and wage earners who wanted improved welfare and terms of service. The Mubende-Banyoro Association was formed in 1921 and revived in 1931 by E. Kaliisa to pressurize for the return of Bunyoro’s lost counties from
Buganda. The Uganda Motor Drivers Association of 1938 was for he drivers of lorries and buses.
There were the Baana ba Kintu (sons of Kintu) in 1938, which was against the Baganda landlords offering land to Makerere College and the Buganda old leadership, which, according to the young generation, had outlived its usefulness. Baana ba Kintu included farmers, traders and the youth.
The Uganda African Farmers’ Association was formed in the early 1940s under the leadership of Ignatius Musaazi who was a veteran of the Bataka movement, which had been formed in the 1920s. Both organisations agitated against Asian control of processing and marketing of their cash crops leading to riots and strikes in 1945 and 1949. By 1949, they started to gin their cotton and sell it; and they also demanded representatives to the Lukiiko, which was refused by the Kabaka.

They, however, did not ally with other Ugandans such as those from Busoga (which was the area that grew cotton most), to form a big pressure group. As a result, the Mengo government, together with the colonial administration, suppressed them. The major handicap of these pre-independence resistance movements was that most of them operated only within their locality and thus lacked a countrywide appeal.
This made it easy for the colonial government to suppress them either by force or concessions. The biggest concession was the enactment of the Busuulu and Envujjo laws of 1928.
This was a reaction to the peasant farmers’ agitation against exploitation by the colonially created landlords. The law limited the rent the landlords could exact from the peasants, thereby defusing the anger of the peasants against the colonial system. In effect, colonialists had ditched their puppets after using them.

In 1952, the British Government mooted the idea of a federation of East Africa and all the Kingdoms rejected it. However, Buganda’s response was the strongest. The Kabaka responded by asking for the ‘independence’ of Buganda from Uganda. This request was rejected by the Protectorate Government, which responded by deporting Kabaka Mutesa on 30 November 1953, on the charge that he had refused to co-operate with the British Government as per the 1900 Agreement, which had stripped him of his political powers.

The agreement had turned the Kabaka into a servant of the colonial state because he could not do anything political without the approval of the colonial rulers. The deportation of the Kabaka provoked
Buganda nationalism arousing the Baganda to agitate for his return. Also, almost all the district councils in the Protectorate passed resolutions condemning the British.
As a result of increased pressure, the Governor worked out ways for his return. He proposed a conference under the chairmanship of Professor Keith Hancock. This resulted into the Namirembe Conference of 1954, which formed the basis for the return of the Kabaka on October 17 1955.

By the 1950s, some elements in the population had realized the need for a political platform where they could derive power to agitate for economic independence and reject exploitation and monopoly, especially by the Indians. They wanted political independence from the colonial administrators. In 1952, politicians outside the Mengo establishment who were frustrated by the failure of the 1949 protests formed the Uganda National Congress (UNC). Ignatius Musaazi became its first president. The party executive made efforts to pull people from all corners of Uganda. These included Yekosofati Engur from Lango, Peter Oula from Acholi, Abanya from West Nile, Okwerede from Teso, John Kale from present-day Kisoro who was dispatched to Cairo to open up the Uganda office, Dr. Barnabas Kununka from Bunyoro and many others.

The Catholics who were not accommodated in the party ranks became spectators and were disgruntled. The Muslims had long ceased being part of the kingdom’s leadership. When the party started going out of
Buganda to mobilize for support, it was faced with the reality of divide and rule, as there were no countrywide issues on which it could base its appeal.
In many areas the party raised local grievances but whenever the colonial administration addressed them its support dwindled. For example, in Buganda, during the time of the deportation of the Kabaka, the party support rose but when he returned, its support significantly reduced. This lack of countrywide appeal and its Protestant domination meant that the party could not mobilize substantial support throughout the country.

