3 January 2013

Uganda: Musaazi's Pro-Independence Profile Was Impeccable


Though he was marginalized by the neocolonial regimes that reigned in this country prior to President Museveni and the NRM's coming to power in 1986, Ignatius Kangave Musaazi's anti-colonial and nationalist credentials were exceptional for three main reasons.

To start with, he was the architect of pan-Ugandan nationalism. Earlier anti-colonial struggles led by Omukama Chwa, Kabalega or Omutaka Jemuusi Kabaazi Mitti, mainly due to the more localized exposure of their authors, were in the main, ethnic and localised. However, though Musaazi had wider and more sophisticated exposure, he was neither the first nor the last in this regard.

For instance, when he attended college in Britain in the 1920s, Sir Wilberforce Kaduumbula Nadiope was his contemporary, and Musaazi applied his initiative to adopt an anti-colonial stance, rather than collaborate with the imperial power, unlike Nadiope and most others who opted not to 'rock the boat.'

In Britain, Musaazi created a lifelong relationship with progressive individuals and political organizations, notably the Labour Party and the Fabian Society. When he returned to Uganda, he joined the teaching profession and rose to the rank of inspector of schools, a privileged position he resigned from to champion the anti-colonial struggle.

His interaction with the Fabian Society and Fenner Brockway, the eccentric, pacifist radical anti-colonial Labour member of the House of Commons, helped shape Musaazi's nationalist outlook. As a young man, Brockway was imprisoned, at least thrice, for his political views. However, such measures only seemed to have served the purpose of strengthening them even the more.

Musaazi was also influenced by other nationalist movements, like in Kenya, where his close associate was Jomo Kenyatta. This was in addition to India's Indian National Congress and South Africa's African National Congress. It is crucial to note that when Musaazi formed Uganda's first nationalist party, the Uganda National Congress, and called for national unity and immediate independence, with the support of Brockway who had once visited Uganda, the young Apollo Milton Obote, in a letter written to The Uganda Herald of April 12, 1952, opposed this call for the unity and independence of the Ugandan people.

Contrary to what some have asserted, the UNC was neither the first Ugandan political party nor its first anti-colonial organisation. The Bangeleza, Bafaransa and Basilaamu political-cum-military formations of the late 19th century that fomented the infamous 'religious wars' were, for all intents and purposes, political parties. They had clear leadership structures and manifestos.

For instance, the Bangeleza party under the domineering Sir Apolo Kaggwa fought for Uganda's colonization by Britain. While the Bafaransa party led by Stanislaus Mugwanya and the legendary guerilla general Gabulyeri Kintu, had sold their souls to both French and German colonial interests. From an anti-colonial perspective, Mitti and others formed the Bataka Party in the early 1940s to challenge colonial rule in Buganda.

This culminated in the 1947 and 1948 riots. Earlier in the early 1920s, a similar organization headed by Kate Mugema, Spartus Mukasa and Mitti had successfully opposed the colonial administration's 1900 Agreement with its exploitation of Baganda peasants. Hence Whitehall's introduction of the 1928 Busuulu and Envujjo law.

Last, but not least, Musaazi had the skill of identifying talent and mentoring it. Nearly all the nationalist leaders of the Congress tradition were identified and mentored by him. Kintu Musoke and Kirunda Kivejinja recount how Musaazi identified a youthful Paulo Muwanga at Mpigi Post Office in the early 1950s, where he worked as a clerk, and persuaded him to abandon colonial privilege for the precarious, unpaid vocation of a Katwe-based UNC anti-colonial mobiliser!

Much similar to Simon Peter in the Christian scriptures, the redoubtable Muwanga literally followed Musaazi and became 'a fisher of men.' Other nationalists that he recruited and mentored into nationalist politics include Milton Obote, Otema Allimadi, John Kalekyezi, Yokosofati Engur, Peter Sonko, Balaki Kirya and Abu Mayanja.

The author is Uganda's Ambassador - Deputy Head of Mission (UN).

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