On 24th May 1966 Prime Minister Milton Obote sent the military to attack Mutesa’s palace at Mengo, sending the Kabaka into exile from where he died three years later. This week marks 57 years since the infamous 1966 crisis. Events leading to that crisis have been severally documented including the role of some of the prominent post-independence leaders like the Late Abu Kakyama Mayanja.
The recent of such writings are by historian, Professor AB Kasozi which paint two faces of Mayanja who featured in almost every government that came after independence in 1962. Abubaker Kakyama Mayanja has over the years been hoisted among Uganda’s great men, nationalists and freedom fighters that ushered in independence.
To Kasozi, a Research Associate at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), there were moments when Mayanja seemed like a staunch sub-nationalist pushing for Buganda’s interest and others when he acted as a nationalist working with Apollo Milton Obote to push for independence from the British without violence.
Kasozi, the author of “Social Origins of Violence in Uganda 1964-1985” and “The Bitter Bread of Exile”, has been holding a number of talks around some of the historical events in the period before and after Uganda’s independence.In April, his focus was on the life and contribution of Abubaker Kakyama Mayanja.
Abu Kakyama Mayanja was a lawyer, activist and politician who served both Buganda Kingdom and the Uganda central government at different times. Born in 1929 in Zziba village, Ngogwe in Kyaggwe County, Mayanja was a founder member and secretary general of Uganda’s first political party, the Uganda National Congress (UNC) in March 1952.
At the time of joining UNC, Mayanja was still a student at Makerere University College. UNC pushed for Uganda’s independence throughout the 1950s until it split, in 1959, leading to the formation of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC).
An alliance between UPC and a Buganda royalist party, Kabaka Yekka (KY), led to the formation of the first post-independence government in 1962. Abu Mayanja is said to have played a key role in the formation of the alliance. Mayanja died on November 4, 2005 in Kampala after a short illness.
One of the contributions of Mayanja is that he helped to accelerate the process leading to independence without violence like what had been exhibited in neighbouring Kenya and other colonies. Kasozi says the British government from 1945-1952 drew the 1947 decolonization policies after realising that the British Empire was untenable. So the UK realized that if it was to give up the empire, it had to give it to friendly Africans who were highly educated people but not to traditional rulers. “They wanted people who would keep the edifice together,” he says.
In 1953, the Buganda Lukiiko sought independence from Uganda, with Kabaka Edward Muteesa himself demanding that Buganda be separated from the rest of the Uganda protectorate. This according to Kasozi explains why British Governor Sir Andrew Cohen arrested the 29-year-old Kabaka on 30 November 1953 and exiled him to London. Kasozi says while Cohen had exiled Muteesa, traditional leaders continued to push for more changes.
“The Mengo establishment, the children they had groomed wished to cut Buganda off from Uganda. Bunyoro wished to get back her lost land, the deprived areas of Northern and Western Uganda which supplied labour to Buganda said we have invested a lot in Buganda, Buganda can’t break away,” he observes.
Kasozi says somebody was needed to bring those factions together and that is how Abu Mayanja emerged onto the politics scene of Buganda with Uganda. From Makerere Mayanja went to Cambridge where he studied Law. He is said to have interested Apollo Milton Obote into Buganda and he became politically involved. Mayanja is said to have given his position in the UNC to Obote.
“Abu Mayanja couldn’t take the position because he was busy studying law,” said Kasozi. “He was friendly to Obote. But also, when Sir Edward Muteesa was in exile in the UK, Mayanja and a group of other young Baganda were involved in comforting the Kabaka and finding political ways of his return into Uganda.”
The political negotiations led by Abu Mayanja could have been the reason why Andrew Cohen allowed Sir Edward Muteesa to return on 17 October 1955, leading to the negotiations that made the Kabaka a constitutional monarch. Buganda was given the right to elect representatives to the kingdom’s parliament, the Lukiiko.
In his 1967 book, “Desecration of My Kingdom”, Sir Edward Muteesa talked about the contribution of Abu Mayanja in shaping public opinion in the United Kingdom during the Kabaka’s first exile between 1953 and 1955. Mayanja was one of those who warned of violence in Uganda if the colonial government did not allow Muteesa to return home immediately and unconditionally.
Muteesa wrote: “Some supporters were dramatic. Amos Sempa said, ‘There will be bloodshed unless he returns,’ and refused to take it back. Abu Mayanja, then a student at King’s College, Cambridge, also forecast violence. ‘Physical violence?’ asked a reporter. ‘Yes. What else?’ said Abu impatiently?”
Another Historian, Jonathon L. Earle writes: “In late 1961, as Buganda’s Minister of Education, Mayanja sent a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Writing on “behalf of His Highness the Kabaka of Buganda and His Government requesting for the return Kibuuka Kigaanira’s remains and relics to be returned to Buganda. In his letter, Mayanja recounted the history of Kibuuka’s material culture, which was removed by Christian chiefs “anxious to forget their pagan past.”
Jonathon L. Earle, the author and editor of three books on Uganda, including Colonial Buganda and the End of Empire said Abu Kakyama Mayanja noted that Buganda’s premier Protestant chief, Apolo Kaggwa, “who did not have the right to give them away”, had presented the relics to John Roscoe, “especially now that Uganda [was] about to regain her Independence,” petitioned for the return of the relics of Buganda’s god of war, including his stool, drum, pots, amulets, shields, and beer bottles. Abu Mayanja’s campaign was successful; the remains of Kibuuka were returned in July 1962 to the Uganda Museum.
The story of Kibuuka Kigaanira according to Jonathon L. Earle has been ignored in Uganda’s nationalist histories, whose writers have often focused on formal party activists in the 1950s, or the likes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin in the post-colony.
