Since October 9, 1962; whether in peace or turmoil every year, Ugandans celebrate Independence Day.
But how was the October 9, 1962 chosen as our Independence Day? Some people claim that the day was unanimously chosen by the members of the famous Lancaster Conference in England that debated the Uganda Independence Constitution. They claim that October 9, was chosen as a token of appreciation to Buganda’s Kabaka Mukabya aka Muteesa I of Buganda kingdom who died on October 9, 1884. And so members of the Lancaster Conference, in their wisdom chose Uganda’s Independence Day to coincide with the day Kabaka Mukabya died.
Why choose the “day of death” to coincide with the “birth day” of a country? Historians reason that Kabaka Mukabya was a revolutionary, an icon who invited Christian missionaries to Uganda and which missionaries brought civilization in form of western education, health and all other means of development. If that was the case, why were other proceedings not captured in the Lancaster Conference report except that alone.
But according to the document titled: “The report of the Uganda constitutional conference, 1961 and the text of the agreed draft of the new Buganda agreement initiated in London on 9th October 1961” which recorded details of the conference it does not mention that the October 9, 1961 was chosen in honour of Muteesa I, the late king of Buganda. As a matter of fact, Chapter VII, paragraph 171 of the report reads:
“After careful consideration of the views expressed by delegates, the Secretary of State [Ian Macleod] announced that Uganda would attain internal self-government on 1st March, 1961. The constitution would provide that a general election to the new National Assembly should take place before mid Apri.l”
The report furthers stated, “…provided that the necessary discussions could be completed and arrangement made in time, Uganda would attain independence exactly one year from the last day of the conference, i.e. on October 9, 1962”.
The conference held 17 plenary sessions before conclusion and had 50 delegates from Uganda representing political parties, kingdoms, districts and local governments. The Lancaster conference which debated the Uganda independence constitution was officially opened on September 18, and closed October 9, 1961 by Secretary of State Ian Macleod.
Now, the question is why wouldn’t the chair, Macleod feel so proud to mention that the October 9, 1962 was chosen in honour of Kabaka Muteesa I for inviting British missionaries to Uganda. Could it be that the date clandestinely decided by some individuals? And if that was the case, would it have served the purpose of making a public attribution to the late king of Buganda?
Owing to the political situation in Uganda at the time including Buganda kingdom alone signing an agreement with Britain in July 1961 as well as Buganda’s attempt to secede which angered other regions of Uganda, and the fact that the Lancaster conference could not be hosted in Kampala because of intimidation from Buganda, it would have been impossible to convince the Lancaster conference delegates to accept Uganda’s independence day to be in memory of the Kabaka Muteesa of Buganda.
This can be judged from the statement recorded in the document titled: “Report of the Uganda Relationships Commission 1961” also known as the “Munster Commission”, from whose content was also the basis of the 1962 Uganda Independence Constitution having thought view of several Ugandans.
On page 60 under the topic the Head of State, it reads: “This is the last of the group of topics which provoke strong tribal feelings” And he added: “…One or two witnesses proposed to us that the Kabaka himself should be the head of State. This would certainly have the support of the Baganda and probably of some parts of the eastern province [Busoga]. But the west and north of the country are strongly opposed to the Kabaka as the future Head of State, saying that he should have no authority outside Buganda and that Buganda’s constant opposition to the unification of the country disqualifies the Kabaka in any case”.
The report further said: “Although we ourselves would not rule out the kabaka as Head of State if we thought it would solve the problem, we are convinced that it will not happen. Indeed, it would be certain to provoke violent discord. Nor do we think that the position would appeal to the Kabaka or to the traditionalist party in Buganda. They are interested in the government of their own tribe and not in an office of powerless dignity in a wider union of tribes”.
Now, with such sentiments, it would indeed be almost impossible to convince delegates from beyond Buganda to choose and accept the October 9, as Uganda’s Independence Day in memory of the day the Buganda king, Muteesa died.
HOW BUGANDA DELAYED UGANDA’S INDEPENDENCE
Uganda could have got independence earlier than it did on October 9, 1962. If Buganda kingdom had joined hands with the rest of the country, Uganda’s independence could have come at an earlier date. But, instead of joining the rest of the country and fight together for independence, Buganda wanted to secede and declare its independence before Uganda. Because of that, Uganda’s independence could not come at an earlier date.
Perhaps the earliest agitation for independence was during the June 1946 and 1949 aborted revolutions that had been started in Buganda. That is what the British termed as ‘mere Buganda riots’.
