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Remembering Sir Edward Mutesa II, a great man of our time

By Kavuma Kaggwa

Added 20th November 2020 10:11 AM

Remembering Sir Edward Mutesa II, a great man of our time



It is important for the people of Buganda and Uganda to remember Sir Edward Mutesa II who was one of the famous Kings of Buganda and the first President of Uganda after Independence.

He was born on November 19, 1924. November 19 used to be a big day in Buganda during his time and it should be revived now that we have restored the Buganda Kingdom, other kingdoms, and cultural institutions in Uganda.

He was President of Uganda from March 1963 to May 1966. He was also the Kabaka (King) of the Buganda Kingdom from 1939 to November 19, 1969.

He was educated at King's College Buddo, Makerere University, and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. While in the UK, he also trained as a soldier in the Queen's Grenadier Guards acquiring the rank of Colonel.

This military training helped him a great deal to fight off Obote's army when it attacked his Palace at Mengo early in the morning on May 24, 1966. He fought for seven hours and wiped out the entire "special force" of 2000 men before he escaped from the Palace with a few of his soldiers and ran into exile in UK where he passed away (okukisa omukono in Luganda) on November 19, 1969. If he had lived until today, he would be 96 years old today.

It is generally known in Buganda that he was poisoned by Obote's secret agents who tracked him in London.

When Mutesa II went into exile in the United Kingdom, Milton Obote vowed to follow him there and finish him off. With his little knowledge of the Baganda, Obote believed that by annihilating the Kabaka he would kill the Baganda's love for the Kingdom.

He set up a dreadful intelligence network called the "General Service Unit" (GSU) headed by his brother Akena Adoko and they embarked on the task of tracking the Kabaka. 

News spread everywhere in Uganda that they were spending sh250,000 per week, in foreign currency to track down the Kabaka. They had completely failed to track him, but luck struck them that the late Tanzanian Politician Oscar Kambona, who was the founding Secretary-General of former Tanzanian Political Party  TANU,  which fought for Tanzania's Independence and later fell out with the late President Julius Nyerere and fled into exile in London, organised his birthday party one day in November 1969 and invited Sir Edward Mutesa.

He also invited a certain Muganda girl who had been recruited by the General Service Unit to go to London and befriend Sir Edward, be close to him, and poison him. Unfortunately, Kambona had no information that this girl was dangerous.   

She came close to the Kabaka during the party. It was reported that the Kabaka invited the girl to his birthday party on November 19, 1969 and that was the time she managed to poison him because she was the one serving the Kabaka with soft drinks that particular evening.

This story was told to me in Nairobi by the late Paul Kavuma former Prime Minister of Buganda (1950 -1955), who passed through Nairobi to go to London to attend the first funeral of the Kabaka. He came to me at East African Airways on Koinange Street and I quickly organised a return ticket to London. When he came back he narrated to me all that he was told both in Kampala and London.

He said when news spread everywhere in Kampala that the Kabaka had passed away, Obote and his Government wanted the body to be flown back to Entebbe.

He said that he got reliable information that Obote was going to handle the remains of Sekabaka Mutesa in a way that would annoy the Baganda and cause terrible fighting and result in loss of life.

Paul Kavuma was shocked and he quickly contacted Buganda's friends in London and told them to plead to the British Government to bury the Sekabaka Mutesa in London temporarily until when the political situation had changed in Uganda.

The remains of Sir Edward Mutesa were brought back by President Idi Amin in 1972 and he was buried according to the Baganda tradition and customs at Kasubi Tombs.

The attack on the palace came as a result of a bitter political disagreement between Edward Mutesa, who was a ceremonial Head of State, and Milton Obote, who was the Executive Prime Minister and took advantage of an army which was dominated by people from his area in the North of Uganda.

Sir Edward Mutesa II was elected the first President by the Parliament of Uganda on the strong recommendation of Milton Obote and his party UPC in line with the agreement between Milton Obote/UPC and the former Buganda Kabaka Yekka Party (KY) in 1962.

Both parties agreed to form a coalition Government after the Buganda Lukiiko voted to give all the 21 nominated Buganda MPs to UPC to enable if form a Government when Independence was coming on October 09. 1962.

Sir Edward Mutesa was always smartly dressed - be it in the Kiganda kanzu and a coat or an English Suit or a military uniform. He was always setting standards for men in Buganda.

He was a darling of the people in Buganda and Uganda. The princes and princesses of Toro and Ankole kingdoms grew up in the Palace at Mengo.

Sir Edward Mutesa promoted national unity and that was the sole reason why the Buganda Lukiiko allowed Kabaka Yekka Party to make a political alliance with UPC in 1962. It is also remembered that when he was the President, he offered the whole of his salary to the people of Karamoja to develop that Region. He also built a hospital for the people of Karamoja, in Moroto.

