By Martin J. Aliker
THE smoke still hangs over what was once the proud palace of the Kabaka of Buganda. The army had taken over the palace.
It was from the palace that illegal guns and other dangerous weapons were alleged to come for use against the Government.
The army went to investigate the truth of this story. They were met with gunfire. The battle began.
Whatever did happen during the fighting, only the surviving participants of that sad drama can tell. The rest of Kampala only heard the guns, the grenades and saw the smoke. That was “The Battle of the Lubiri of June 1, 1966”.
No man goes to battle without a cause. The rights or the wrongs of the cause is a matter for either side to decide. Whenever there is room for negotiation, people will negotiate.
A stronger man or a stronger nation may not wish to negotiate, but this is very rare. Rarer than we think. Mengo and Entebbe had reached the end of the line.
It was a show of muscles. When the muscles were flexed, both sides puffed up their chests and spat on each other’s faces - the spit became blood and then it was corpses.
The people of Uganda would never have believed, until it happened, that all this was possible. No, nonsense, Uganda is very civilised.
We always quarrel and in the old days, we went to London and came back with the striped pants, bowler hats and roll umbrellas and at Entebbe airport we were met by cheering crowds.
Nobody asked us who lost the case, it did not matter. After all, it went to Privy Council and we, the actors, had a damn good time at the night clubs in London.
Now, that was battle among gentlemen.
Occasionally, we called a boycott, but that was futile, for it hurt us more than the non-Africans, and we gave it up as ungentlemanly.
Of course, our best performances were on a Saturday afternoon, when we donned the battle colours of our political parties.
What a hell of a good laugh it was to give the Speaker a smell of that rotten egg. That was politics.
Everybody went home thoroughly entertained and voted the wrong way at the election time. As for the politicians - they simply changed parties to where the gravy was.
There never was anything like principle!’ Principles were for the Europeans; they are funny people. They die for principles. We prefer the juice.
While the foreign press, particularly European, is howling “I told you so”, the Ugandans have remained remarkably calm. They are calm because they are stunned.
“It could not happen here” they say to themselves. But it has – so there! However, in their defence we must admit that the average Ugandan is not a cantankerous animal.
Violence, whenever it has occurred, has always been condemned.
Uganda has the smallest Police force and army compared to other African countries, with similar population.
If anything, the one crime Ugandans have been accused of is carefreeness, and always welcoming foreigners. Many white people are freer in Uganda than in their own countries.
What caused the blow up? The answer lies partially in the personalities, which in this case are all complex.
However, the biggest cause was the complete breakdown in communications between Mengo and Entebbe. Both sides were too big to make the move to a possible palaver.
While the leaders waited for a possible overture from the other side, the political opportunists were busy at work.
They are the men who had access to Mengo as well as to Entebbe. They took tales from one side to the other. They were the double-crossers.
They knew that their political careers depended on certain imponderables. Certain changes, such as elections, would send them looking for jobs.
Therefore, the only thing they could do was to appear good to both sides, while telling one side to act tough and the other side to stand fi rm.
On the official side, the intelligence service had just about broken down. The so-called Uganda M.I.5 consists of Civil Service rejects, failures in life or jail birds.
The sum total of their effectiveness is visible in the Uganda Club, in the form of bar-chits signed. For any one of those to be expected to scratch the surface of Mengo, is to belittle the brains there.
The female informers - God bless the little dears - spend more time dangling the apple to their own Adams and they take whatever little extracted news, back to Mengo.
The effective leadership in the Special Branch were removed and the men who could reach Mengo transferred to distant areas because their relations belonged to the wrong political parties, or because of being suspected of being pro-Mengo.
Thus the information, which reached the decision-making level, was half-truth or stories concocted in the New Life, the Susana or the Uganda Club.
You cannot blame our leaders if they make the correct decision based on the wrong information. When a responsible leader makes a decision it is usually done after careful consideration.
All the ramifications and possible boomerangs are taken into account.
Therefore, those of us who are entrusted with reporting the truth must take the blame for the wrong information we give.
The fact that we hate an individual need not make us report falsely against him. Our jobs require us to report objectively.
If there is no story about a person, it is better to turn in a blank paper not a cooked-up story that we think the chief wants to hear.
The chief is not interested in the little skirmishes which go on in everybody’s life. Yet this is how the double-crossers worked their way to recognition.
Out of these made up stories, half-truths and limited truths, grew what must now be called the battle of the Lubiri.
There was no lie about the guns in the Lubiri. They were there, live and well oiled, like the Guns of Navaronne.
The half-truths and lies came long before, they gave false hopes to the possibility of an armed rebellion.
The double-crossers let it be known that the machine guns were there – ready in the palace.
The trigger happy northman in the Special Force, or the army, is nothing but a parrot, who repeats a phrase taught to him, that the Baganda are bad.
Bad is not so descriptive, complex would be a better word. The northerners mind functions more like the mind of a clock work.
The Kiganda mind is more complicated. It is different and hence the person is different, He is difficult. Before the British came, Buganda was too far from the north.
The two never met on a battleground. They, therefore, have no standing feud. Whatever feud exists, is a result of the Baganda’s superior attitude and the northerners somewhat inferiority complex.
The British exploited this situation. The northerners were called trusted men, brave men, and good men.
However, the British respected the Baganda most. For in their traditions, the British saw similarities with the Banganda. Thus Buganda was given the privileged position, which the British were later to regret - but too late.
It was left to an African Government to try and make Buganda realise Uganda is one, without areas of privileges. The Baganda saw this, but it was the process of making them realise it that made them choke.
Choke they did when the bitter pill came. When they choked, it was thought wise to pound them on the back to make the bitter pill go down.
Mary Poppins would have advised that “Just a little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down”.
However, we had some rough-riders who counselled pounding on the back of the patient. It hurt and the patient spat blood.
In this kind of struggle who wins? Victory is a temporary thing. For whoever wins must know that the opposition is working day and night to revenge.
Thus we shall alternate between the governments of revenge; with each government in power outdoing the preceding government.
The Lubiri was not a group of buildings, it was Buganda. You cannot take it away from the Baganda. Even the removal of the Namulondo does not kill Buganda. Even Hitler respected Buckingham Palace. Twekobe is the same.
When the smoke dies down and the people ask about what happened at the battle of the Lubiri - the future generation should know that this was a situation betrayed from within and exploited from without.
Writer is a businessman