Francis Semakula Mulumba, who first called for Uganda’s independence as early as 1947 was viciously opposed by Buganda traditionalists. Semakula lobbied independence for Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika as was called then. So unfortunate that Semakula-Mulumba and not Ignatius Musaazi is mentioned as the leader of the struggle or negotiations for Uganda’s independence. But facts exonerate him. For instance, after the 1949 Buganda riots, intelligence profile about Semakula-Mulumba reads: “There is clear evidence that he [Semakula-Mulumaba] has been in touch with communists in London and it is significant that his petition [for Uganda’s independence] to U.N.O [now UN] was forwarded by the Russian Ambassador, Mr. Gromyiko”.
Semakula-Mulumba had on November 18, 1947, from London written to Russian Ambassador, Andrei A. Gromyiko seeking diplomatic support for the independence of the then three East African states.
“The political situation is very bad for the Africans in the three East African territories of Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika. Matters have come to such a head that the African find no other course open to them than referring them to UNO” in part, Semakula-Mulumba’s letter to Gromyiko read in part.
Buganda struggles to secede
It was Buganda’s attempt to secede that delayed Uganda’s independence.
This, the Democratic Party (DP) leader, Benedicto Kiwanuka who later became the first prime minister of Uganda in 1961 affirmed at a press conference in London, England.
“…Governor [Fredrick] Crawford is incompetent to lead Uganda” he said: Since 1957 when Buganda refused to send its members to the LEGCO [Legislative Council], and the Governor said nothing about it the act sets a wrong precedent”. Kiwanuka further said that: “Buganda’s attempt to secede has delayed Uganda’s development and independence”. TheGuardian newspaper of October 5, 1960 reported. His utterances angered Buganda traditionalists led A.D Lubowa a member of the Buganda Lukiiko who wanted Kiwnauka’s arrested upon his return. When Kiwanuka returned, he on October 31, 1960 wrote a letter Kabaka Muteesa explaining his position.
Meanwhile in late 1959, the Governor of Uganda, Frederick Crawford as a representative of the Queen of England had instituted a Constitutional Committee to seek views of Ugandans on what system between federal and unitary, they wanted among other issues. It was after the Constitutional Committee Report also known as the John Wild Report was released on December 24, 1959 that Buganda declared its intention to secede. Buganda did not only refuse to have a Muganda on the Constitutional Committee but also refused to meet the Committee.
The following year, Buganda refused to send it delegates to the LEGCO and went ahead to sue the Uganda Protectorate government. They lost the case at the high Court, and went to the East African Court of Appeal where the case was dismissed. From the Wild Report it was obvious that the Prime Minister would be the head of government and the Kabaka of Buganda would not be crown the Emperor of Uganda as propagandists had claimed. Buganda was incensed.
At a public rally, Dr. E.B.S Lumu a member of the Buganda Lukiiko said: “We shall govern ourselves and Buganda under the Kabaka” the Uganda Argus newspaper of January 6, 1960 quotes.
Meanwhile, Buganda continued drumming for secession and declared independence on several occasions if we are to go by press reports quoting Buganda Lukiiko Members. The last and most memorable one being the December 31, 1960 Lukiikodeclaration that Buganda would be independent effective January 1, 1961. The Lukiiko went on to elect a committee to plan for Buganda’s independence.
The committee included: Katikiro Mikhail Kintu, Amos Sempa, L Basudde, Dr. E.B.S Lumu, S Lubega, Maliko Lwanga, Dr Muwazi, William Kalema, Daudi Mukubira and Godfrey Binaisa. The committee assigned by Kabaka Edward Muteesa was to negotiate and open embassies and consulates with friendly countries in Africa and beyond. They were given huge sums of money to execute the mission as soon as possible. Because Buganda wanted to host independence celebrations with foreign dignitaries before Uganda attain independence.
How much the Buganda independence committee got is not clear; but what is known for a fact is that no single embassy or consulate was opened anywhere in the world. So did the committee reimburse the money? From the minutes of the Lukiiko, given to the press and quoted by the Uganda Eyogera a Luganda newspaper of October 6, 1960 wrote that after the Lukiikothat after the proclamation of Buganda independence, there were jubilations outside the Bulange.
Under the title, “Buganda Omungereza emufumudde” the newspaper wrote that Buganda was to take Entebbe airport and all schools in Buganda except Makerere university, postal stamps will have a picture of Muteesa II, and Buganda would soon be a member of the Commonwealth. Katikiro Kintu also mentioned that a copy of the resolutions made by the Lukiiko of the October 5, 1960 would be sent to the Queen of England.
On December 15, 1960 Lord Munster read to the members of the Lukiiko at Bulange a letter dated: No EAF 17/6/03 December 2, 1960 written by the Secretary for Colonies of behalf of Queen of England denouncing Buganda’s act of announcing its independence. Now that the rest of the country had endorsed the Wild Report, except Buganda, because the British and other Ugandans wanted independence for a united Ugandan, there were a series of diplomatic negations to pursued Buganda to abandon the secession plan. But Buganda remained adamant.
