By Hugo Vickers
The Duke of Kent is visiting Uganda next week to celebrate the country’s 50th independence anniversary. This is his first visit since 1962, when he delivered the country’s independence on behalf of the Queen.
The Duke of Kent is the Queen’s first cousin. He was born in October 1935 and the elder son of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. This was just in time to be seen by his grandfather, King George V, in the year of his Silver Jubilee and before his death in January 1936.
The Duke served in the British army, but from an early age, he was also a working member of the royal family, carrying out official duties in Britain and overseas on behalf of the Queen.
In 1961, he married Katherine Worsley, the daughter of Sir William Worsley, Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire. They have three children and many grandchildren.
For many years, the Duke was the vice–chairman of British Trade International, later serving as the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment. This role involved a lot of overseas travel, during which the Duke
helped to promote trade relations with foreign countries.
The Duke was promoted to be one of the few field marshals in the British Army and a Knight of the Garter. He takes his royal duties seriously and delivers excellent and well-prepared speeches.
It is certain that when he comes to Uganda, he will be well– versed with its troubled history, and fascinated to see how it has changed since 1962 and monitor the now calmer phase in this fine country’s history, following the troubles of earlier decades.
On the road to independence Attaining independence was a major turning point in Uganda’s history. Governor Andrew Cohen prepared the country for the exciting development. He had earlier got into trouble by exiling the Buganda ingdom’s Kabaka, Sir Edward Mutesa II in 1953.
While in exile, the Kabaka quickly became something of a hero, and in October 1955, Cohen was forced to return and reinstate him. The British government approved his return. For the Baganda, that was a huge victory.
However, before his return, Mutesa had to sign an agreement that he would not to oppose independence within the larger Uganda framework.
Cohen left Uganda in January 1957, and was succeeded by Sir Frederick Crawford from 1957 to 1961 and then by Sir Walter Coutts. Obote, Coutts clash over Queen By May 1962, it was clear that independence would be granted that October.
Apollo Milton Obote, the country’s first executive prime minister, told Coutts that he expected the Queen to deliver independence in person. He was disappointed that she was sending the Duke of Kent since he was “a young man and totally unknown in Uganda”.
If the Queen could not come, Obote wanted either the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother or Princess Margaret. But the Duke was not available, the Queen Mother said it was a suitable task for her and Princess Margaret was representing the Queen at independence celebrations in Jamaica.
Coutts informed Obote that it was the Queen who had personally chosen her cousin to represent her. The Duke of Kent had successfully represented the Queen at independence ceremonies in Sierra Leone the year before.
Obote discussed the issue with other politicians and they accepted the Duke. Even then, he hoped the Queen Mother might come to open Mulago Hospital, but was told that it was not possible because of diplomatic reasons. The Duchess of Kent opened the hospital.
The Duke arrives Uganda was finally granted independence October 9, 1962, the Duke of Kent’s 27th birthday. The Duke and the Duchess of Kent were received by Coutts, the Kabaka and Obote and his wife when they arrived at Entebbe Airport.
Speaking at the Independence Day celebrations at Kololo, the Duke pointed out that granting the country independence did not mean that it would be abandoned, saying Uganda was becoming a full member of the Commonwealth, a grouping of British former colonies and other willing countries.
Earlier, the Union Flag was pulled down and the black, yellow, red, Uganda’s new flag raised in its place, when the clock ticked midnight on October 9, 1962.
Kampala replaced Entebbe as the capital, the 4th Battalion of King’s African Rifles became the 1st Battalion, Uganda Rifles and Uganda became fully selfgoverning.
The governor became the governor-general. The Duke took part in the State Opening of Parliament in Kampala the following day.
Obote was still the prime minister when Coutts, briefly the governor-general, departed in 1963. It was at this time that the Kabaka became president of Uganda.
The writer is a British biographer, historian and commentator on royal matters
Bitter taste of uhuru
When Ugandans were clamouring for independence, they thought that would be the end of their suffering. Having been mistreated by the colonialists, they believed that being governed by one of their own would deliver them from the decades-long misery, discrimination and poverty.
But all the hope of a happy and democratic Uganda was soon dashed. In 1964, a succession of mutinies led to the advancement of army officers, including Idi Amin, who soon became deputy commander of the Ugandan Armed Forces.
In 1966, prime minister Apollo Milton Obote suspended the constitution and declared himself president.
This prompted Buganda to try and break away from the country, resulting into the 1966 crisis, Obote and Amin led an armed
attack on the Kabaka’s palace forcing him into exile. The Kabaka died under suspicious circumstances in London in 1969.
In 1967, Uganda was proclaimed a Republic and Obote became an executive President. There then followed a period of anarchy in which the people were terrorised and tortured. After Obote’s life was threatened in 1969, opposition parties were banned and Obote became the supreme leader.
Corruption was rife and Obote a hated man. While he was at the Commonwealth conference in Singapore in 1971, Obote was overthrown by Amin. This marked the beginning a nine-year reign of terror.