I have taken the time to look back on one of Obote’s last radio talk participation in 2005.
The reminiscences of Dr Milton Obote as revealed to Andrew Mwenda in his serialisations in The Monitor a few years ago are full of gaps and mistakes, which is regrettable since he had almost 20 years in which to refresh his memory free of the pressures of office in Zambia.
Some of the mistakes in the series could have been easily avoided by checking the relevant records.
Professor Senteza Kajubi was never a member of the Legico and therefore could not have won his seat with only 80 votes as Obote alleges. The conservative member of Legico he refers to is Mr Y. Bamutta from Masaka and a member of his own party, UNC and the person who went to collect Obote after being elected President of UNC must have been Paul Kisenyi Sengendo, Jolly Joe Kiwanuka’s personal assistant at the time, not Paul Kiggundu who was a medical doctor and was never involved in UNC politics although he later became an MP in 1962 on a KY card.
It is not true Obote’s UNC had widespread grassroot support. At the time of his election, UNC had already split four-ways, with its national chairman, Jolly Joe Kiwanuka leading the last faction which broke away from I.K Musaazi’s main body in 1959. Kiwanuka brought in Obote as president at his faction’s annual general meeting in Mbale.
Obote in turn split with Kiwanuka and led his own faction with Abu Mayanja as secretary general. At a press conference to welcome John Kakonge into the party in 1960, Mayanja announced that their party had only two branches in the country. Mayanja soon left to join Apollo Kironde’s United People’s Party, where he became publicity secretary. Mayanja couldn’t have left a thriving party to join a new one in a lowly position compared to the one he held in UNC.
The formation of UPC is not properly dealt with by Obote. This point is very important because the impression has always been given that UPC was the successor to the original UNC.
After all the leaders of the main political parties excepting DP, had been deported in 1959 by the colonial government, a strategy was conceived by European and Asian leaders led by Barbara Saben and Jimmy Simpson who were European members of the Legico at the time, to transfer political leadership in Uganda from Buganda in preparation for independence.
Saben and her group prevailed on the African members of Legico to form Ugandan People’s Party with William Rwetsiba as president.
However, although Rwetsiba and his colleagues suited the leadership role very well, they were not the type of soap box orators who would arouse people at political rallies especially at this time when the independence fever was at its highest. Accordingly, there was a disconnect between this party and the masses.
Obote, on the other hand, was a political maverick but without captains. Saben and Simpson worked hard to unite Obote’s faction of UNC. Jimmy Simpson was later elected to Parliament by Buganda Lukiiko when UPC and KY joined in an alliance. Both Musaazi and Kiwanuka’s factions remained independent while David Lubogo’s United Congress Party, another splinter group, became moribund.
Obote may be right about his personal contribution to the transformation of waragi into a refined drink. However, the role of Sir Edward Muteesa was more critical. After a committee chaired by Dr. Eriya Babumba had recommended a modern distillery for waragi, UDC was directed to find an investor but failed in its efforts.
Sir Edward was then approached with a request to talk to Mark Gilbey of the Gilbey gin fame and a friend of his from their Cambridge days.
Gilbey responded positively provided Muteesa or his surrogate played a part in the company which was to be formed for the purpose. This explains why the shareholders in the company which was formed, the East African Distilleries Ltd, Were Duncan & Gilbey Ltd, UDC and the Buganda Government.
The handling of Buganda’s issue will, for a long time, remain Obote’s and UPC’s albastros and matters are not helped when Obote refers to Muteesa as a regional chief. Obote should recall that between February 22, 1966 and July, 1967, he made various public statements, especially to the National Assembly in which he explained the events and his actions leading to the military attack on the Lubiri and suspension of the Constitution.
For Obote to claim now that in attacking the Kabaka’s palace, Amin was on a frolic of his own is to go against written evidence, especially his own.
In a statement to the National Assembly on May 25, 1966, Obote made it clear that the Buganda government ministers did not support the resolution in the Lukiiko moved by a lowly representative from Kooki calling for the ouster of the central government from Buganda’s soil.
He also informed the House that the Speaker of the Lukiiko lost control of the proceedings due to the behaviour of noisy hooligans in the public gallery who were armed with sticks and machetes to threaten members.
In this atmosphere, no resolution could be passed. However, contrary to this evidence from Obote’s own mouth, he justified the attack on the palace and the suspension of the Constitution on what he called the Lukiiko’s act of rebellion.
Buganda Government could not have been responsible for a resolution it opposed right from the beginning and which resolution was not passed anyway. History will judge Obote according to the facts and not on his thoughts.
Obote’s claim that Ibingira had a hand in the crossing of KY members to the UPC in 1965 is not correct. The truth is in 1965, UPC started opening up branches in Buganda contrary to the terms of its alliance with KY.
This put KY at the cross-roads. As an unregistered movement, it could not open branches of its own and to turn it into a political party would have unnecessarily and recklessly politicised the institution of Kabakaship.
An emergency meeting of all KY MPs, Buganda Lukiiko members and Ssaza chiefs was held in the Blue Room in the palace where it was decided that KY MPs should join UPC after rejecting the idea of joining DP or going it alone.
As soon as the meeting dispersed, Amos Sempa and Daudi Ochieng announced KY would become a national party contrary to the decision which had just been unanimously adopted. Seven MPs decided to go by the original decision and crossed to UPC.
Among the members who attended the meeting who are still alive are Mohabib Semakalu, the present Lukiiko Speaker, Mayanja Nkangi, then Katikkiro and A.D Lubowa, a minister.
Lastly, Obote’s contribution to the struggle for independence must be the subject of debate and scrutiny.
Obote spent years in Kenya and his election to the Legico in 1958 as member from Lango was his effective introduction to Uganda politics. Although he used to make moving speeches in the House, his involvement in the rough and tumble of Uganda’s politics did not come until he became leader of UNC in 1960, a decade after Musaazi and Kiwanuka started the struggle.
By A Good Muganda
Published by African Press in Norway, apn, firstname.lastname@example.org