In 1956, the Democratic Party (DP) came on the scene. Matayo Mugwanya, a descendant of Stanislus Mugwanya, who had led the Catholic group through the wars of 1890s, was its first leader. For a long time, the Catholics had been marginalized in the politics of the protectorate. In all the Kingdoms the kings and the most senior ministers and most of the chiefs were Protestants. Although not officially pronounced, Protestantism was the de facto state religion. In the case of Buganda, Matayo Mugwanya ran for the office of the Katikkiro (Prime Minister) after the return of the Kabaka in 1955. He was poised to win but the Mengo establishment was not ready for a Catholic Katikkiro.

The Kabaka asked Paulo Kavuma, a Protestant who had been Katikkiro before the deportation to step down for Kintu, a protestant, who beat Mugwanya by four votes. Mugwanya later won a by-election to represent Mawokota in Lukiiko but was refused leave to take his seat by the Kabaka on the dubious grounds that he was a member of the African Legislative Assembly. Feeling rejected and frustrated, he formed the Democratic Party (DP), which registered the support of the Catholics throughout Uganda. The colonial state had promoted Protestantism and marginalized Catholics who, therefore, formed the party as an outlet to challenge a political order that was against them.

In 1958, the Uganda People’s Union (UPU) was formed. This was, for the first time, an independent party not encircled with the religious affiliations. It comprised the representatives of the Uganda Legislative Council under the leadership of William Rwetsiba from Ankole as the party’s president general, with William Nadiope from Busoga and John Babiiha from Toro as vice presidents, and George Magezi from Bunyoro, who was the party’s secretary general.

The party did not have a Muganda within its ranks because the Baganda had boycotted the 1958 Legislative Council (Legco) elections. However, the party leadership made efforts to recruit Baganda.
Under minute 28/59 of the 5th meeting of UPU promoters held on January 10 1959, it was recorded as follows: “After lengthy discussion, it was resolved that each founding member should regard it as a duty to approach reasonable Baganda for recruitment.” In the Legco elections of 1958, most of the district councils, which were predominantly Protestant, and the Buganda kingdom rejected direct elections. They preferred indirectly elected members because they feared that the Catholics, who were believed to be the majority, would win. The party was weak because it had not yet mustered support outside the Legco.

Augustine Kamya, a cobbler, formed the Uganda National Movement basically for
Buganda’s economically exploited group who had longstanding grievances against the colonial government. The Movement declared a trade boycott of non-African goods. The boycott was enforced through intimidation and actual violence against Asians and those who attempted to buy from them. Although the Mengo establishment was in favour of the boycott, it could not publicly endorse lawlessness.

The local people supported the boycott because they wanted control of the ginneries and marketing of cash crops, which was a monopoly of Asians. When the party resorted to violence it was proscribed and the colonial government arrested many of its leaders. The party did not gain support outside Buganda.

Instead of pursuing its stated mission of ‘self government now’ in the wake of the ‘wind of change’ that was sweeping across Africa, the UNC was instead engaged in factional fighting. In January 1959, the party split into two: the Baganda faction under Ignatius Musaazi and the non-Baganda faction under Milton Obote. The Obote faction of the UNC in 1960 merged with UPU to form Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), with Obote as its president-general and John Kakonge (who had studied in India) as its secretary-general.
Other young nationalists and radical graduates from the Indian sub-continent who included Wadada Musani, Kirunda Kivejinja, Bidandi Ssali and Kintu Musoke soon joined Kakonge. The party had a few Baganda within its ranks and it was protestant dominated.

The colonial administrators demanded countrywide elections, which were held in 1961. However, the Buganda Lukiiko, which was against direct elections for fear of a Catholic victory, boycotted the elections.
The boycott was carried through by intimidation and harassment of all those who turned up for voter registration. Consequently, voter turn-up in Buganda was very low. The Democratic Party won 19 seats in Buganda and a further 24 seats outside Buganda. UPC won 35 seats outside Buganda. As a result, Benedicto Kiwanuka of the DP became the first Chief Minister of Uganda.