HOW LEGCO DEBATED UGANDA’S INDEPENDENCE
Uganda’s independence was achieved through diplomatic negotiations. While in some countries citizens fought wars to attain their independence, in Uganda, not a single bullet was fired against our former colonial master. It was through diplomatic talks that the British granted Uganda independence.
The colonial parliament, otherwise known as the Legislative Council (LEGCO) was one of the arenas the independence of Uganda was requested and or debated. And while some legislators argued that Uganda should get self-government in 1958 and get independence in 1961 others said that Uganda was not ready for independence by 1961 and needed more time to prepare. From the Hansard, we bring you that debate.
The debate about Uganda’s independence was for first time discussed in LEGCO on April 29, 1957 when Hon Y.S Bamuta moved the motion titled: “Self-government for Uganda in 1958”.
Unfortunately Bamuta died before he could see Uganda getting independence he agitated for. Nonetheless, in his submission, Bamuta affirmed that Uganda should get independence immediately.
He said: “…Now therefore be resolved that this Council do request the government to open negotiations with Her Majesty government with the object of securing (a) self-government for Uganda, apart from matters of defence and foreign affairs by 1958, and (b) the complete independence of Uganda by 1961, within the British Commonwealth”
He went on: “We wish, as a people who are fit for independence, to tell the British government that the time is ripe. The will of the people is there and is expressed and we have got over five million people who are really clamouring for independence.
The will of the people is there and we feel that if independence is granted to Uganda, we shall join the happy club of nations, the British Commonwealth and nothing will be lost to the British if they do grant us this independence”. And he emphasized: “And I must say in closing that it is not a matter of asking, it is our right, our birth-right that we should have it” He begged.
Another member of LEGCO who supported the motion was Dr. E.M.K Muwazi. He said: “Some people may wonder why we want self-government snow, by 1958 and independence by 1961, as the motion puts it. well, Sir you very well know, Sir and this Council knows that self-government for Uganda has already been accepted by the British government since this is our birth-right. The only point is the date when self-government should be coming and should be achieved in Uganda”
From Bunyoro, Hon. G.B.K Magezi said he did not oppose the motion but was concerned about the timing and preparedness for independence. And this he said: “We want an intelligent government in this country. We do not you, [British] when you have begun leaving the country, to receive cables. I think a number of you, whom we know, might be the people who would be approached and whom cables would be sent saying, ‘can you come back’. That we don’t want” Magezi also mentioned disharmony and political ambiguity that needed time to iron-out.
“We have heard of the political parties in this country. There are three now, on paper I might say. I must be honest. I said I would be frank and speak my mind, and I going to say it, that we have no political party yet in this country which is well represented throughout the country.
All I can say is that every party is ‘bending its head’ to Mengo. What we have heard a number of times, and in a number of newspapers, that the Kabaka should be made the Emperor of Uganda. Who is going to accept that outside Buganda?” He quizzed “… I am not opposed to self-government. All I am saying is that the difference lies in the timing”. He said.
Another member who opposed the motion was John Babiha, specially elected member from Toro. “… There too another important factor which I want to illustrate and that is concerning tribalism. Tribal animosity in this country is nowadays assuming vast proportions.
The honorable mover could, I think have informed us in his speech as to how he going to bring about the reconciliation of the issue that has risen recently and reached a high pitch about the ‘lost counties’ if self-government were to be given by 1958 then the other people will also say ‘give us the lost counties’ – I am not concerned myself because I am not a tribal man in the area…that is one matter which the honorable , the Mover in his speech has not tried at all to clarify, nor could he by 1958 reconcile that animosity which is rife in Mbale district between the Bagisu and the Bakedi”.
Babiha further illustrated that: “Another point which the honorable Mover in his speech did not define was how, in his Constitution, he was going to fit the four hereditary rulers of Uganda?” it was not only for internal factor that some legislators were opposed to Uganda getting in 1961, but external factors were also an impediment.
“… Suppose tomorrow we are promised that self-government will be granted by 1958, before Her Majesty’s government has arrived at an agreement with the Sudan and Egyptian governments over the Nile waters, and has not made international agreements about the Belgian Congo and the Ethiopian governments. Kenya would use all its rivers for power resources, as would be the case with the Belgian Congo and then Egypt would accuse Uganda of having used the waters of the Nile excessively to her advantage and would be the cause for nations in north Africa, backed backed by Middle East countries to rise up in arms against Uganda which they eagerly desire for the abundance of it natural resources” Babiha argued in opposing the request for Uganda’s early independence.
Finally, when the motion was put to vote, it was defeated and so Ugandan had to wait for another year before for independence. In fact, according to the “Report of the Uganda Relationship Commission, 1962” also known as the “Munster Report” which sought the views of Ugandans about independence, it anticipated that Uganda could get independence in 1963.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org