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Remembering Abu Mayanja


COMMENT: By Kavuma-Kaggwa

 Remembering Abu Mayanja, a great man of our time

One of Uganda’s great men and freedom fighters, Abubakar Kakyama Mayanja, died on November 4, 2005 at Mulago Hospital after a short illness. He was buried on November 5, 2005, at his ancestral home in Zziba village, Ngogwe in Kyaggwe County of the Buganda Kingdom. Since then, many Uganda use the anniversary of his death to remember this great man of our time.

Abu Mayanja was one of the six founders of Uganda’s first Political Party, the Uganda National Congress (UNC), which spread the gospel of nationalism and fought for Uganda’s Independence.

Uganda National Congress was founded on March 2, 1952, at the Kabaka’s Lake at Mengo and Abu Mayanja was the founding Secretary General. At the time, he was a student at Makerere University. Ignatius Kangave Musaazi was the founding President General. The other four founders were; Stephen Abwangoto from Bugishu, Ben Okwerede from Teso, Yekosofati Engur from Lango and S.B. Katembo from Toro.

Abu Mayanja was a great nationalist and a great Pan-Africanist who advocated freedom for the entire Continent of Africa and while he was a student from London, he worked with many African freedom fighters.

He worked very closely with the late President Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt and with the late John Kale (father of General Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police of Uganda) who was the UNC Representative in Cairo, to coordinate the struggle for the Independence of African Countries. Together they set up the UNC office in Cairo to establish contacts all over the world to help African freedom fighters.

Abu Mayanja established a relationship with the late Chairman Mao Tse-tung and the late Prime Minister Zhou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China who gave financial and material support to African freedom fighters in the struggle for Africa’s Independence.

He secured assistance for UNC of UK£500,000 from China and a modern printing press for UNC from Italy which was installed in Uganda Post and Uganda Express offices at Kololo in the House which now accommodates Hot Loaf Bakery.

He established close contacts with Joseph Murumbi, who later became Vice President of Kenya who had an office in London helping African freedom fighters.

He established close political relationship with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who became President of Ghana. Nkrumah initiated the All Africa People’s Conference and when it was convened in Accra in 1958 Abu Mayanja was its Secretary General.

Kwame Nkrumah proposed this Conference after Ghana’s Independence to help African Freedom Fighters plan for the total liberation of the African continent.

During the struggle to remove the tyrannical regimes in Uganda, Mayanja played a big role in the Liberation Movements which were formed in Nairobi.

After the NRM victory in January 1986, Abu Mayanja was made Minister for Constitutional Affairs and was very instrumental in the restoration of the Buganda Kingdom and other Kingdoms in July 1993.

He stood firm on constitutionalism and advised the Government and the transitional Parliament at that time, to amend the 1967 Obote Constitution which had abolished the Kingdoms and cultural institutions, so that the Buganda Kingdom could be restored forthwith.  It was done as he advised and the Kingdom was restored on July 31, 1993.

I Knew Abu Mayanja right from 1958 up to the time of his death in 2005 and we worked together in Uganda National Congress.  We worked together during the formation of the Liberation Movements in Nairobi to fight the tyrannical regimes in Uganda at that time.

As a true nationalist, and one who believed in National unity, I remember in 1958/59 when the British where opening up the “road map” to Uganda’s Independence and Mengo tried to resist it, Abu Mayanja issued an extremely strong statement without fearing any repercussions

He said – “the threat by the Kabaka’s Government to sabotage direct election to the Legislative Council in Buganda is so full of ugly possibilities for the future that it is high time somebody did some very straight talking to the reactionary elements in Buganda who seem to imagine that somehow Buganda can contract out of the 20th Century and revert to a system of administration where the efficiency of guns used to be tested on human beings”.

Who was Abubakar Mayanja?

Mayanja was born in 1929 in the Mamba clan (lungfish) in Buganda Kingdom to Abdallah Waswa Kambugu Kakyama of Buga village, Zzziba near Ngogwe in Kyaggwe County, Mukono District, Uganda.

His mother was Maama Maimuna Kayaga from Buvuma Islands in Lake Victoria. People believed that Abu Mayanja was an extremely intelligent man because of his mother who always fed on fish in Buvuma Islands when she was still a young girl.

I remember in Katwe the late Dr. B.N. Kununka, who succeeded Abu Mayanja as Secretary General, when Mayanja went to study law in UK, suggested that at the time of death Mayanja’s internal carotid artery and external carotid veins will be examined to find out what made him so intelligent. It was not possible because Dr. Kununka died many years before Abu Mayanja.  History tells us that the great scientist Albert Einstein was examined at the time of his death and it was found that he had very big arteries and veins.

Abu Mayanja started his formal education in 1940 at Ngogwe, Native Anglican Church (NAC) Baskerville Primary School. In 1944 Mayanja sat for his Primary Leaving Examination when he was in Primary Six and he was the best pupil in the whole of Uganda.

Abu Mayanja joined the famous King’s College Budo on a scholarship in 1945 from the Kabaka’s Government because of being the best student in the Primary examinations. This scholarship was secured by Merekizadeki Senvumo who was the Ngogwe Sub-County chief at the time.

Mayanja was also awarded a scholarship by the Uganda Muslim Community through the East African Muslim Welfare Association. This assistance was worked out with the assistance of Prince Badru Kakungulu and was the beginning of the intimate relationship between Abu Mayanja and Prince Kakungulu.

Abu Mayanja joined Makerere University in March 1950 and this is where he started his great political activism.

Earlier on as a young man in the NAC, Baskerville Primary School, Ngogwe in Kyaggwe, his ancestral place, he witnessed the 1945 political uprising by the Baganda when they demanded direct representation in the Buganda Lukiiko. This uprising was codenamed “Number 8”.

Mayanja also witnessed the 1949 “Bataka” uprising when farmers demanded to own cotton ginneries throughout the Country.

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