Meanwhile, the colonial administration started preparing for a constitutional conference in London. The Buganda leaders did not appreciate Kiwanuka’s ascendancy to power because he was a Catholic. This same view seems to have been held by the colonial administration who had all along promoted Protestant leadership and dominance in Uganda. In 1961, the Kabaka Yekka party (KY) was formed to protect the threatened position of the Kabaka and the Protestant clique at Mengo.

With the impending self-government elections in April 162, UPC made an alliance with the KY in order to defeat DP. One of the terms of the alliance, which was later adopted in the 1962 Constitution, was for Buganda to hold indirect elections for Buganda’s representatives in Parliament.
This was opposed by DP but to no avail. Benedicto Kiwanuka in particular took a principled stand against it. Both the UPC and the colonial administration had objected to Buganda’s demand for indirect elections in the 1961 elections.
However, now that this move was to block the Catholics from leadership, both UPC and Colonial Secretary accepted it. In the February 1962 Lukiiko elections, KY decampaigned DP in Buganda saying that voting for the DP was disloyal to the Kabaka. As expected, KY won 65 Lukiiko seats with DP winning three. One of the terms of the UPC-KY alliance was that UPC would not field candidates in Buganda. In the April 1962 national elections, UPC won 37 seats while DP secured 24 seats outside Buganda. On top of the UPC seats were added the 21 Buganda’s nominees to the National Assembly. On October 9 1962, Uganda became independent with Obote as the executive Prime Minister. In November 1963, Mutesa was elected by Parliament as ceremonial head of state.THE 1966 CRISIS
From the start, the alliance between KY and UPC was bound to collapse because Obote and Mutesa had different agendas. The issue of the ‘lost counties’ of Buyaga, Buwekula and Bugangaizi became a hot issue and a referendum was held in those counties, to resolve it.
The Kabaka and the Lukiiko opposed this referendum and tried to organize a boycott against it but to no avail. This created tension between Obote and the Mengo establishment. Especially when the Kabaka refused to sign the instruments transferring the two counties of Buyaga and Bugangaizi, which opted to return to Bunyoro.
Buwekula opted to remain in Buganda. A dangerous rift thus developed between Obote and Mutesa. In his book, Desecration of My Kingdom (1967), Mutesa writes: ” I was supposed to be kept informed of affairs by the Prime Minister, but he gradually ceased to bother to do this. Also I had certain rights such as appointing and dismissing ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. Even when Obote could be sure of my support, he was not interested in honouring such obligations.”The UPC itself was not spared the confusion. Owing to Obote’s tactics of divide and rule, the party split into three wings: the right wing led by Grace Ibingira, the centre by Obote and the left wing by John Kakonge.
Some members of Kakonge’s faction were either suspended or expelled from the party for their attempt to introduce a different ideological viewpoint. There were many conspiracies and intrigues within the UPC.
For instance, at Independence, there had been an understanding that as UPC secretary-general, Kakonge should not seek election as a constituency MP but that he should work nationally for the success of the party. He would become an MP through the specially elected MPs, as the constitution provided.
However, when the list of specially elected MPs came out, his name was not on it. He fled to
Tanzania to seek Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s intervention in the crisis. Later in 1964, as a result of infighting within the party, Kakonge was replaced by Grace Ibingira as the party secretary-general. Many members of Parliament, as a result of rewards Obote promised them, without their voters’ consent crossed from KY and DP to UPC. This was not a reflection of the true strength of the UPC in the country, as the MPs had not gone back to their constituencies to seek re-election as UPC MPs.
The rewards included ministerial positions. For instance, after ditching DP for UPC, Basil Bataringaya was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs. There were attempts by KY and DP to merge to oppose Obote but this failed, as there was an internal rift within DP MPs and the party’s supporters outside Parliament.
A new name for the merger had been proposed as “Yekka Democrat”. Kabaka Mutesa writes: There was something of a split between the Parliamentary party and its supporters outside, so there was some doubt as to precisely what we were joining.”
In February 1966, Daudi Ochieng moved a motion in Parliament on what is known as the gold scandal. The motion had two main allegations: that some members of the government were planning to overthrow the constitution and that four people namely, Adoko Nekyon, Felix Onama, Colonel Idi Amin, as well as the Prime Minister Milton Obote, had received large sums in gold and ivory from Congo.
Onama, who was in the House, denied the allegations and later, Obote denied the allegations at a press conference. Parliament passed a resolution suspending Colonel Amin and decided that his bank account, which had 17,000 pounds sterling on it, should be investigated.

