MYTHS AND REALITIES: OBOTE’S 1968 LETTER TO A LONDON FRIEND-Part three

obote

Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, Father of the Nation, Uganda, writing in 1968.

Perhaps the most illustrative case in which the myth nearly came to reality was in 1965 and early 1966, when Sir Edward Mutesa, in his double capacity as President and Kabaka, sought to combine the two offices as being one and the same and pretended that both were executive.

UGANDA: Perhaps the most illustrative case in which the myth nearly came to reality was in 1965 and early 1966, when Sir Edward Mutesa, in his double capacity as President and Kabaka, sought to combine the two offices as being one and the same and pretended that both were executive. The details of this attempt will be described later in this letter. But it is clear that when we took action against Mengo and Sir Edward in 1966, the myth that every Mu-ganda, or at least majority of them, would die in battle for the Kabaka, was fully exposed not only to the people of this country but to the whole world.

We have had two years without a Kabaka at Mengo and we have not had a “Biafran” situation. The District Administration we have created in Buganda Region are becoming very popular with the people in the Region and the talk of continuation of Kabaka ship, as far as Government is aware, is confined to a tiny proportion of the people in the Region. On this point, and insofar as the people outside Uganda are concerned, the myth is no longer one of every Muganda dying for the Kabaka, but how mysteriously and mythically Sir Edward escaped alive when “Obote’s army stormed his Palace” in 1966.

Everything I have written so far shows that myths in Uganda have been exposed not by prophecy but by events and actions. As regards the myth that Sir Edward mythically and miraculously escaped when the Army stormed his Palace in what the Press has described as “The Battle of Mengo Hill”, the elements of myth are in the words “stormed” and “battle”.

The decision to send a Unit of the Army (40 men, including Officers) to Mengo (Lubiri) was taken by the Cabinet at about 9.00 pm on May 23, 1966. The day had been a bad one. We had ordered for the arrests of three Saza Chiefs and three other persons. These people were arrested for the part they played in a resolution passed by the Mengo Lukiiko ordering the Government of Uganda to remove itself from the soil of Buganda by May 30, 1966. The idea was to prosecute them not because of what they said in the Lukiiko, but because of untoward activities undertaken by them before the debate in the Lukiiko.

Immediately they were arrested nearly every part of Buganda Region was in a state of disturbance. Roads were blocked; bridges destroyed; Police stations attacked-some burnt houses with Policemen inside- and at some of these stations chiefs and mobs took possession of Police firearms. White men became a particular target. Some were badly beaten, but only two died. A number have been permanently maimed. Action on expatriates could not be explained at the time, but now we know that it was ordered from Mengo because Sir Edward was rather annoyed that his request to the British government through the High Commissioner in Kampala for military assistance in the month of February 1966 was not acted upon by Her Majesty’s Government.

Harboring this as a cause against the British, a plan was made by him and his advisors at Mengo that at some suitable moment action against the Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) Government would include action against the British citizens in Uganda. It was their hope, according to the documents we have, that serious action against the British in Uganda would force the British Government to send British troops to Uganda for the purposes of protecting British interests and nationals.

On the same day, May 23, a number of ex-Servicemen (Baganda) who were roaming around Kampala since February 1966, shot at an Army lorry which was taking supplies to the Presidential Lodge at Makindye near Kampala. Makindye is where Sir Edward Mutesa was staying as from October 1965 to the middle of March, 1966. He had requested for a Platoon of the Army to be at Makindye, and the Platoon was being supplied regularly with essentials.

The Army lorry which was taking to the Platoon essential supplies on May 23, 1966 was attacked by ex-Servicemen using modern weapons. When you are next in Kampala it might be possible to arrange for you to see the Police record of hour to hour information of lawlessness which had broken out in various parts of Buganda Region on that day. It was in these circumstances that a special meeting of the Cabinet was called to consider the situation which was developing.

We shall discuss the declaration of “State of Emergency in Buganda Region” in the next issue.

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