Uganda Peoples Congress

UPC and the Elections of 1961 and 1962

By Yoga Adhola

Elections in preparations for independence were held in Uganda in 1961 and again in 1962 . To understand these elections we need to go back in history to the governorship of Sir Andrew Cohen. Andrew Cohen became Governor of Uganda in 1952. Prior to that, he had been Under-Secretary at the colonial Office in London. In that capacity he had earned the reputation of being dynamic and very positive to decolonization of Africans. He had been involved in the formulation of the Creech-Jones dispatch of 1947. Two major principles guided Cohen's administration. One, the belief that it was urgently necessary to increase the participation of Africans in the formulation and implementation of government policy at all levels of government. Secondly, that Uganda must move towards independence as one unit, and not fracture into several rival tribal states. There had been strong fears that the kingdom of Buganda might want to sever itself from the rest of the colony from around 1949.

In March 1953, together with the Kabaka of Buganda, Edward Mutesa II, Sir Andrew issued a joint memorandum on constitutional development and reform in Buganda. Among other reforms, two political changes were announced: 60 of the 89 Lukiiko (Buganda Parliament) members were to be elected, and the Kabaka agreed to consult a Lukiiko Committee before selecting his ministers. (Low, D.A. & Pratt, R.C. 1960: 317-349; Low, D.A. 1971: 106) These two reforms were bound to dramatically democratize politics in Buganda, and therefore greatly weaken the entrenched position of the neo-traditionalists who were holding the reigns of power. The doors to office and responsibility were also being opened to those elements in Buganda who were opposed to both British colonial rule and the neo-traditional chiefs and ministers, in one word the Uganda nationalists from Buganda. The other intended effect - and perhaps the most significant - was to begin the process of facilitating the atrophy of the Kabaka and other tribal institutions. The memorandum also included the following paragraph: "The Uganda Protectorate has been and will continue to be developed as a unitary state. The kingdom of Buganda will continue to go forward under the government of His Highness the Kabaka and play its part…as a province and component part of the Protectorate."

This accord was greeted with some dissatisfaction in some circles. The Lukiko (Buganda's legislative council) gradually reneged from any undertaking to accept a role for Buganda as a constituent and hence subordinate part of an African state. However, in spite of Buganda's opposition, Cohen proceeded with his efforts to increase African participation in central government policy making. Addressing the Legislative Council on August 30th 1953, he announced several reforms in the body, including increasing the number of African members of the council from 8 out of 32 to 20 out of 56 and an increase of the unofficial representation from 16 to 28, of which as in the past, one half would be Africans to be elected by the African-controlled district Councils. The Kabaka on behalf of Buganda refused to nominate members to the Legislative Council.

Matters became worse with the speech made in Nairobi by Littleton (later Lord Chandos), the Colonial Secretary on 30th June, 1953. The speech alluded to the possibility "as time goes on of still larger measures of unification and federation of the whole of East African territories."(Low, D.A. & Pratt, R.C. 1960: 323) Reacting to the speech, the Kabaka wrote to the Governor that "the statement of the Secretary of State for the colonies is bound not only to shake the foundations of trust amongst our people but will badly damage the good relations which hitherto exists between Buganda and the British."(Low, D.A. & Pratt, R.C. 1960: 324) To this, the colonial authorities responded with assurances that the Kabaka dismissed as far weaker than previous ones. The Kabaka also made two demands: (a) that the affairs of Buganda be transferred from the colonial office to the foreign office; and (b) that a timetable for Buganda's (not Uganda's) independence be prepared. Clearly these two demands were intended to begin the process of detaching Buganda from the rest of Uganda. The Kabaka was to later argue, "the policy of developing a unified system of government along parliamentary lines must inevitably result in Buganda becoming less and less important in the future." (Low, D.A. & Pratt, R.C 1960: 325)

