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Abu Mayanja, a great man of our time

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th May 2015 11:46 AM

The children of the late Abubakar Kakyama Mayanja, Uganda’s great freedom fighter and a Pan Africanist, organised the Fifth Abu Mayanja Memorial Lecture on April 28, 2015 at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

The children of the late Abubakar Kakyama Mayanja, Uganda’s great freedom fighter and a Pan Africanist, organised the Fifth Abu Mayanja Memorial Lecture on April 28, 2015 at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

By Kavuma-Kaggwa

The children of the late Abubakar Kakyama Mayanja, Uganda’s great freedom fighter and a Pan Africanist, organised the  Fifth Abu Mayanja Memorial Lecture on April  28, 2015 at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

The Katikkiro of Buganda Charles Peter Mayiga was the chief guest.  He spoke on the role of Abu Mayanja in the restoration of the Buganda Kingdom before and after July, 1993 when the Kingdom was restored at Naggalabi, Buddo.

Thank God, at that time when the NRM Government had just taken over after defeating the tyrannical regimes, Abu Mayanja was the Minister for Constitutional Affairs and Attorney General.

He stood firm on constitutionalism and advised the Government and the transitional Parliament at that time, to amend the 1967 Obote Constitution which had abolished the kingdoms and cultural institutions, so that the Buganda Kingdom could be restored forthwith. It was done as he advised and the Kingdom was restored on July 31, 1993.

The Katikiro described Abu Mayanja as a man who was a true Muganda and who loved the Buganda Kingdom. He said Mayanja was serious on having people educated and working hard to enrich themselves and he spent all his money on educating his children. He said that Abu Mayanja was at the forefront in establishing the Islamic University in Uganda at Mbale.

I knew Abu Mayanja right from 1958 up to the time of his death in 2005 and we worked together in Uganda National Congress. We worked together during the formation of the Liberation Movements in Nairobi to fight the tyrannical regimes in Uganda at that time.

When we speak of great African Freedom fighters who liberated Africa: Jomo Kenyatta, Sir. Edward Mutesa, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Abu Mayanja  was one of them.

As a true nationalist and one who believes in National unity, I remember in 1958/59 when the British were opening up the “road map” to Uganda’s Independence and Mengo tried to resist it,  Abu Mayanja issued an extremely strong statement without fearing any repercussions

He said – “the threat by the Kabaka’s Government to sabotage direct election from Legislative Council in Buganda is so full of ugly possibilities for the future that it is high time somebody did some very straight talking to the reactionary elements in Buganda who seem to imagine that somehow Buganda can contract out of the 20th Century and revert to a system of administration where the efficiency of guns used to be tested on human beings”.

Who was Abubakar Mayanja?
Abubakar Kakyama Mayanja, who was popularly known as Abu Mayanja, was a great freedom fighter, Pan Africanist, the founding Secretary General of Uganda National Congress, the party which spread the gospel of nationalism and fought for Uganda’s Independence in the 1950s and he was “a marvelous man of the people”.

Abu Mayanja who was of the Mamba clan (lungfish) in Buganda Kingdom, was born in August 1929 to Abdallah Waswa Kambugu Kakyama of Buga village, Zzziba near Ngogwe in Kyaggwe County, Mukono District, Uganda. His mother was Maama Maimuna Kayaga from Buvuma Islands in Lake Victoria. People believed that Abu Mayanja was an extremely intelligent man because of his mother who always fed on fish in Buvuma Islands when she was still a young girl.

I remember in Katwe the late Dr. B.N. Kununka, who succeeded Abu Mayanja as Secretary General, when Mayanja went to study law in the UK, suggested that at the time of death Mayanja’s internal carotid artery and external carotid veins will be examined to find out what made him so intelligent. It was not possible because Dr. Kununka died many years before Abu Mayanja. History tells us that the great scientist Albert Einstein was examined at the time of his death and it was found that he had very big arteries and veins.

Abu Mayanja started his formal education in 1940 at Ngogwe, Native Anglican Church (NAC) Baskerville Primary School. In 1944 Mayanja sat for his Primary Leaving Examination when he was in Primary Six and he was the best pupil in the whole of Uganda.