However, Amin was not suspended but was, later promoted to the rank of major general and appointed as army commander. Later, some ministers demanded an investigation into the gold allegations. As the differences within UPC intensified, Obote used force and intimidation against other party leaders opposed to him.
On February 24 1966, five ministers were arrested in a cabinet meeting including the secretary-general of the party, Grace Ibingira. The others were: Balaki Kirya, George Magezi, Dr. SB Lumu and Mathias Ngobi. These ministers were accused of having plotted with the Mengo group to oust Obote.

Obote then suspended the 1962 Constitution; introduced the infamous ‘Pigeon Hole’ Constitution on April 15 1966 and humiliated the President who was locked out of State House. He was only allowed to collect his personal belongings. The infuriated Lukiiko passed a resolution asking Obote to take the central government off Buganda soil and gave May 30 as the last date for central government to leave.
Obote responded by using the army led by Idi Amin, to storm the Kabaka’s palace on May 24 1966, and the Kabaka fled to Britain. In 1967, the Parliament converted itself into a constituent assembly, which, among other things abolished all the kingdoms.

Obote sabotaged those who wanted to oppose his misuse of power. In this atmosphere of antagonism, Idi Amin used a disgruntled section of the army to overthrow Obote’s government on January 25 1971. By 1969, Obote had banned political parties and started a “move to the left”. He had made the “Nakivubo Pronouncements” on May Day 1970, nationalizing private business holdings. Such moves sent tremors through the economy and eroded investor confidence.Many Ugandans jubilated when Obote was overthrown. Following the coup, thousands of people were sent to prison and thousands more were killed. During the Amin years of tyranny (1971-1979), Uganda experienced both economic and political turmoil.Under his regime, many Ugandans, including Archbishop Janani Luwum, the Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Frank Kalimuzo, Amin’s own wife, Kay, and countless other Ugandans were murdered in cold blood.
The Indian community, which controlled a major proportion of the country’s economic activities, were expelled, with Amin using pseudo-nationalist slogans for lack of a proper grasp of the dynamics of economic growth and transformation. This caused serious disruptions and the eventual breakdown of the economy.
A combined force of Ugandan fighters together with the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF) finally defeated Amin in April 1979. Prior to the overthrow of Amin, President Julius Nyerere had called a conference at Moshi, Tanzania of various Ugandan political groups that were opposed to Amin.
The Moshi conference formed that Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) and chose Professor Yusuf Lule as President of Uganda. The conference also created the National Consultative Council (NCC), which was to act as the legislature, under the leadership of Edward Rugumayo.
Each of the political groups that met in Moshi was given two seats on the NCC. A UNLF government under Professor Yusuf Lule was set up but he lasted only 68 days as President. Lule was succeeded by Godfrey Lukonga Binaisa as President. The UNLF was an umbrella organization, which brought Ugandans of different political opinions together.
Indeed, as can be seen from the foregoing, since the onset of colonialism, this was the first opportunity for Ugandans to organize politically on the basis of their own interests rather than the interests of others. However, this chance was not properly used, as subsequent events were to show.
Despite the confusion and division that marred the UNLF, a healthy foundation for Uganda’s politics could have been established under the UNLF. Basing itself, unfortunately, on the brotherly, but misinformed, support of the TPDF, the UNLF administration was short-lived. Later, as a result of political manipulation on the part of UPC and DP leaders, the UNLF umbrella was torn, with both UPC and DP insisting on factional, sectarian elections in 1980. Some of the leadership had pressed for elections under UNLF and the NCC had passed a resolution approving elections under the Front, this view was suppressed.
Consequently, the UPC helped by the Military Commission, headed by Paulo Mwanga, won the 1980 elections, which were widely seen as rigged. Electoral constituencies were not based on administrative units of population size.