There was no way the British were going to accept the dismemberment of the colony. After long and patient-wearing negotiations intended to persuade the Kabaka to drop the demands, the Governor reminded the Kabaka of the three conditions upon which cooperation with the British was to be based. When the Kabaka rejected these conditions, the Governor withdrew British recognition from Mutesa as provided for in the 1900 Agreement and deported him to Britain. The Baganda got thunderstruck by the news of the deportation, and a profound sense of pain and shock overwhelmed the kingdom. The Kabaka's sister collapsed and died on hearing the news, and her funeral was a peculiarly tense moment. All this was because, to the Baganda of those days, the Kabaka was the visible link between them and the cosmos. He played the role of a major psychological pillar of support. A move that undermined his authority was damning. This is what is usually called the Buganda crisis of 1953.

Following the deportation, the British initially prosecuted a strategy to have Mutesa replaced as Kabaka. Some efforts were made to persuade Mutesa to renounce his rights to the throne, and to get him to agree not to return to Uganda without the consent of the British government. When Mutesa could not acquiesce, the colonial authorities found themselves in a legal bind.(Low & Pratt 1960:333) The constitutional basis upon which the Governor could act in a crisis such as the one then raging was either Article 6 or Article 20 of the 1990 agreement. Article 20 provided that "should the Kabaka chiefs or people of Uganda (meaning Buganda) pursue, at any time, a policy which is distinctly disloyal to the British Protectorate; Her Majesty's Government will no longer consider themselves bound by the terms of this Agreement."(Kiwanuka, M.S.M. 1971: 299; Low, D.A. & Pratt, R.C. 1960: 362) In Article 6 the British Government pledged to recognize the Kabaka as the native ruler of Buganda as long as the Kabaka, chiefs and people of Buganda conformed to laws and rules instituted by the British Government. However, as the colonial authorities were eager to preserve the legal basis of the rest of the Buganda government, they stopped short of invoking these provisions.

Addressing the Lukiiko on 3rd March 1954, Governor Cohen put forward the view that "a representative group of Baganda, with such independent help as could be secured, should think through their own problems in preparation for some subsequent discussions which he was prepared to hold with them."(Low, D.A. 1971: 114; & 136 footnote 54; also The Times 4 March, 1954) By independent help Cohen meant expert assistance in the form of an academic. This role fell upon Professor Keith Hancock, then Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London. Hancock left London for Uganda on 21st June 1954, taking with him an assistant and a secretary. In Uganda he pitched camp at Namirembe Hill, the Anglican Church headquarters, rather than government premises. The Buganda committee that was selected to do business with Hancock "was not typical of the membership of the Lukiiko; and the absence from it of Amos Sempa, the exceptionally adroit Secretary of the Lukiiko was an indication that it had been formed with a view to its being easily repudiated if necessary." (Low, D.A. 1971: 118)

At the first meeting of the committee, Hancock was unanimously elected chairman. During the sessions that followed, the committee got polarized over the issue of what came to be known as a federal "fence" for Buganda. A number of committee members sought Buganda to be regarded as an entity separate and distinct from the rest of Uganda, something which Hancock did not quite accept. For many members of the Committee, Bishop Kiwanuka hit the nail on the head when he argued that the major problems would easily be resolved if it was recognized that Buganda was a nation. Hancock, after resisting this position for sometime eventually conceded that "a special relationship between Buganda, and Uganda might just be feasible."(Low. D.A. 1971: 122-123) Later, as had been planned, the Governor joined the discussion in July 1954. The involvement of the Governor transformed the Buganda Constitution Committee into what came to be known as the Namirembe Conference. After fairly lengthy deliberations, the Conference drafted a new agreement to replace the 1900 Agreement. This was a pivotal accomplishment: it cleared the way for an accord to be reached in London early in 1955. By this accord, it was agreed the Kabaka would return, and the Lukiiko would accept the new Agreement. Following this Mutesa returned on 17th October 1955, amid tumultuous rejoicing. To Mutesa and the Baganda generally, whatever the contents of the 1955 Agreement (which was signed on 18th October), the mere act of the return was viewed as triumph. (Low, D.A. 1971: 133) The ability with which the Baganda won the return of the Kabaka heightened their separatist sentiments and chauvinism, leading them to assume they could "act and negotiate independently and without reference to the wishes and sentiments of other tribes of Uganda." (Low, D.A & Pratt, R.C. 1960: 349)

