By Yoga Adhola
Historical facts do not bear the widely claimed view that the Kabaka was exiled because he rejected an East African federo
On Oct. 8 Justice James Ogoola, Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission, delivered a lecture to the Uganda Law Society on “The rule of law in Uganda: Fifty Year of Trial and Tragedy.” In the lecture he talked about the deportation of Kabaka Mutesa in 1953.
“It was in this unmistakable imperial frame of mind that British officialdom of Her Britannic Majesty reacted to Kabaka Sir Edward Mutesa II with force and fury, for daring to say “No” to a British scheme for an East African “federo?, Justice Ogoola said.
Similar sentiments have been expressed time and time again; however, the historical facts do not bear to Justice Ogoola’s statement. Mutesa was not exiled because he rejected an East African federation scheme.
To understand why Mutesa was exiled, we first need to understand the governor at the time. Before becoming Governor of Uganda, Sir Andrew Cohen had been at the head of planning in the colonial office as an Under Secretary.
As Under Secretary for planning, Cohen had been the driving force behind the preparation for decolonisation, which had gone on in the African colonies. When the Labour Party in Britain lost elections in 1951, the incoming Conservative Party had no use for Sir Andrew Cohen in the Colonial Office. They then sent him to Uganda as Governor and he arrived in January 1952.
As Governor of Uganda, he was not just a policy maker at the Colonial Office in London, but the one who would implement the policies of preparing Uganda for independence.
“It was a vital element in Cohen’s strategy to develop and broaden representative government as an essential pre-condition of self-rule,” his personal assistant, Donald Griffiths, was to write in the book: “Looking back at the Uganda Protectorate: Recollections of district officers”.
The plan was to revolve around increasing African membership to the Legislative Councils throughout the dependent territories, until they were a majority and could be transformed into a national assembly or Parliament.
“This process, which had become, a well-trodden road to independence in many territories was totally unacceptable to the Kabaka and his ministers,” Griffiths recalled.
“They had accepted British over-rule in accordance with the agreement which accorded the kingdom a certain degree of independence. They rejected any idea that African Legislative and Executive Councils should enjoy superior, indeed supreme, status over the Kabaka, his ministers and the Lukiiko.”
Griffiths added: “They could tolerate popular representation in local councils, and even the Lukiiko, which they believed they would have little difficulty in controlling, but they would not tolerate a minority of lesser breeds in the supreme councils of state. Of course they could not give voice to these sentiments, which they realised run contrary to the strong tide of nationalism sweeping across the African continent. They took refuge in Buganda’s special status under the Agreement, and used every wile to frustrate Cohen’s plans for constitutional reforms as far as Buganda was concerned.”
There is no doubt an impasse existed between the Governor Cohen and Buganda. To try and break this impasse, Cohen launched negotiations with the Buganda authorities. Accompanied by advisors in the persons of three ministers, Kabaka Muteesa represented Buganda in these negotiations himself.
The colonial administration side consisted of Cohen, the Chief Secretary, the Attorney General, the Secretary for African Affairs, the Resident (Buganda) and the Senior Assistant to the Secretary for African Affairs (who took notes).
As a result of these negotiations, in March 1953, the Governor and the Kabaka signed a joint memorandum on constitutional development in Buganda. They agreed to transfer responsibility for certain services to the Buganda administration, and to make necessary financial adjustments.
It was also agreed that 60 of the 89 members of the Lukiiko would be elected, by a system of indirect elections and the Kabaka would in the future consult the Lukiiko before appointing ministers. Buganda also acknowledged that it was an integral part of Uganda and that Uganda would be developed as a unitary state.
By having the majority of the Lukiiko members elected, Cohen was hoping he would open the door for nationalists from Buganda to get into politics the way he had done for other colonies when he was at the Colonial Office.
After initial uncertainty, Paulo Kavuma tells us in his book, “Crisis in Buganda, 1953-55: The story of the exile and return of the Kabaka, Mutesa II; “…the Buganda ministers welcomed the proposed changes, particularly the increased powers and the way in which the British officials were to come under control of Buganda ministers.”
A number of factors made this welcome tenuous. While Sir Andrew was relying on the Kabaka to get his measures accepted, the Kabaka’s own authority was losing lustre. The Kabaka had on a number of occasions used his authority to advance colonial proposals, which the Lukiiko was unwilling to accede to. This had rendered Muteesa to be viewed by some as a puppet of the colonialists.
Some analysts have suggested that the Kabaka was aware of this loss of confidence in him by his subjects and was keen to regain it. These analysts argue that this is why the Kabaka took the firm stand in the events that followed.