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.
Towards the end of June 1953, Oliver Lyttleton, the Colonial Secretary, made a speech which made incautious reference to the possibility of "still larger measures of federation of the whole of East African territories." This speech threw overboard all the agreements that had been made. The speech has been treated as the trigger of the crisis that engulfed Buganda from 1953 to 1955.
Reflecting about the speech some years later, Don Marshall, who was taking minutes of the meeting between Muteesa and the Governor, and therefore had pretty intimate knowledge of what was going on, has observed in an essay, The Deportation of Kabaka: "Having now read the relevant parts of the Kabaka's book, The Desecration of my Kingdom, I cannot help wondering whether that speech was perhaps the excuse for which the Kabaka had been waiting. In his book the Kabaka said he was at loggerheads with Cohen from the outset after Cohen took office in January 1952 and that '...Cohen's plans for a unitary state with a Legislative Council directly elected could not include me..."
"He went on to say that Cohen '...failed to see that I enjoyed the total support of my people...and that he was misled by his African friends...I think he decided ...that any influence of mine must be destroyed, perhaps by discrediting me, or perhaps by more drastic means.'"
Early in August, the Kabaka signed a long letter to Cohen, requesting that Buganda should be transferred from the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office to that of the Foreign Office, a move that would essentially recognise Buganda as independent. It was not clear what would happen to the rest of Uganda.
The letter also asked the British government to "prepare and put into effect a plan designed to achieve our [i.e. Buganda's] independence and if possible within a short stated space of time".
On August 11, 1953, the Governor, in a speech to the Legislative Council announced that there would be direct elections to the Legislative Council (Parliament).
The Governor flew to London for consultations with the Colonial Office in October. He returned on October 27 with a catalogue of undertakings the Kabaka was to give. Cohen was also authorised to go ahead with deportation if it became necessary.
After the meeting of November 6, 1953, Cohen and his advisers were of the unanimous view that, if the Kabaka retained his intransigent attitude when he next met the Lukiiko, he was likely to advise it to oppose the Protectorate government as well as Her Majesty's Government. Such action could result in unrest. To pre-empt the situation, they felt, it might become necessary to remove the Kabaka.
Don Marshall, who was keeping minutes of these meetings, has given us the position as it obtained after the meeting. "As the discussion between the Governor and Kabaka went on, it became increasingly clear that the Kabaka would not budge from the stand he had taken; he was adamant in his demands that the responsibility of Buganda should be transferred to the Foreign Office, and subsequent independence be granted; and he was steadfast in his refusal to advise the Lukiiko to nominate Buganda representatives to sit in the Uganda Legislative Council - a measure to which he had agreed earlier in the year.
"This was not just a clash of personalities between the Governor and the Kabaka, but a determined attempt by the Kabaka to thwart Her Majesty's Government long-established policy of developing Uganda as a unitary state. In short the Kabaka was refusing to honour his obligations under the Agreement of 1900."
When Andrew Cohen was sent to Uganda as Governor in 1952, his mission was clear-cut: to foresee the decolonisation of the yet-to-be state, Uganda. However, stiff resistance from Kabaka Muteesa and his ministers awaited his plans and the Governor would have to liaise with his superiors back in London, to ensure his plans work.
Kabaka Muteesa had been opposed to the inclusion of Ugandans to the Legislative Council, a move aimed at widening political space and inclusion beyond Buganda.
In that regard, on November 6, 1953, the Attorney General unveiled a threat of withdrawing recognition from Kabaka Muteesa for defying an arrangement under the 1900 Buganda Agreement that required him to cooperate with the colonial government.
At a meeting on November 27, 1953 the Kabaka was required to accept Her Majesty's Government replies to his letter of August, and convey to the Lukiiko as the final word on all points raised in the letter. He was also expected to pledge full cooperation in the future progress of Buganda as an integral part of the Uganda Protectorate, including nominating Buganda representatives to the Legislative Council.
When the Kabaka rejected the conditions without first consulting the Lukiiko, the Governor requested the Kabaka to consider the matter very carefully during the ensuing weekend and return for a further meeting on November 30, 1953.
Unknown to the Kabaka and his advisors, arrangements had already been made for his deportation to Britain. Two Hercules aircrafts of the Royal Airforce Transport command had landed at Entebbe airport the morning of November 30, ready to fly the Kabaka out. Fred R.J. Williams had been asked to report to the Governor's office on the morning of November 30, 1953 with sufficient clothing as he might be required to travel to an undisclosed place at very short notice.
As it later transpired, Williams was to accompany the Kabaka on the flight to England. Williams came to know the Kabaka when he spent three years at the office of the Resident of Buganda, and was thus considered the king's friend.
When Williams arrived at the Governor's office that morning, he was told the Kabaka and the Governor were in a meeting. He was asked to join Mr Deegan, the commissioner of police and Owen Griffith, the governor's secretary, in an ante-room.
Meanwhile, at a tense meeting on November 30, 1953, the Kabaka categorically refused to accept the colonial government's conditions. Katikkiro Kavuma disclosed in his book that the Kabaka, his Aide-de-Camp and the Resident all had revolvers.
It had been pre-arranged that when it became clear that the Kabaka was not going to give in, the Attorney General would leave the meeting to set ready the constitutional documents declaring a State-of-Emergency. Soon after the Governor followed and signed the documents. After that, Governor Cohen told the Commissioner of police and Williams that the Kabaka was to be deported and that Williams was to accompany him to London.
The Governor then signed the deportation order which had already been prepared and emphasised to Williams that the Kabaka was to be treated with utmost consideration and courtesy. The Commissioner of Police went and served the deportation order to the Kabaka and informed him he was to escort him to the airport to board a plane and go on deportation to England.
Williams recounts that he and the Commissioner of Police escorted the Kabaka to a waiting car and were driven to the airport. The car stopped beside the Royal Air Force plane whose engine was already running. Williams and the Kabaka got on board and were soon joined by Austin Malcolm, a member of the Police Special Branch and Robert Ntambi, an assistant Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the Kabaka. The plane took off and so Kabaka Mutesa was deported to Britain.