Uganda’s first Executive President; Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, authored a letter on November 16, 1968, titled: “Myths and Realities”, which was addressed to a London friend.
Beginning this week, we shall serialize the letter verbatim for the benefit of today’s youths.
The fundamental issue in any discussion of the affairs of Uganda is the gap between myths and realities. Friends of Uganda, detractors, visiting journalists and academics have, since the Independence of the country, tended to give emphasis on myths and under-rated realities. There are several reasons for this tendency, but two of them stand out. There is first the general weakness on the part of interested persons mostly from foreign countries to explain Uganda of today or Independent Uganda through her past or pre-Independent situation and, secondly, the reticence of the Independent Government of Uganda to publicize Uganda overseas. The fact of the second reason leaves the field to the first, and writers and academics from abroad therefore find it much easier than otherwise to make superficial assessment of Uganda and to conclude that changes as have taken place since the day of Independence have not been such as to change fundamentally the nature of forces operating in Uganda. This, I believe, is incorrect.
It is my view that Uganda as it was between 1962 and 1966 was very different from the Uganda of pre-Independent days and that Uganda of today is equally very different from Uganda of 1962 and 1966. These differences are not only political but also cover the whole range of the image of Uganda, including economic and social services. There are a few landmarks in the political field which would indicate and, I hope, prove my contention that Uganda has been changing all the time and that to see her through the past is to miss vital new developments. I can describe briefly some of these landmarks.
In 1961 the UPC which was and remains a Leftist Party, formed an alliance with Kabaka Yekka, a Right-Wing Party, and the result of that arrangement was not disastrous to the UPC in the General Elections of 1962. The General Election results as announced by the Returning Officer in 1961 gave UPC 35 seats, which later came to 36 as a result of a bye-election. All but one of these seats were in constituencies outside Buganda Region. In 1962 the results of the General Election announced by the Returning Officer gave UPC 37 seats, which later came to 38 as a result of bye-election. You will observe, therefore, that within a year the UPC increased its number of seats in the National Assembly from 36 to 38.
The politics of Uganda at that time were very much against a nationalist party associating with Kabaka Yekka. The UPC, however, did so in order that the people of Buganda Region, because of a ruling by the Kabaka and the Mengo Lukiiko boycotted the 1961 Elections, should participate in the Elections of 1962 even in an indirect manner. This was the only possible practical way to ensure political stability in the country and recognition of the National Assembly by every part of the country, both of which were essential for the achievement of Independence. The alliance between the UPC and KY could have had a most disastrous effect on UPC amongst the electorate in the 1962 General Elections. This is because at that time it needed foresight and boldness in the rest of the country outside Buganda to compromise on Party policy and identity in order to ensure political stability and recognition of the National Assembly by all parts of the country. That foresight and boldness were elements in the UPC election platform in 1962. It is true that a substantial number of UPC leading members and supporters did not favor the alliance with KY and that only indicates the degree of opposition which the rest of the country entertained in regard to Buganda’s special position. Some journalists, even in 1968, have written articles which do not fit into this position, in that they attempted to represent that Buganda and some parts of Uganda, principally the former Kingdom areas and other Bantu areas, have always been together in their opposition to the Northerners. This type of representation is a myth. But the UPC/KY alliance, which, according to the political situation obtaining I Uganda in 1961, should have ended in an electoral humiliation for the UPC, proved the resilience and the strength of the Party, and therefore the alliance became a landmark in our endeavors to bring about understanding, stability and unity in Uganda.
In the next series, we shall look at how UPC beat of tribal sentiments from the other political parties to retain Sir Edward Mutessa II as non-executive president of the republic.