Abu Mayanja joined the famous King’s College Budo on a scholarship in 1945 from the Kabaka’s Government because of being the best student in the Primary examinations. This scholarship was secured by Merekizadeki Senvumo who was the Ngogwe Sub-County chief at the time. Mayanja was also awarded a scholarship by the Uganda Muslim Community through the East African Muslim Welfare Association. This assistance was worked out with the assistance of Prince Badru Kakungulu and was the beginning of the intimate relationship between Abu Mayanja and Prince Kakungulu.

Abu Mayanja joined Makerere University in March 1950 and this is where he started his great political activism which gripped him throughout all his life.

Earlier on as a young man in the NAC, Baskerville Primary School, Ngogwe in Kyaggwe, his ancestral place, he witnessed the 1945 political uprising by the Baganda when they demanded direct representation in the Buganda Lukiiko. This uprising was codenamed “Number 8”.

Mayanja also witnessed the 1949 “Bataka” uprising when farmers demanded to own cotton ginneries throughout the Country.

After the 1949 uprising farmers and the “BATAKA BU” (which literally means –“the sons of the Buganda soil or Buganda land”) used to hold their meetings at the Kabaka’s Lake led by I.K. Musazi and Omutaka Miti Kabazzi.

Abu Mayanja used to walk all the way from Makerere University to attend these meetings. So on March 2, 1952 when I.K. Musazi asked who would be the Secretary General, others feared and Abu Mayanja came forward to take the job.

He straightaway issued a press statement announcing the formation of Uganda National Congress and he used the postal address of the university. The European newspapers in Kampala and Nairobi (at that time Uganda Herald and the East African Standard) came out with banner headlines that “POLITICS ENTERS MAKERERE”.

Both I.K. Musazi and Abu Mayanja were in combative mood after launching Uganda National Congress and they travelled the whole of Uganda preaching to the people and calling for “Independence Now” which was the motto and rallying call of Uganda National Congress.

UNC was founded by six men: I.K. Musazi, Abubakar Mayanja (Buganda), Stefano Abwangoto (Bugisu), Ben Okweredde (Teso), Yekosofati Engur (Lango) and S.B. Katembo (Toro).

Uganda National Congress was formed when the British Governor was Sir Andrew Cohen (1950-1955).

A shrewd and far sighted and visionary colonial administrator, the Baganda did not like him because he exiled Sekabaka Sir Edward Mutesa II on November 30, 1953, but there was something extremely good which he did for Abu Mayanja.

Abu Mayanja did not last long at Makerere, because during that very year 1952, he organised a students’ strike at Makerere because of “bad food”. He was expelled together with Josephat Karanja and Isack Omolo Okello both from Kenya and another student from Tanganyika (now Tanzania).

The Governor, Sir Andrew Cohen initiated a good educational development programme to train Africans who would take over jobs in the Civil Service and run the Country in the later years before and after the country had achieved independence.

The Governor advised the Buganda minister for finance (Omuwanika) who was Latima Mpagi to set up a Scholarship Fund of UK£ 400,000 from the coffee earnings for Buganda students.

The Kabaka’s Government made announcements for the young Baganda to apply and the Governor was the one to approve all the applications.

The Governor had already spotted the young Abu Mayanja as an extremely intelligent person and very argumentative.

The young Abu Mayanja applied for the scholarship and the Governor had to approve it.

One morning Abu Mayanja hired a small car and drove to Entebbe Government House now State House.

Arriving at the Secretariat Mayanja found European Civil servants with melancholy faces waiting for him. Some of them tried to block his way so that he could not meet the Governor.

The Chief Secretary did not support Mayanja’s application because he had been sacked from Makerere and he was a fiery politician and a UNC Secretary-General. The Governor ordered his officers – “Let the young man come to see me in my office”.

Governor Cohen made a wonderful statement – “IF WE ARE GOING TO HAVE POLITICAL OPPONENTS AND THERE IS NO WAY WE ARE GOING TO AVOID THEM, FOR GOD’S SAKE LET US HAVE THEM AT LEAST EDUCATED”. He made this statement after signing Mayanja’s scholarship application forms.

Abu Mayanja, smiling broadly, shook the Governor’s hand after he awarded him a scholarship to study at Cambridge University in London.

Governor Cohen was also educated at Cambridge University and that was why he sent Abubakar Mayanja to the same University.

Hon. Mayanja-Nkangi former Katikiro of Buganda who was educated with Abu Mayanja both at King’s College Budo and Makerere University described Abu Mayanja as a true Muslim, apparently untouched spiritually by the Christian influence which had shaped his vibrant intellect. He was truly an embodiment of Muslim intellectualism of which every Muslim in Uganda must be proud of.

