By Martin J. Aliker
BUGANDA declared itself independent before the British gave Uganda independence.
The problem with Buganda’s declaration of independence was independence from whom? The British or Uganda?
The Buganda leaders at the time did not know themselves who Buganda was leaving.
In 1961, a delegation from Buganda travelled to London to see the Colonial Secretary, lan Macleod, to discuss the independence of Buganda.
This was not the first time leaders from Buganda had gone to London on the same issue. The British largely ignored the leaders from Buganda because the British had already prepared the time-table for the independence of the State of Uganda.
The Buganda delegation enjoyed the London night clubs but returned empty handed except for the bowler hats they bought and wore for a short time while in Kampala.
Buganda gave notice to the Colonial Governor of Uganda, Sir Walter Coutts, that Buganda would become independent on December 31, 1961 - New Year’s Eve.
The Colonial Government put the Police Special Force on red alert.
All able bodied British males in Kampala who knew how to use a gun, were issued with one, not for self-protection but for the defense of Kampala if the Baganda were to use force.
The British drove around Kampala in groups using Land Rovers. There was no incident. The British had called Buganda’s bluff. The next day was business as usual.
The reason for Buganda to seek independence was more to do with Mengo itself than with the Central Government. It was obvious to Mengo that with democracy coming, the status quo at Mengo could not be maintained.
The leadership at Mengo was bound to change and they did not like the thought of it. Hitherto, it was “omwana waani”? before one could get a job in Mengo or “eat obwami”.
With Benedicto Kiwanuka as chief minister and possibly the first Ugandan prime minister, there was bound to be changes as to who could become Katikkiro, Omwanika and Omulamuzi – the criteria had to change from religion to capability.
By becoming independent, Mengo could pre-empt any changes that Kiwanuka might have had in mind. Independence was not accorded to Buganda.
When elections were held to determine which party would form the first independent Ugandan Government, Buganda went into Plan B – that is, Kabaka Yekka party whose sole aim was to deny Benedicto Kiwanuka authority over Mengo.
The marriage between UPC/Kabaka Yekka was one of convenience. Obote needed Buganda support and Buganda wanted to deny Kiwanuka power. The marriage did not last long.
All Kabaka Yekka Members of Parliament crossed to UPC except two, Amos Sempa and Daudi Ocheng.
Many DP Members of Parliament led by Basil Bataringaya left the party and joined UPC.
They were handsomely rewarded with Cabinet posts. Like today, the opposition in Parliament became irrelevant.
The rationale behind crossing from DP/KY to UPC was simple. The advantages of being in Parliament were more than those of a member of the Lukiiko.
The advantages of being a Central Government Minister were greater and more than those of a minister in the Kabaka’s Government.
Nothing has changed since then. That is why members of the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus have difficulty in obtaining consensus of all members especially from those in the Cabinet on issues pertaining to Buganda.
The issue of Buganda wanting independence or special position is as old as the history of Uganda. Kabaka Mwanga demanded for it at the end of 19th Century.
He ended up being deported. Kabaka Daudi Chwa did likewise in 1939. The British moved a battalion of their soldiers from Nairobi to Kibuli Police parade ground. The issue died.
In 1953, Mutesa II raised the issue and Sir Andrew Cohen sent him into exile, returning in 1955. Kabaka Mutesa II raised the issue again in 1966. Dialogue was discarded and the issue resulted in a show of strength.
The Government of the day sent Col Idi Amin with troops to destroy the Bulange. Kabakaship and all other hereditary rulers were abolished only to be restored by the current constitution.
To answer the question “Did Buganda declare independence before Uganda”, the answer is “yes”, on December 31, 1961. The date October 8, 1962 is only symbolic in so far as Mengo, not the rest of Buganda, registered unhappiness with the British.
On that day the British terminated the three agreements they had with Buganda, the most important being that of 1900.
Buganda’s wish for independence notwithstanding, she has been crucial in the creation of Uganda as a nation.
Without Buganda, there would not be a Uganda as we know it today. Buganda, has from the beginning, opened her arms to welcome all.
There is no other tribe in Uganda as welcoming and as accommodating as the Baganda. For that matter, I know of no other people on earth who welcome strangers.
Today, some people are talking about “ring fencing” to preserve certain advantages for the natives of certain areas. In some parts of Uganda, there are vast tracks of empty land where the locals talk of going to war in case “foreigners” (other Ugandans) wish to utilise it.
Buganda has become the melting pot of Uganda. For those of us who are non-Baganda, but are enjoying Buganda hospitality, we should be grateful.
As for Buganda becoming independent, that is another story.
Writer is a businessman