This resulted into the gerrymandering of constituency boundaries. Each party had its own ballot box, which made it easy to tamper with the results. The votes were not counted at polling stations and ballot boxes were transported and kept overnight before counting. In the end, even the Electoral Commission was not allowed to announce the winners as Paulo made it a criminal offense for anyone, other than himself to do so. Indeed as legal Notice Number 10 dated December 10, 1980 specifically laid out:

“When the result of the poll of at a constituency has been ascertained, the returning officer shall make no public declaration of the finding but forthwith communicate it to the Chairman of the Military Commission with a confidential report on various aspects of the election. (The Chairman) shall ascertain whether the election has been free and fair of any irregularity or violence.”

“Any result declared otherwise than in compliance with (these provisions) shall not be valid or binding and any publication of such purported result by any means whatsoever whether in writing, print, communication or by word of mouth howsoever shall be a penal offence punishable by a fine of up to sh500, 000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.”

In 1980, a new political party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) had been formed under the leadership of Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Its membership and leadership were composed of elements from the Fronasa (Front for National Salvation). Fronasa had been a follow-up to the student movement of the 1960s that had been patronized by Obote after the 1966 crisis. It had also participated in the anti-Amin struggles. The UPM was also composed of NCC members who rejected the old parties and wanted elections under the UNLF umbrella. With its motto of “Clean leadership, unity and peace”, the party attracted both the young and the elders like Ignatius Musaazi and Dr. Samson Kisekka.
The party performed poorly in the elections but it prepared the masses for an armed struggle should the elections be rigged. Indeed when UPC won the disputed 1980 elections Museveni and a group of compatriots launched an armed struggle against the Obote government.

The Conservative Party (CP) was formed in 1980 under the leadership Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi. Among its objectives was “To promote the federal principle of governance”. The leader had been Katikkiro to Kabaka Mutesa II so the party tended to be associated with the old Mengo establishment. The CP was one of the parties that participated in the 1980 elections.

Following the 1980 elections, Obote became President of Uganda for the second time. The country was once again plunged into political and economic chaos. Extra-judicial killings became the order of the day as Obote failed to control the army (UNLA), which took the law into its own hands in its fight against the NRA guerillas.
As the struggle between UNLA and the NRA intensified, places like Room 211 at the Nile Hotel, Katikamu, Kireka and any military barracks, became killing centers.
Kaaya’s farm near River Lugogo in Luwero, became a dumping ground for victims of the conflict. Obote was deposed in 1985 by elements of his own army led by General Tito Okello Lutwa and Brigadier Bazillio Okello.
They continued the trend of extra-judicial killings and there was no protection of property or even the right to life. By the time the dictatorship was overthrown in 1986 some of the human remains arising out of the killings were buried in mass graves in Luwero Triangle. Altogether about 70,000 skeletons were buried.
A new political group that wanted to change the politics of Uganda started an armed struggle on February 6 1981. This group formed the National Resistance Movement, which was supported by the peasants and lead by the intelligentsia. The armed wing of the Movement the National Resistance Army (NRA) fought a protracted guerilla struggle and overthrew reactionary and oppressive elements of the UNLA in January 1986. It established a broad-based Movement government under Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
The activities of political parties were suspended and are still proscribed under the new Constitution, which was promulgated in 1995. Presidential elections were held in 1996 under universal adult suffrage.
The economy has made tremendous progress and most parts of the country are experiencing peace and stability and the rule of the law prevails in most parts of the country. The country held a referendum on the system of government in June 2000 and voted to keep the Movement system of government.
The second presidential elections were held on March 12 2001. The incumbent Yoweri Kaguta won 69.3% of the votes. The runner up Colonel (retired) Doctor Kiiza Besigye (27%) petitioned the outcome and process of the election in the Supreme Court and lost by a split decision of (3-2).

Lifted by Ham Mukasa

Published by African Press in Norway, apn,, tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525

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