The return of the Kabaka in 1955 through a resolution which seemed to be a triumph for Buganda exacerbated the feeling among the Baganda chauvinists that they were destined to rule the rest of Ugandans after independence. They had got imbued with this feeling from factors which we have discussed at the earlier part of the essay. They were also relatively wealthy compared to other Ugandans, had a greater degree of sophistication in European culture, and had relatively higher educational attainment - all of which arose from the British favors of the Baganda. The engine of this revanchism (Nzongola-Ntalaja, 1985: 545-546) was the neo-traditionalists. They had garnered themselves tremendous political prestige during the Kabaka's deportation; most Baganda felt they owed the return of the Kabaka to the neo-traditionalists. With this support from Buganda, having been used by the British to run the affairs of the kingdom for half a century, and, viewing the rest of the country as no more than an appendage to Buganda, the neo-traditionalist assumed power was to be passed on to them at independence. In this frame of mind, the neo-traditionalists began to act like people who had been understudying the British, and who merely had to work out the appropriate mechanism for the transfer of power.

This assumption and concomitant conduct was received in very bad taste by the rest of the colony, not ready to simply change masters. The first, openly high-powered resistance to these Ganda presumptions was voiced on the floor of the Legico. Assuming that conditions were ripe for power to be passed over to them, a representative of the neo-traditionalists moved a motion in the Legico in April 1956 that Uganda be granted independence by 1958. In the ensuing debate, George Magezi, later a prominent member of the UPC spoke for many when he opposed the motion saying: "We have no political party which is well represented throughout the country. All I can say is that every party is bending its head to Mengo."(Lowenkopf, M. 1961: 60 ref 2) All the Ganda representatives voted for the resolution except Father Masagazi, a Roman Catholic. Father Masagazi's vote is significant because he, like other opponents of the bill, was not opposed to self-government per se, but the fact that such a possibility in the immediate future would mean a Ganda dominated government which in turn, to him, would be neo-traditionalist (or Protestant) dominated government. The bill was defeated.

The message from this defeat landed on totally deaf ears. The neo-traditionalists still assumed power would be passed on to them at independence. To this effect, at a meeting of the Lukiiko in 1957, the Omuwankia (Treasurer) of Buganda let slip a remark that Uganda ought to become "a Federal state under the Kabaka". (Low, D.A. 1971: 191) Then in 1958 a committee of the Lukiiko announced that they had asked the colonial authorities to ensure that the Kabaka became "king" of the self-governing Uganda. These acts of chauvinism gave rise to a crescendo of hstility in the rest of the country. The Katikiros (Chancellors) of the Western Province kingdoms talked of forming the Western Provincial Council to resist Buganda. In the rest of the country, contrary to earlier expectations by Baganda, Legico members organized the District Councils to pass angry resolutions against the chauvinism of the Baganda. As the resentment to Ganda chauvinism mounted, rumors began to spread that "the old and widespread hostility against them (the Baganda chauvinists) would be channeled into a new-style political party." (Low, D.A. 1971: 190)

By this time the polarization of Uganda politics, with Baganda chauvinists on one side, and the rest of the Ugandans on the other side was becoming obvious. The neo-traditionalist who were then leading Buganda became more apprehensive about the position of Buganda after independence. They knew that a balance of power between Buganda and the rest of Uganda which was favorable to them and which ensured their dominance in Buganda depended upon the British. Because of the strong ties between the British and the neo-traditionalists which had existed since the battle of Mengo in 1892, the neo-traditionalists believed the British were more inhibited from a blunt use of central government powers against Buganda than a nationalist government that was led by non-Ganda or by Ganda opposed to the neo-traditionalists. The Baganda, therefore, desired, at the very least, constitutional guarantees before central authority passed into African hands.