Buganda under Muteesa refused to participate in the 1961 elections. Professor Kasozi notes that Mengo was surprised and also realized that the British were prepared to go and were ready to hand over power to educated elites from anywhere.
“I think it is at that juncture that Sir Edward Muteesa invited Abu Mayanja to bring Obote to Bamunanika. And Mayanja narrated that he took Obote in “my Peugeot 203 to Bamunanika.” “Incidentally, Mayanja lent Obote that car and Obote crushed it and never paid him,” Kasozi reveals.
Uganda was at a point of disintegration according to Professor Kasozi. “If the British left at that time, Uganda would have disintegrated like Somalia. So Mayanja comes in and does a number of things,” says Kasozi.
Fighting the Democratic Party.
Obote, Muteesa, and Abu Mayanja as a uniting factor agreed to remove the Democratic Party led by Benedicto Kiwanuka who had formed a government after the 1961 elections.
“The Democratic party they wanted to remove was Catholic. And in Uganda, Buganda particularly, religion was a classifying agent. Catholics were marginalized. There was fear by Muslims of whom Mayanja was and the protestants of whom Muteesa and Obote were.”
Formation of Kabaka Yekka Party.
Professor Kasozi says the Catholics would win because they probably formed the majority. “So what do Mayanja and Muteesa do? Mayanja mobilised a group of 36 others, some of whose members belonged to Kakamega Club to form Kabaka Yekka.”
The Kakamega Club of Buganda is said to have been a social group formed in the 1940s when Edward Mutesa was a student at Kings College Budo. Its members were said to be very conservative Baganda led by Masamebe Kabali. This group formed the Kabaka Yekka organization despite protests by the then Archbishop of Rubaga, Joseph Kiwanuka.
“The Archbishop protested that you cannot use Kabaka’s name. The Archbishop realized that they were undermining the Catholics. Because if you do, you are digging the grave for the Kingdom -which turned out to be the case,” Kasozi narrated.
According to Professor Kasozi, a political party with the Kabaka’s name was formed. “Mayanja wrote most of their documents. And he was the intellectual behind their moves. Mayanja and Obote agreed on the elements of cooperation with Muteesa. So it was agreed that they would ditch democracy in Buganda and that Baganda Parliamentarians would be directly sent from the Lukiiko. The Lukiiko would elect them,” Kasozi says.
The Lukiiko was supposed to be elected through universal suffrage and Mayanja as the Minister of Education in Buganda Kingdom was asked to be chair of the Lukiiko election board. “And he did a lot of damage to DP, he rigged those elections,” notes Kasozi.
The Packaging of 1962 Constitution.
Mayanja’s role in the writing of the 1962 constitution is one of the issues highlighted by Professor Kasozi in some of his discourses. He says when it came to writing the constitution, Mayanja put most of the agreements between Muteesa and Obote, which he had proposed, to form literally what became the 1962 constitution.
“One can say Lord Munster’s report gave them the structures of a Buganda federal state while the other areas were directly linked to the country.” Professor Kasozi points out, ading that somehow, Muteesa did not like Obote too much and Abu Mayanja was moderating factor. But Kasozi doesn’t explain why Mayanja did what he did. He promised to follow that up in another paper.
“So the 1962 draft was finished. It was a package containing separate ethnic and social entities whose unity was bound by the 1962 Constitution and the agreements made between Obote and Muteesa at Bamunanika.” Kasozi goes further to note that the masses were not part of the agreement and that the agreement was between the notable chiefs who were invited from districts and district heads who were airlifted to London.
He notes that the speed and processes leading to Uganda’s independence were so fast. “So within two years, independence had come. Nobody died struggling to get independence. I’m not saying that things should be achieved in blood. But that is how it was,” he narrates.
Professor Kasozi has therefore summed up the Independence Constitution of 1962 as a “Packaged Constitution”. “Why I call it packaged is that a lot of ethnic groups were not consulted and their views were not put into the constitution. So it wasn’t really a consolidated, integrated constitution,” he says.
Mayanja’s role in packaging the state lay in his persuasion of the various Buganda and Ugandan elites to agree to work together to form an alliance and defeat DP.
“His work was eased by collaborating imperial powers which were interested in getting out of Uganda as soon as possible,” narrated Kasozi, adding: “It is no wonder that this constitution which was made so hurriedly and packaged was found by Obote so unworkable because Obote believed in a unitary government, and therefore he couldn’t accept power outside the centre.”
The nature of Uganda at that time was that there were many traditional kingdoms, states like Buganda and Bunyoro which had lasted for over six hundred years. “These were entities that were put together in a jacket called Uganda under a constitution that was hoped to last.”
Mary Muhuruzi, a PhD candidate at MISR agreed with Kasozi about the achievements and failures of Abu Mayanja from 1961 to 1986. “Among the achievements, Professor Kasozi says he was key in negotiating and packaging the first post-colonial state in Uganda,” said Muhuruzi.
Muhuruzi also observed that Abu Mayanja crafted a shaky formula for unity. “This formula couldn’t take Uganda forward. It only lasted for five years. So according to Professor Kasozi, it wasn’t an integrated state. But it was packaged with a number of small nations based on ethnicity and different interests.”
In June 1964, Mayanja resigned from his position in Mengo as minister of education on the excuse that he had been insulted by the Lukiiko Speaker Eriasafi Kalule in a debating session. However, Mayanja said in 1983 that that insult was the climax of his failure to get on the same wavelength as members of the Mengo government-URN (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 041 4674611 or email us at email@example.com).