Sir Edward Mutesa played a big role in the struggle for the Independence of Uganda and Kenya. He demanded Independence in 1953 and was exiled. When he came back from exile in 1955, he signed the 1955 Buganda Agreement on October 18, which set out the "Road Map" for Uganda's Independence.

The 1955 Buganda Agreement had an important Clause which clearly stipulated that - "There will be no major Constitutional Changes in Uganda until the year 1961". The major Constitutional changes came in March 1961 with Internal Self Government, and full Independence on October 9, 1962.

During the time of his exile in London (1953-1955), there was a secret link between him and Ignatius Musazi. When he returned from exile, he secretly gave material support to Uganda National Congress during the most critical time of the struggle for Independence 1956 to 1959.

Sir Edward Mutesa financed the Mau Mau war for Independence in Kenya. How did this come about??

In 1945 Omutaka Semakula-Mulumba attended the 1945 Manchester Conference in the UK where the Famous African Freedom Fighters resolved to liberate the whole of Africa.

In 1946, Jomo Kenyatta and Semakula-Mulumba came back in the same ship. Semakula-Mulumba was made a Kikuyu Elder at Dagorati village near Nairobi. (Kenyatta went back to London briefly, and he finally came back to Kenya in 1948 to launch the Mau Mau war of Independence for Kenya).

Arriving in Mombasa, Kenyatta declared that he was going to launch a war of Independence. He named the war MAU MAU which Meant Muzungu Aludi Ulaya Mwafrica Apate Uhuru (MAU MAU). Kenyatta said he had no money to fund the war. Semakula-Mulumba told him that he would approach the Kabaka of Buganda and request him to assist Kenyatta financially.

Semakula-Mulumba secretly approached the Kabaka Sir Edward Mutesa II on this matter and the Kabaka gladly accepted to give Kenyatta money to fight for Kenya's Independence.

Kabaka Mutesa financed the MAU MAU war from the beginning to the end because he had a lot of money from coffee grown in Buganda and taxes collected from Baganda.

It was good that at time the currency that was used in Uganda Kenya and Tanzania was the East African Shilling. Even during his exile in 1953-1955, the then Katikkiro of Buganda Paul Kavuma and then Minister for Finance the late Latima Mpagi sent the money to Kenyatta. 

That financial support greatly solidified the personal friendship between Sir Edward Mutesa and Jomo Kenyatta. Jomo Kenyatta allowed Ugandans to live in Kenya happily after the 1966 Mengo Crisis in Uganda.

At the time of Independence in 1962, Sir Edward Mutesa proposed that the Buganda Emblem, the Shield and Spears (Amafumu n'Engabo) should be turned into the Uganda National Emblem, but without the Lion at the bottom. The Lion was removed and River Nile, the Coffee crop, and the Cotton crop were put in its place at the bottom. The Drum in the middle is the Buganda Drum (Mujaguzo). Milton Obote proposed the Crested Crane and the Uganda Kob.

Sir Edward Mutesa always wanted people to be educated and civilised and to live in a good life in their homes as well as work hard to be wealthy. He was a regular visitor to various schools in Buganda.

He built Masaka Technical Institute which is now Mutesa I Royal University. He also built Bulange, the Seat of the Kabaka's Government in Mengo.

The engineers who built the Bulange were hired from the United Kingdom and the green tiles were imported from Belgium. Bulange is one of the big historical buildings in Africa.

The other Historical Buildings in Uganda are; The High Court of Uganda, Rubaga Cathedral, Namirembe Cathedral, Kibuli Mosque, and The National Mosque at Old Kampala.    

Sir Edward Mutesa had plans to establish agricultural Buganda state farms on the 9000 square in the different areas of Buganda to produce food and other cash crops mainly for export. The whole of Namanve forest on Jinja road was to be a Buganda State Farm growing mainly coffee, pineapples, mangoes, passion fruits, and oranges. These plans did not materialize because of the 1966 crisis.

Socially, we will always remember Sir Edward Mutesa II as one who spoke English like a real Englishman. He very much loved hunting and playing football. He left power unceremoniously with gunfire behind him. Unfortunately, all the recordings of his speeches which were in the archives of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and at the Palace and Bulange in Mengo were vandalised by Obote's army who were following his orders.

We thank God that his Kingdom was restored by President Museveni on July 31, 1993, after the Baganda and Banyankole formed an army NRA, with President Museveni and fought a bitter five-year war in Luwero and removed the tyrannical rule in Uganda completely.

The writer is an elder from Kyaggwe Mukono District. Tel: 0772-584423

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