The non-Ganda, on the other had, were pressing for rapid progress toward full independence. Early in 1956 the non-Ganda Legislative Council (Legico) representatives prevailed upon the council to debate the advisability of holding direct elections for the next Legico. In the course of the debate, the Governor announced new policies on elections which went far toward meeting the demand of the nationalists (or non-Baganda). He revealed that after "full local discussions throughout the country," he intended to introduce direct elections on a common role for representatives to the Legico from all parts of the colony, possibly for the next Legico but one in 1961. "Some of the most important issues which will have to be studied and discussed are qualifications and disqualifications for voters and candidates, the question whether women should have the vote and the appropriate methods of securing adequate representation of non-African communities under the common roll." (Andrew Cohen, 1957) He emphasized that the appropriate time to debate these issues would be the period of the 1958-61 Legico.

The Governor also recommended that direct elections be held in Buganda at the end of 1957, as provided for in the Buganda Agreement of 1955. The direct elections in Buganda, he observed, would "provide an excellent opportunity of testing the method of direct elections in preparation for the general examination throughout the country in the period between 1958 and 1961." (Andrew Cohen paragraph 7) The rest of the country did not like this apparent special treatment of Buganda, and as a report of the Legislative Council Committee on Elections observed: "……there began to develop rapidly a feeling in parts the Eastern, Western, and Northern Provinces that any system of elections introduced for the legislative members in 1957 should be applicable to all alike and should not be confined to Buganda." (Legislative Council Committee on Elections; also quoted in Bing, J. 39) In response to this feeling, in July a committee, under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary Mr. Hartwell, to study the possibility of extending direct elections to the whole country was established. The committee recommended that direct elections on a restricted franchise should be held in all parts of the country (except Karamoja) for African representatives to the next Legico. With the support of the new Governor, the Legico debated a motion petitioning the Secretary for Colonies to allow direct elections for the Legico. While in Uganda as part of an East African fact-finding mission, the Secretary for Colonies gave his formal approval for direct elections on October 10, 1957. This was swiftly followed by the enactment of the Legislative Council (Elections) Ordinance, No. 20 of 1957 on October 16 1957.

Meanwhile Buganda's initial positive view of direct elections had eroded, as had its continued participation in the Legico. Two factors contributed to this. One, leading Baganda were beginning to realise that independence could result in a lowering of the status of the kingdom of Buganda. Secondly, the people running the show at Mengo had come to recognize that direct elections of any kind in Buganda, whether to a Uganda-wide body or to the Lukiiko, could undermine their preeminence in Buganda. There was a real possibility of the political parties having advantages over the neo-traditionalists in any election in Buganda. A way out for the neo-traditionalist was to put in place a system in which they could operate a machinery based on indirect elections in Buganda. They were sure they could control such a machinery. To this effect, on November 26, 1957 the Lukiiko urged the British government to negotiate separate settlement containing a definite timetable for Buganda (note not Ugandan) independence.

Around this same time Buganda took moves to keep out of the Legico. When a Legico member from Buganda resigned in November 1957, the Kabaka's government refused to replace him. In the early part of 1958 the Protectorate government and Buganda administration sparred over the Buganda's role in the direct elections scheduled for October. The Buganda administration seized on all sorts of flimsy pretexts to justify refusal to participate in the Legico. The Buganda administration, for instance, seized on the reforms the new Governor, Sir Fredrick Crawford introduced in the Legico in January 1958. Sir Fredrick had appointed two African members to replace the governor and the Buganda resident. He also appointed a Speaker of the house to replace the Governor who previously presided over the proceedings of the house. Seizing on these changes, the Buganda administration sought to argue they were a violation of the 1955 Agreement in which Britain had agreed not to make any constitutional changes for five years. They further claimed that, as of a result of these changes, the old Legico to which Buganda was required to send representatives, no longer existed. They sought an interpretation of this opinion from the Courts of law, appealing up to the Privy Council but losing all the way.

