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The 1966 crisis: The truth about Muteesa, Obote political rift

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th May 2015 11:17 AM

May 24, 2015 (Sunday) marked 49 years since Mengo palace of Buganda kingdom was raided by the army commanded by Col. Idi Amin on the orders of Dr. Milton Obote.

May 24, 2015 (Sunday) marked 49 years since Mengo palace of Buganda kingdom was raided by the army commanded by Col. Idi Amin on the orders of Dr. Milton Obote.

By Muwonge Magembe

May 24, 2015 (Sunday) marked 49 years since Mengo palace of Buganda kingdom was raided by the army commanded by Col. Idi Amin on the orders of Dr. Milton Obote.

At the time of the attack, Sir Edward Muteesa, the then 35th Kabaka of Buganda was inside the palace. As a Captain of the Grenadier Guards, he maneuvered his escape thereby fleeing into exile in London, United Kingdom.

After spending three years and about six months in exile, Muteesa unfortunately died mysteriously in flat No. 28, Orchard House on November 21, 1969; barely two days after celebrating his 45th birthday.

Notwithstanding the British government post-mortem report; two of Muteesa’s friends living in Heswall, Merseyside suspected possible foul-play and hence demanded for an independent post-mortem before Desmond Henley embalmed his body. Their plea was motivated by claims of an orchestrated plot against Muteesa’s life by his then rivals in Kampala following a visit made to Muteesa by a 5 feet and 2 inch tall Muganda woman hailing from Gomba (now deceased). She surprisingly rushed and ultimately settled in France when Muteesa became unconscious. Additionally, hours after Muteesa was pronounced dead, another Muganda woman (still alive) that had traveled along with the suspected Gomba woman to London immediately returned to Kampala with an observable smile.

Such suspicious movements and conduct by these two women fueled suspicions over the actual cause of Muteesa’s death in spite of the official post-mortem report.

The background to Muteesa’s exile life in London from 1966 was the collapse of the political alliance between Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (KY). The alliance was formed ahead to the 1962 independence general election thereby qualifying Obote as the executive prime minister as Muteesa settled for the non-executive (ceremonial) president of Uganda. Before the formation of UPC-KY alliance, the two principals; Muteesa and Obote were never known friends given that the two lived in almost two different worlds.

Muteesa, for instance went to Kings College Buddo and Magdalene College, Cambridge in United Kingdom whereas Obote went to Gulu Junior secondary school, Busoga College Mwiri and Makerere University. Their only common denominator was the age bracket. Muteesa was just one year, one month and nine days older than Obote.

It can therefore be concluded that Muteesa and Obote became ‘friends’ and their UPC-KY alliance emerged because of the intensive lobbying orchestrated by the late Abubaker Kakyama Mayanja, Balaki Kirya, Grace Ibingira, Daudi Ochieng, Amos Sempa and partly, Sir William Nadiope, then Kyabazinga of Busoga.

Then Buganda Katikkiro, Michael Kintu nearly threatened UPC-KY alliance formation given the early personal reservations he had against Obote. Katikkiro Kintu was very popular in Buganda then following the assertiveness he demonstrated against the British resulting into the October 17, 1955 return of Muteesa from his first exile in London. Aware of Katikkiro Kintu’s personal distaste for Dr. Obote, it was resolved that UPC be represented at the alliance talks held in Bulange by Kirya and Ibingira. These two would later brief Obote about the Bulange deliberations. Obote had no objection to being left out of the Bulange talks as long as his wish for a political alliance with KY aimed at defeating DP succeeded. For that matter, Obote gave way for Kirya and Ibingira in most of the subsequent negotiations with Buganda Constitutional Committee composed of Kintu (Katikkiro), Ronald Basudde (omulamuzi), Nelson Ssebugwa Nkalubo (muwanika), Abu Mayanja and Aloysius Darlington Lubowa popularly known as AD Lubowa.

