By Joachim Buwembo
Newly published by Cambridge Scholars....., the ‘Protection, Patronage or Plunder? by Apollo Nelson Makubuya could not have come at a more opportune time than now when efforts to get a national dialogue going are in high gear.
After reading the rather voluminous 520-page well researched work, you only wish that the racist saying that if you want to hide something from an African put it in a book, didn’t hold.
For the book not only covers all the past attempts to find a settlement for Uganda’s political ‘questions’ that never seems to succeed, but the author relies on recently declassified documents right from the proverbial horse’s mouth — the archives of the most influential external forces that have influenced and continue to influence developments in Uganda. In fact, about a quarter of the book is references.
The spelling of ‘(B)Uganda’ is explained from the outset and the interchangeable use of the names ‘Buganda’ and ‘Uganda’ becomes understandable throughout the book, as Buganda was the lead player with British before and during their 68-year rule over Uganda.
The disciplined, academic approach the author uses sets this work at a very high level compared to the several political publications on Uganda that are largely inspired by disappointment of players who become authors.
But lets us not forget that Makubuya himself is a ‘political Muganda’ and a palace insider who has served as the current Kabaka’s Attorney General and now deputy Katikkiro.
So he is both passionate and a very interested party in the ‘Buganda cause’. However, personal interest is mitigated by the disciplined scholar’s approach that almost put him above reproach.
The biggest value that Protection, Patronage, or Plunder? brings on the table is exposing in detail the previously hidden interests behind the past agreements, some of them personal, in drafting them.
The negotiations and agreements covered in the book start with the pre-colonial, colonial, the de-colonisational and the post-independence ones.
So rich is the coverage that even the earlier attempts at creating the East African Federation are covered in detail.
The behind the scenes interests are quite revealing, if one compares the deals cut by individual Buganda aristocrats for themselves over a century and a quarter ago with today’s political class. There is a sense of Ecclesiastis — that there is nothing new under the sun — when you read and see how the Apollo Kaggwas of today tend to fall from power to dejection.
The challenges that faced Kaggwa’s successors should be a lesson to President Yoweri Museveni’s successor, coming after such a long, uniterrupted leadership.
The book is also rich in impactful events that may sound anecdotal today but were quite momentous, like the remarriage to a commoner or to anybody for that matter of Namasole, the Kabaka’s mother who to traditional Baganda is like the Virgin Mary is to Catholics, an event that strengthened the rebellious tendency of conservative Baganda towards the Kabaka.
In fact, only the reigning Muwenda Mutebi II has not had a hard time with his subjects.
Also, the rarely reported Daudi Chwa often remembered as an infant king most of whose reign was practically under the thumb of Apollo Kaggwa, is recast in new light of a nationalist who resistance to the colonialists has hitherto been under-reported.
The men who have led Uganda longest namely Museveni, Obote and Amin plus the forces around them are all well covered in the narrative.
Although Makubuya the Muganda comes out rather clearly in covering the Museveni era, which is understandable since he is a senior kingdom official, it also signifies the growing tendency of Baganda to stop apologising for the mistakes made by a long-gone faction that actually brought down their kingdom and indeed acted against the interests of majority Baganda.
And since then, other Ugandan communities have had their share of stigma arising from the selfish acts of a few powerful men like Amin’s actions that worked against the West Nilers, Kony’s actions that worked against the Acholi and Obote’s actions that caused the reprisals against the Langi in the seventies and in the second half of 1985 when he fell for the second and last time.
For those who have read Prof Lwanga Lunyiigo’s Mwanga II’s resistsnce to the imposition of colonial rule over Uganda, Protection, Patronage, or Plunder? is a good sequel. It is also a must-read for whoever is interested in truth as basis for finding a lasting settlement and harmony for the future of Uganda.
But the is not the last word on Uganda’s political disagreements which sometimes turn violent. It is however a frank expose of what has so far not been public.