Meanwhile the rest of the country was going ahead with the constitution of the new Legico. The Ankole district council voted to select its representatives indirectly. Busoga district council voted 65-13 for direct elections for the two members to represent Busoga. When the Bugisu district council demanded additional representation before agreeing to participate in the elections, the Governor not only rejected their demand, but continued to operate as though they had refused to participate in the elections. He subsequently nominated a representative for Bugisu. Despite some opposition to the elections, the district of Toro eventually elected a representative, albeit with a low turnout at the polls. The rest of the districts directly elected their representatives in the week of October 20 without any fuss.

The 62 members of the Legislative council took their seats in the closing weeks of 1958. Although there were Baganda who had been nominated by the Governor in the Council, the seats for Buganda's official representatives were vacant. In the debates that followed, the non-Baganda African representatives members pressed for rapid progress toward full independence. In response, the Governor appointed a committee under the chairmanship of the Administrative Secretary, Mr. J.V. Wild "to consider and to recommend to the Governor the form of direct elections on a common role for representative members of the Legislative Council to be introduced in 1961, the number of representative seats to be filled under the above system, their allocation among the different areas of the protectorate….." (Wild, J.V. 1959) Among the 15 members of the Committee were six non-Baganda members of the Legico (B.K. Kirya, G.B.K Magezi, W.W. Kajumbula-Nadiope, A.M. Obote, C.J. Obwangor and G.Oda). The committee toured the country extensively, held public meetings and received memoranda. On the other hand, the Kabaka's administration not only refused to suggest names for additional appointment to the committee but also to give evidence before it. To Buganda it appeared the rest of Uganda was plunging precipitously towards independence.

It was in this context that Obote was elected president of UNC. With Obote's election as President of UNC, both the leadership of the UNC, the most significant political organization in the country at the time, and the unofficial members of the Legico, had dovetailed into one person. Furthermore, for the first time in about three centuries, the initiative was in the hands of the non-Baganda. The Baganda had not only lost the leadership of the forces then moving history at the time, but their opponents had the upper hand in the Wild Committee which was setting up the ground rules for independence. It was clear that the attempt to stem the tide by refusing to participate in the Committee had not affected anything. The rest of the country had warmly received the Committee, according it public meetings and submitting memoranda. Something had to be done to maintain the 'old glory'. The Baganda elites of disparate political persuasion desperately closed ranks behind an all-Baganda protest movement, the Uganda National Movement (UNM). (Ghai, D.P. 1970: 755-770; Kiwanuka, M.S.M. 1976 :) Ostensibly to protest the British insistence upon minority safeguards, the UNM was essentially to forge unity among the Baganda who were then scattered in numerous small and insignificant parties, so that they could preserve their identity and protect what they viewed as their vital interests.

The UNM leadership ingeniously chose the dominance by non-Africans of trade and business as the issue to rally around. Because of the widespread dislike of Asian traders throughout Uganda, a trade boycott was bound to enlist popular support; indeed, the boycott they called for was an immediate and total success in Buganda. However, largely because of the deep mistrust of the Baganda by other nationalities, and also the opposition to the boycott from the influential non-Ganda leaders of the rest of the country in the Legico, the UNM failed to gain ground in areas outside Buganda. In any case the essence of UNM was resistance to the Wild Committee which, as has already been indicated, was warmly received by the rest of the country. The UNM also lost a lot of support by hurling insults and attacks at the Legico, a body which the rest of the country recognized and was represented in. Finally, because some of the principal concerns of UNM were with the prestige and status of the Kabaka, the rest of the country was totally aloof, if not hostile in some cases.