At the backdrop of those negotiations were the annulled March 1961 election which the Democratic Party led by Ben Kiwanuka won although 96.4% of eligible voters in Buganda region did not vote due to mainly intimidation and violence orchestrated by KY supporters that had already vowed to boycott that election. The 1961 annulled election had been endorsed earlier on by the December 24, 1959 Constitutional Committee report chaired by British constitutional expert, John V. Wild. Conducting a fresh election in 1962 before granting Uganda independence therefore motivated Britain to convene the London Conference at Marlborough House in September/October 1961.

Cognizant of the expediency of the KY- UPC alliance towards defeating DP; during the Marlborough talks, Obote didn’t repeat his earlier claims he made during the Legislative Council (LEGCO) deliberations in which he faulted the British for purportedly pampering Buganda. Actually, Obote this time at Marlborough talks ‘supported’ Buganda quest for federalism locally known as federo. Obote as well supported Mengo’s 1962 electoral wish of what was popularly known as ekitole. Ekitole meant that the 22 members of parliament representing Buganda region in the national Parliament would and in deed were elected indirectly by the Buganda Lukiiko. While in defence of indirect elections in Buganda, Obote sarcastically stated that he didn’t mind how Buganda MPs would be elected even if it meant by air, water or rail.

Amazingly, though Obote supported indirect elections in Buganda, he aggressively advocated for direct elections in other regions of Uganda describing it as a standard of democracy.

Ben Kiwanuka of DP sharply opposed the issue of indirect elections in Buganda arguing that all people in Buganda above the then required electoral age of 21 and above be allowed to elect their parliamentary representatives. Kiwanuka in due course protested and walked out of the Marlborough House talks when UPC-KY delegates’ resolve for indirect elections (ekitole) prevailed.

On return from Marlborough/London conference, general elections were hence held resulting into a UPC-KY alliance victory against DP. Obote consequently became the Executive Prime Minister.

However, the first crack in UPC-KY alliance was in 1963 when some seniors members of UPC party plotted to humiliate Muteesa from taking over presidency. They were instead favouring Kyabazinga Nadiope. Obote sensed this threat and intervened quickly through a maneuver that eventually led to the first amendment of the independence Constitution. The amendment though opposed by some UPC members created the position of vice president which was not originally enshrined in the 1962 Constitution. Obote convinced Nadiope to settle for the newly created position of vice president thus leaving Muteesa as the sole presidential candidate. Those within UPC that were opposed to Muteesa’s ascendance to the presidency questioned Obote for favouring the Buganda king against Kyabazinga, Obote retorted- Leave me alone, I know what I am doing.

The Constitutional maneuver Obote engineered motivated optimism among KY members and Baganda in general that Obote would side with Buganda towards its quest for regaining the ‘lost counties’ of Buyaga and Bugangaizi during the November 4, 1964 referendum. The British had earlier on supported their annexation unto Buganda as a pat on its back for being collaborative with it contrary to Bunyoro which opposed colonialism. Such optimism to regain the two counties motivated Katikkiro Kintu to make a public vow that- not even a single spoonful of the two counties soil would end up in Bunyoro. Muteesa had already lined up his team of surveyors that would survey the two counties boundaries in case the referendum favoured Buganda. Among the surveyors was WT Sentongo of Bweyogerere, Ntebettebe whose son, Washington Sebiina Kaggwa is a prominent city pastor. Muteesa for long loved Sentongo as his surveyor aware that the two shared November 19, as their birthday.

Ahead to the referendum, Obote supported the drafting and passing of the set of rules and guidelines that were to be followed during the ‘lost counties’ referendum. It among other stipulated that only voters whose names appeared on the Electoral registers of 1961 and 1962 would qualify as voters during the referendum. This particular rule in effect disqualified thousands of Baganda ex-service men that had hurriedly settled in the two counties ahead to the referendum with hopes of giving Buganda an electoral leverage. Attempts by Buganda sympathizers to challenge those rules on grounds of disenfranchising Baganda voters proved futile as the High Court in Kampala upheld them.

Buganda eventually lost the referendum as the two counties were declared parts of Bunyoro.

The outcome of the referendum worsened the rift between Obote and Muteesa.

