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Give Buganda a break, they helped develop Uganda

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th September 2009 03:00 AM

IN the Saturday Vision of August 22, Joshua Kato in a special report titled: “Our problem is not Bakiga” depicted Baganda chiefs as harsh rulers who unlawfully seized territory from Bunyoro. Since independence, it has become a sort of tradition to dem

IN the Saturday Vision of August 22, Joshua Kato in a special report titled: “Our problem is not Bakiga” depicted Baganda chiefs as harsh rulers who unlawfully seized territory from Bunyoro. Since independence, it has become a sort of tradition to dem

By Martin Lwanga

IN the Saturday Vision of August 22, Joshua Kato in a special report titled: “Our problem is not Bakiga” depicted Baganda chiefs as harsh rulers who unlawfully seized territory from Bunyoro. Since independence, it has become a sort of tradition to demonise the Baganda for the ills of colonialism. But is that the whole story?

History is always in danger of being re-written in the name of political correctness. For the sake of not falsifying history, it is imperative for me to share the Buganda side of the story and the role of chiefs.

First of all, it is a fallacy to allege that the British made Buganda and their prosperity is owed to colonialism. Explorer John Speke wrote in his book The Discovery of the Nile (1862) that the orderliness of the Buganda capital, their well- maintained straight-wide roads and neatly dressed natives were comparable to life in England.

Explorer Henry Stanley wrote in his book Through the Dark Continent that the Baganda are “an extraordinary people, as different as the white Americans from the semi- civilised Choctwa.” This point was also noted by Sir Winston Churchill in his book, My African Journey (1908).

Why did the British use the Baganda to conquer the neighbouring regions? In a letter dated March 17, 1900 Sir Harry Johnston wrote to prime minister Salisbury:“These are the only people who can deal a serious blow to British rule.”

The British found Buganda already an organised centralised society with a standing army and navy in possession of 10,000 guns. Hers was a progressive non-caste society with an administrative structure manned by chiefs appointed on merit.

There was an artisan class of workers specialising in all manner of trades and a multi- million treasury using cowry shells as legal tender. The British decision to colonise the rest of Uganda through Buganda was tactical.

Hypocrites who love to accuse the Baganda as collaborators of British colonialism have benefited immeasurably from Western civilisation which the Baganda chiefs helped to extend. I agree there was a regrettable minority of carpet baggers who profited from land acquisitions in places like Bunyoro and Bugisu. However, it is worth noting that there are also more Baganda who laboured in the furtherance of development and mission work after British conquest.

People like author Micheal Nsimbi, Dr Samson Kisseka were poorly paid administrators who worked throughout pre-colonial Uganda. Others like Cannon Apollo Kivebulaya and Canon Binaisa travelled as far as Congo and Sudan on foot respectively as missionaries.

The economic prosperity of pre- colonial Buganda benefited many migrant families from as far as Rwanda and Burundi. Prof Kenneth Ingham in his book, The Making of Modern Uganda pointed out that Gen. Kakungulu enabled the British to establish order in the north and eastern parts of Uganda where he set-up an effective administrative structure on Buganda’s model and built roads and trees still in use to this day.

The Baganda played a heroic and pivotal role as members of the Kings African Rifles who stopped German aggression in both world wars. Capt Sir Daudi Chwa, sergeant majors Ben Kiwanuka and R. H. Kakembo, Lt. George William Mawanda and Dr Albert Kagwa of the Royal Army Medical Corps are some of the many who served with distinction.

Coming to the Bunyoro struggle against British imperialism as led by Bunyoro King Kabalega, let us also look at the Baganda King Mwanga whom nobody talks about. Once he took over the throne he valiantly fought for the sovereignty of his kingdom and the order of the execution of converts was such an attempt.

Later in 1897 he abandoned the throne of his own free will to go to the bush and wage a spirited battle against the British authorities. Together with Gen Gabriel Kintu they linked up with Kabalega and then waged a protracted guerrilla war against the British till their capture in 1899. The Baganda also struggled against British imperialism.

Concerning the independence struggle, which ostensibly came to save the rest of Uganda from Baganda exploiters, who led the way? After the initial resistance to British imperialism had died, as early as 1928 Baganda chiefs (Bataka) revolted, leading to the land law protecting the security of tenants. The people who led the nationalist struggle were Baganda sons of chiefs: Augustine Kamya, Yusufu Bamuta, Ignatius Musazi, Abu Mayanja, Godfrey Binaisa, Jolly Joe Kiwanuka, Eridadi Mulira. Many of them were jailed and exiled.

Milton Obote never suffered any imprisonment or forced exile and simply sneaked into the struggle after Baganda had done the hard work.

It is ironical that many of those who cast the Baganda as exploitative imperialist agents went through schools and universities built through the support of Baganda chiefs. Apart from schools like Budo, Kisubi, Gayaza, Namilyango, Makerere College, Namagunga which to this day welcome people from the entire world, Makerere University was a result of Buganda government offering that land at the expense of the life of Kattikiro Martin Luther Nsibirwa.

On the question of land, if as it were, Baganda imperialist agents stole land from different parts of Uganda, how about those including their most vociferous critics who are everyday acquiring land in Buganda and in some cases stealing it without adequate compensation?

All these patriotic Ugandans who have done a lot for Uganda since independence and are quick to blame the Baganda for past injustice should give the Baganda a break.

The Baganda authoritarian chiefs enabled Uganda to experience the most prosperous and peaceful times. They were strict, efficient, results oriented and introduced cotton and coffee growing in Uganda, from which latter day beneficiaries of Western education were to show so much gratitude. Their honour is worth protecting.
The writer is a management consultant based in Kampala

Give Buganda a break, they helped develop Uganda

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