As though to deliberately rub in the alienation of the Baganda from the rest of the country, the UNM organized large meetings in Kampala. These meetings always culminated in the singing of the Buganda national anthem as the crowd faced towards the Kabaka's palace at Mengo. As a Ganda movement intended to rally all the Baganda, UNM was undoubtedly a tremendous success. It declared war on all political parties, and nearly all the Ganda political leaders were drawn into it, with Mulira and Musazi playing the most prominent roles. The unintended effect of all this success, however, was for the non-Baganda to realize the necessity of unified political effort, so that on March 9, 1960, the Obote wing of UNC and UPU amalgamated to form the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC). Professor Low, making a contemporary observation, wrote that: the "UPC whose prime function - the opposition to the pretensions of the Baganda - fitted precisely the widespread anti-Baganda feeling in the rest of the country." (Low, D.A. 1971: 209)

The other effect of the UNM was on the colonial authorities: they became very cautious when dealing with the Baganda, always making sure they told them the truth in as painless a manner as possible. In December 1959, for example, when releasing the findings of the Wild Commission, they refrained from endorsing the majority view for fear it would provoke similar reactions as the UNM. However, they endorsed the crucial recommendation that general elections should be held in 1961 prior to the resolution of the federal-unity constitutional deadlock. Nevertheless, all this caution did not stop the Baganda from engaging in a renewed round of issuing statements and passing resolutions threatening secession. They also threatened to boycott the elections unless prior constitutional arrangements guaranteeing Buganda's autonomy could be secured. Later in June 1960 both Buganda and Members of the Legico sent delegations to London to argue their respective positions: for Buganda, that a constitutional settlement precedes direct elections; for the non-Baganda, that the full recommendations of the Wild Commission be implemented.

Although the colonial authorities gave soothing and compromising responses to both delegations, they continued to prepare for elections. As a response to this firm position taken by the colonial authorities, the Lukiiko voted in December 1960 to secede from Uganda. Unaffected by this vote, the colonial authorities went ahead. The next measure the Baganda adopted was to boycott the elections. Buganda with 24 electoral constituencies had 36,000 voters, a mere 4 to 5% of eligible voters registering. This was in stark contrast to the rest of the country that consisted of 58 electoral constituencies and where 1,300,433 out of the estimated 1,500,000 to 1,750,000 registered to vote, a figure which represented over 75% of those enfranchised. (Obote, A.M. 1986:29) By mid-afternoon of the polling day, it was already becoming clear that in Buganda the DP candidates were heading for a landslide victory. "Obote then received a telephone message from the kabaka's office asking him to go there immediately. When he met Mutesa, the latter said urgently: 'We have got to beat them (the Democratic Party)' Obote replied that it was too late, that by urging his subjects not to take part in the elections, the kabaka had paved the way for a DP victory Even though only a tiny minority of the people had cast their vote there was nothing that could be done to change the outcome. The two slept in the kabaka's office that night, but the new days brought no relief. Although in the country as a whole, the UPC had polled a total of 488,334 votes to the 407,416 for the DP, the DP had won 20 of the 21 seats in Buganda, making their overall total 43 to 35 gained by UPC. (Ingham, K. 1994: 68-69)

There is no doubt that the boycott was effective; it clearly demonstrated the existence of a contradiction which could not be overlooked. As Obote was later to observe, no one could "disregard or ignore the serious political situation which the boycott had imposed on national unity and on the institution of parliament as well as on governance by ballot."(Obote, A.M. 1986: No. 57 page 30) The source of this impasse was the fear of the neo-traditionalists, the people who wielded immense influence over political opinion in Buganda, that they would lose their influence in an independent Uganda. They sought to use the status of the Kabaka as a trump card; and to perpetuate their power and influence it was necessary to retain Buganda as a semi-autonomous entity in an independent Uganda. Given this situation, to break the deadlock, it was necessary to create conditions which would assuage the fears of the neo-traditionalists. A formula to do just that was put forward by the Relationship Commission. (Obote, A.M. 1986: 31) In the opinion of the Commission, Buganda was to be granted a federal status, and the members of Parliament representing it should be elected indirectly, with the Lukiiko acting as an electoral college. This formula was hinted to Mengo, and the opinion of UPC on it sought by the Commission.