Mayanja-Nkangi said Abu Mayanja’s public life has been well documented by the media. He was initiated as a youth into national politics by the late Ignatius Kangave Musazi of Uganda National Congress in 1952.

Abu Mayanja steadily matured into a politician of stature. He was a nationalist to the core, as it were and an impeccable enemy of British imperialism. He stood tall among his peer, the Uganda politicians who struggled and achieved the independence of our Country.

He was deeply sensitive to injustice and this made him an unpaid advocate of the injured. He would speak up for those who could not speak up for themselves – the ordinary person, the poor.

Abu Mayanja was really a political giant in Uganda, East Africa, Africa and the whole world.

He established political contacts all over the world and met all kinds of World leaders.

While in London, he established close contacts with Joseph Murumbi, who later became Vice President of Kenya who had an office in London helping African freedom fighters.

He established close contact with former President Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt. He met the late Chairman Mao Tse Tung and the late Prime Minister Chou en Lai of the People’s Republic of China where he secured assistance for UNC of UK£ 500,000. He secured a modern printing press for UNC from Italy which was installed in Uganda Post and Uganda Express offices at Kololo in the house which now accommodates Hot Loaf Bakery.

While studying in UK, Abu Mayanja established close political relationship with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who became President of Ghana. Nkrumah initiated the All Africa People’s Conference and when it was convened in Accra in 1958 Abu Mayanja was its Secretary General.

Kwame Nkrumah proposed this Conference after Ghana’s Independene to help African freedom fighters plan for the total liberation of the African continent.

Abu Mayanja together with the late John Kale (father of General Kale Kayihura, the IGP of Uganda) set the UNC office in Cairo to establish contacts all over the world to help African freedom fighters.

Abu Mayanja first served as a Minister for Education in the Kabaka’s Government in 1958. He was part of the Buganda delegation in London which approved the 1962 Independence Constitution. He was also imprisoned by Milton Obote and freed by Idi Amin in 1971.

He was a minister in the first Amin Government with other highly educated people like the late Apolo Kironde.

He later fled into exile after Amin soldiers arrested him and put him in the car boot. His wife drove very fast to Amin’s office and wept that her husband has been bundled into the boot of an army vehicle. The car soon arrived at Amin’s office and Abu Mayanja was taken out. He was set free and straightaway fled to Nairobi.

In Nairobi, he organised a liberation movement together with other Ugandan exiles to overthrow the tyrannical regime of Idi Amin.

In the 1980 general elections, he contested in Busujju but was cheated and later concentrated on farming and he opened a law firm in the King Fahd Plaza which is now run by his sons who took their father’s profession.

He was a minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the first NRM Government. Later on when the NRM Government tried to introduce Regional Tier in Buganda he advised the Kabaka Sabasajja Ronald Muwenda Mutebi not to accept it.

He was reported to have said to the Kabaka- “Your father Sir Edward Mutesa II fought for this Kingdom, it was only the gun which took it away from his hands. Later on the Baganda fought Obote and they restored it. If you accept Regional Tier you will have given away your Kingdom”.  The Kabaka heeded Mayanja’s advice.

It was strongly rumoured that because of that advice the Kabaka was considering appointing him Katikiro to succeed Joseph Semwogerere but he suddenly died.

I was with Abu Mayanja right from 1958 when we were both in UNC in Katwe and Kololo, and again in Nairobi. When I came back from exile I used to consult him on so many issues because we were both writing in the New Vision.

I liked Abu Mayanja because he was a true African who founded Uganda National Congress, spread the gospel of nationalism throughout the country, fought for Uganda’s Independence and the Independence of Africa and he was with the people all the time.  He produced very many children and he educated all of them at King’s College Budo. Unfortunately, none of them has become a politician and they do not say why.  They should now follow in the political footsteps of their father.

I one day told Abu Mayanja to take some of them to the famous Namilyango College, my school, because it was the first College in Uganda, East and Central Africa. He replied – “I want to thank and be grateful to the NAC and the Anglican Church who educated me right from Primary to University and King’s College Budo was my school”.

May Abu Mayanja’s soul rest in Everlasting Eternal Peace.

The writer is an Elder from Kyaggwe Mukono District


Abu Mayanja, a great man of our time

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