Amidst that, in November 1964, when Mr. Mayanja Nkangi had just been elected Buganda Katikkiro replacing Kintu, Obote held a meeting at State House, Entebbe attended by Ibingira and William Kalema. Obote revealed why he was falling out with Muteesa. He complained that Baganda were not recognizing him the same way they recognize Kabaka during official functions held in Buganda region. Obote cited the poor reception he received at Nakivubo stadium during a football match he had before attended together with Muteesa. Muteesa had been received with immense applause on arrival compared to a paltry applause that was extended to Obote. At the end of the State House meeting, Kalema who had defected from KY to UPC; tried to mend fences by rushing to leak Obote revelations to Katikkiro Nkangi. Ibingira as well went and informed Muteesa. In fact, when Muteesa asked Ibingira what his reaction was when Obote said so, Ibingira replied that “I told Dr. Obote not to worry about Buganda’s refusal to recognize him; after all, the people of Akokoro in Lango, your birth place are recognizing you as the executive prime minister”.

Ibingira’s statement was a rib cracker as the two; Muteesa and Ibingira laughed over it for almost half a minute after which Muteesa chorused one of his favourite Christian song- yazukira mubafu nga abawangudde abalabe be.

With Muteesa, Obote split widening; Kirya a good friend of Muteesa though a member of UPC and at the time minister of minerals and water resources, reached out to Daudi Ochieng, a KY member with whom they were part of the team that negotiated the UPC-KY alliance. Kirya provided partial evidence to Ochieng about the gold, ivory and cash transactions which Col. Amin and other government officials were profiteering from Zaire. Part of the gold and cash were actually rewards Amin and other Ugandan military officers were receiving for clandestinely extending military support to Simba rebels of Pierre Mulele and also to Tshombe Kapende during the Katanga crisis (1960-1965). The army commander, Brig. Shaban Opolot also collaborated by availing Ochieng with Amin’s bank account details from Ottoman bank that had been credited with shs 0.3m just in one day. Ibingira whom Obote had helped during the 1964 Gulu UPC annual general meeting to defeat John Kakonge as UPC secretary general was the fulcrum of the Ochieng-Opolot-Kirya axis. The amount of evidence Opolot, Kirya and Ibingira provided Ochieng with, explains why the February 4, 1966 motion to suspend Amin was overwhelming supported by Parliament and cabinet ministers.

Actually, Kakonge was as well convinced but opted to solely oppose the resolution in order not to give political mileage to his archrival Ibingira whose ambitions to oust Obote were then conspicuous. Just like Ibingira, Kakonge, was positioning himself as the next prime minister of Uganda ahead to the 1967 elections that were never held after Obote abrogated the constitution.

At the time Parliament passed Amin suspension resolution, Obote was on a tour of northern Uganda. Suspecting a possible military coup, Obote sent an express message to Amin, then deputy army commander to tight mark the army officers in the conspiracy like Brig. Opolot and Brig. Perineyo Okoya. Okoya wanted Amin suspended since the two were jostling over replacing Opolot as the Army Commander as Ibingira and Kakonge were jostling to succeed Obote. Out of that jostling, Ibingira would frequently chest thump among friends that Muteesa and KY in general would support him if he stood against Obote. Of course Ibingira would say this as security operatives under the command of Obote’s cousin, Akena Adoko were eavesdropping.

Honestly, Muteesa liked Ibingira so much even though Ibingira was eight years younger than him. Ibingira had confided to Muteesa that he (Ibingira) was part of the Ankole royal family ancestry. In him,

Muteesa found a person that would respect, support, preserve and nurture monarchies whenever they existed. This confidence further blossomed when Muteesa was briefed that Ibingira was in deed financing then outspoken Eriabu Lwebuga to move around Kampala criticizing Obote’s excesses against Muteesa. Lwebuga was famous for urging people to shun Obote as the only way he claimed would help preserve and protect Kabaka Muteesa’s dignity and honour in “Buganda, Uganda, East Africa, Africa and the whole world’.