Given the circumstances obtaining at the time, there was no way Democratic Party, the other major political party in the country, would view with sympathy the predicament of the neo-traditionalist - a state of mind which the Munster Commission proposals assumed. Not only were the interests of the DP and the neo-traditionalists mutually exclusive; their differences were very sharp and deep-rooted. The two forces and the antagonism between them had been forged in the religious conflicts and wars that characterized Buganda in the last quarter of the 19th century. The antagonism between the two forces reached its peak when in February 1892 they fought a pitched battle as Protestants and Catholics, and the Protestants assisted by Captain Lugard won the war. Subsequent to this victory a Protestant oligarchy was established in Buganda, and Catholics were discriminated against in the appointment of chiefs. This state of affairs obtained throughout the entire colonial period, and eventually constituted the grievance upon which the DP was based. Formed in 1954, the DP was essentially organized to redress the discrimination of Catholics. To do this required the dismantling of the system that guaranteed Protestant dominance in Buganda, something which would have meant the collapse of the neo-traditionalist regime. There is therefore no way that the two forces would find common ground or the DP could acquiesce to perpetuate a power arrangement which favored the neo-traditionalists for even an extra day. As a matter of fact they considered the outcome of the 1961 elections as a great victory over the neo-traditionalists which nobody should rob from them. In the words of Kabaka Mutesa: "the DPs were puffed up with pride and success" (Mutesa, E. 1967:16) as a result of the 1961 elections.

Eventually when Obote began discussing the recommendations of the Munster Commission on the direct elections of the Lukiiko with the Mengo authorities, he "found that they were in some kind of quandary. They were not sure of whether or not to accept it and the reason for that uncertainty lay in the dissolution of the Lukiiko and the election of a new one on adult universal franchise and in secret. The Lukiiko had some very vocal members who wanted nothing to do with the National Assembly; in December 1959, those vocal members had made the Lukiiko to pass a resolution which purported to excise Buganda from Uganda - seccesion. The Mengo Ministers, particularly the Katikiro (Prime Minister), Michael Kintu, were fearful that accepting the Commission's recommendation could lead to the fall of the Mengo government. Kintu told me that right from the 1900 Buganda Agreement, Buganda recognized only British Protectorate authority as being above that of the Lukiiko and that the British were in collusion with the political Parties to impose onto Buganda and above the Lukiiko another authority, the National Assembly and a Uganda Government. Left to Michael Kintu, there was no way of resolving the impasse. I therefore took the matter to the Kabaka Sir Edward Mutesa and the impasse was resolved." (Obote 1986)

Subsequently, on 5th September 1961, Obote, as UPC leader, issued a statement in which he outlined a strategy for persuading Buganda to participate in the forthcoming constitutional conference to prepare for independence. He invited the Lukiiko to join hands with the UPC and form a "partnership" during the conference. He pointed out that it was the Lukiiko, and not the Buganda DP members of Parliament that was supported by the overwhelming majority of the people in Buganda. He argued that since, as evidenced by the results of the elections, UPC represented the majority of those outside Buganda, then "in the event of the opposition party (UPC) coming to an understanding with the Lukiiko, the British Government must accept that understanding with the Lukiiko as one between Buganda and the rest of the country."(Mutibwa, P.N. 1982: 275) Four days later, a UPC delegation led by Obote met a Buganda delegation led by the Katikiro, Michael Kintu. Later in the day a reliable source was quoted by `Uganda Argus' as saying: "that full and complete agreement had been reached on points which were either left open when the Constitutional Committee saw the Governor, or on which there was disagreement." (Mutibwa, P.N. 1982: 276) Following from this accord, Buganda took steps to attend the conference that began on 18th September. As expected, the UPC supported Buganda's desires on the manner of selecting her 21 representatives to the National Assembly. The two parties also advanced their common position on the timetable for the next elections. Against strong opposition from the DP, these two demands were endorsed by the conference, and a de facto alliance between UPC and the neo-traditionalists sealed.

After the Constitutional Conference, the next major process that greatly affected the fortunes of UPC and the country as a whole was the elections of 1962. A unanimous consensus had been arrived at that however important the elections of March 1961 had been, in view of the boycott, they could not constitute the basis for governance. To remedy this, the DP had proposed that fresh elections should be held after independence. Both the UPC and the Buganda delegations had pressed for fresh elections immediately and before independence. The Conference eventually resolved that elections would be held in April 1962. It was also ruled that the elections of the Lukiiko of Buganda should be early enough for it to take decisions on the form of elections in Buganda at least 14 days before the nomination day for national elections. This deadline was necessary in case the Lukiiko opted for direct elections, and so voters in Buganda would have had to be registered at the same time as those of the rest of the country.

However, much as the neo-traditionalists had gotten in place an electoral procedure in accord with their desire, they did not as yet have an electoral machine. Such machinery was to be launched on Saturday, June 10, 1961 at a mammoth demonstration against the election the previous March of a DP government led by Benedicto Kiwanuka. (Hancock, I.R. 1970:419) Kiwanuka's `sins' were three: he was a Catholic who had opposed the neo-traditionalists; he had fought the elections in Buganda despite the boycott; and he was a commoner who had dared set himself above the Kabaka. To the demonstrators, the actions of Kiwanuka constituted sacrilege and Kiwanuka was a traitor. The demonstrators made it clear they regarded Kiwanuka's government illegitimate. The movement to lead the resistance to DP was called Kabaka Yekka (KY). Its' principal objectives were neo-traditionalist in character: "to see that political changes do not destroy the good customs and traditions. . ." of Buganda (Hancock, I.R. 1970:422); and, not to allow anybody to be above the Kabaka. It also sought to preserve the special status of Buganda as an identity.

As an election machine, KY totally outclassed the DP and spread like wild fire throughout the Buganda countryside. While a number of social and political factors were favorable to KY, the most damning to the DP was the presentation of the issue as a choice between "Ben" (Kiwanuka) and the Kabaka. "In posing the choice this way, Kabaka Yekka was presented as the defender of the faith, the party which was for Buganda and the throne. The Democratic Party had no counter to this sort of propaganda. Kiwanuka announced an increase in prices paid to coffee farmers, he promised to turn Buganda into a democracy, he denounced "reactionaries" and "tribalists", and his followers swore loyalty to their Kabaka. The difficulty was that the chiefs and campaigners were able to insist that to oppose the Kabaka Yekka was to oppose Kabaka." (Hancock, I.R. 1970:432) A pamphlet by one of the leading members of KY speculated that DP intended to offer national leadership to some commoner instead of the Kabaka. Much as this assertion alone was adequate to incense the Baganda, the author went on to pose the question: "What sort of Muganda are you who allows Benedicto Kiwanuka or any other person to sit over the Kabaka of Buganda?"(Hancock, I.R. 1970:433) The meaning of this rhetorical question was devastating to DP. "It was a question which reminded a Catholic (Muganda) that he was first of all a Muganda, that the election was about identity and not policy."(Hancock, I.R. 1970: 433) The DP had no issue with equivalent power to evoke, and so long before the elections were held, the results were a foregone conclusion. The KY won 69 out of 72 seats and proceeded to elect the 21 representatives from Buganda to the National Assembly. In April, after national elections in which UPC won 37 as against DPs 22 seats, the alliance between UPC and KY formed the government led by Obote as Prime Minister.


Bing, John Howard: "Tribe and Elections in Uganda," (unpublished Ph D dissertation, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri,) June, 1974.

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