In all this, Obote was as well suspicious of Muteesa-Ibingira friendship hence, when Obote returned from the 15 day Northern Uganda tour and witnessed the level of political damage Ibingira had done within his UPC party to the existent of convening a cabinet meeting in his absence that resolved to support Ochieng motion yet the January 31, 1966 UPC parliamentary caucus Obote had chaired resolved to oppose Amin suspension resolution; Obote decided on February 22, 1966 to order for the arrest of Ibingira and his associates; Balaki Kirya, Dr. Emmanuel Lumu, Mathias Ngobi and George Magezi.

Thereafter, Obote irked Muteesa and KY in general when he abolished the 1962 Constitution. His action meant that Muteesa was no longer the non-executive President. Obote declared himself as the executive president of the created Republic of Uganda. At this point, Prof. Lukonge Binaisa took over the driving seat as Obote’s most trusted legal adviser manifesting with his in-put in the infamous Pigeon Hall Constitution.

At Mengo, the decision by Obote to abrogate the Constitution caused more tempers to flare. Suspecting a possible rebellion, Obote on the evening of April 14, 1966 contacted then Buganda Treasurer, Saulo

Lubega famous for his black Mercedes Benz model 220 to tell Katikkiro Nkangi to meet him at State House, Entebbe the following day.

Interestingly, Nkangi told Lubega to ask Obote to invite him formally through a written letter enclosed with the agenda of the meeting. The following day, Nkangi went to Twekobe and briefed Sir Edward what he had told Obote. Muteesa nodded his head in approval. Muteesa in the meantime consulted many legal brains like Charles Njojo, the then Attorney General of Kenya in a meeting coordinated by his fellow Kikuyu, Ms. Ngatho. Muteesa had earlier on February 9, 1966 consulted Sir Udo Udoma.

With varying potential courses of action at hand, Katikkiro Nkangi was proposing a legal battle against Obote for violating the Constitution.

Such position was severely opposed by several members of Buganda Lukiiko led by James Lutaaya (Mukwenda).

Lutaaya was such a confidant of Muteesa having studied together at Cambridge and played football with him in Kayunga Football Club.

Lutaaya secretly worked on the drafting of the motion that was tabled in Buganda Lukiiko by George Kaggwa Nyanja of Kooki County. The motion demanded Obote to remove his government on Buganda’s soil. The motion’s justification for Buganda’s ownership of Kampala was legally based on the consideration of one shilling which the 1962 Constitution stipulated as the ground rental fee (busulu) which the central government was at the time paying annually to Buganda treasury for operating from its land. When tabled, the motion caught unaware many members of Kabaka’s cabinet. In deed, Katikkiro Nkangi was one of them who in the process demanded the Speaker of the Lukiiko, Eriasafu Kalule for a brief adjournment to consult Kaggwa, the mover of the motion.

During the adjournment, Kaggwa and Nkangi went upstairs in Katikkiro’s office in Bulange. They agreed to amend the resolution so that the clause demanding Obote to remove his government from Buganda soil is deleted and replaced with a threat for legal action in case Obote didn’t reinstate the 1962 constitution which he had abolished. When the Lukiiko session resumed, Nkangi moved the amendment as agreed upon with Kaggwa. Surprisingly, Kaggwa stood up after Nkangi’s submission and opposed the amendments a thing that caused massive jubiliations in the fully packed Buganda Lukiiko gallery. The resolution was therefore passed on May 22, 1966.

When Obote received the Lukiiko resolution at State House, he exclaimed thrice-rebellion! Later, Muteesa and Nkangi accessed a chit in Binaisa’s hand writing proposing to Obote the arrest of three Buganda county chiefs that heavily supported the resolution. These were; James Lutaaya (Mukwenda), Lameck Sebanakita (Kimbugwe) and Michael Matovu Ssebbwagga (Pokino).

In a further attempt to test the mood at Mengo, Obote on May 23, 1966 directed Amin to send three military jeeps mounted with machine guns to pass around Mengo palace, then through Kabakanjagala road and around Bulange building where groups of angry Baganda were forming.

Obote anticipated angry Baganda around those areas to throw stones at those military jeeps which would justify any army retaliation in self defence. Fortunately, such didn’t happen. Eventually, on May 24, Obote directed Amin to attack Mengo palace forcing Muteesa into exile where he died from.


The writer is a researcher

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