Sunday, May 19News That Matters

journey to Uganda’s independence

Ugandans, especially the youth, must know the personalities who spearheaded the independence struggle.
One of them is Kavuma Kaggwa.
The events here below are narrated by Kavuma Kaggwa, an elder from Kyaggwe, Mukono District.

“The origin of the struggle for Uganda’s Independence was the founding of Uganda’s first political party, the Uganda National Congress (UNC) on March 2, 1952.

UNC, which spread the gospel of nationalism and fought for Uganda’s Independence, was founded by Ignatius Kangave Musaazi (Buganda), Abubakar Kakyama Mayanja (Buganda) Stefano Abwangoto (Bugisu), Ben Okwerede (Teso), Yekosofati Engur (Lango), and S.B. Katembo (Tooro).

Musaazi was the founding president general and Mayanja was the founding secretary general. The other four automatically became chairpersons in their respective regions and the gospel of nationalism spread like wildfire.

The party was formed at the Kabaka’s Lake, Mengo, in the house of the late Kitamirike and his home was the headquarters of the party for several years before it moved to Katwe and later to Kololo -all in Kampala- in the late 1950s in the house which is now the home of Hot Loaf Bakery on Jinja Road. The place was also the headquarters of two newspapers, Uganda Post and Uganda Express (English), which were UNC’s mouth piece.

Musaazi shot to prominence following the political disturbances of 1949 which were codenamed Number 9 when African farmers demanded full participation in the ginning of their cotton and marketing it without a middleman.

He emerged as one of their leaders and formed a farmer’s association called The Federation of Partnership of Uganda African Farmers, under which he invited the other UNC leaders from outside Buganda to join him.

Musaazi’s leadership qualities had been hatched in London where he was a theology student with initial intentions of becoming a reverend in the Anglican Church of Uganda.

While in London, he met Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, George Padmore of Jamaica, Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and two British MPs belonging to the Labour Party; Mr Fenner Brookway and Mr John Stonehouse.

Together they organised the first pan African conference known as the Manchester Conference of 1945, and they passed strong resolutions that Africa must be liberated.

While in London, Musaazi was in contact with Reverend Hewitt, who was nicknamed “The Red Dean of Canterbury” because of his socialist ideas. Rev Hewitt had visited Russia during the time of Joseph Stalin after the 1917 Russian Revolution and it is said that according to what he saw of the New Russia, he embraced socialism and the principles of a welfare state.

Following the Manchester Conference, the Anglican Church in Uganda refused to ordain Musaazi, reasoning that because of the contacts he had made with African freedom fighters, he could not carry out Church work with an independent mind.

Within this period, Kenyatta came back to Kenya in 1948 together with another freedom fighter, Semakula Mulumba, of the Bataka Bu Movement, and he embarked on organizing the MAU MAU rebellion which liberated Kenya. Musaazi also came back almost at the same time

With the breakout of the Mau Mau rebellion in 1952, Musaazi quickly decided to turn the Federation of Partnership of Uganda African Farmers into a political party hence the UNC with a nationwide rallying call of “Independence Now”.

Both Musaazi and Mayanja were in combative mood after the formation of the party.

Mayanja, who was a student at Makerere University, issued a press statement, announcing the formation of UNC and he used the postal address of the university.

The European newspapers in Kampala and Nairobi (Uganda Herald and the East African Standard) came out with banner headlines “Politics enters Makerere”.

The Musaazi group later spent weeks moving everywhere in the country, spreading the gospel of nationalism and telling people to demand “independence now”. UNC gained a lot of support and popularity throughout the country.

I.K. Musaazi once said he was inspired by Albert Luthuli, one of the founders of the African National Congress of South Africa in 1912, and Mahatma Gandhi, who founded the Indian National Congress in 1915.

The independence by Ghana in on March 6, 1957, also inspired Musaazi to fight for Uganda’s independence.

Dr Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, organised the first Pan African Conference in Africa in December 1958 in Accra and invited all the African freedom fighters.

Mayanja from Uganda was the secretary general at the conference and Tom Mboya from Kenya was the chairman.

The conference passed strong resolutions to liberate the whole of Africa. Dr Nkrumah declared: “The independence of Ghana is meaningless until the whole of Africa is fully liberated from the chains of colonialism and white imperialism.”

On November 30, 1953, a terrible tragedy befell the Buganda Kingdom; the Kabaka, Sir Edward Mutesa II, was exiled to Britain by Governor Andrew Cohen. The exiling of the Kabaka offered a great opportunity for Musaazi to consolidate his new party, UNC, in Buganda and the rest of the country. UNC was at the forefront of demanding the Kabaka’s return from exile.

The period from 1953 to the time of Independence was the real time when the whole country was gripped with all kinds of political activities. Motions demanding independence were being moved from time to time by Y.S. Bamutta of UNC from Masaka. Dr. B.N. Kununka, Milton Obote, George Magezi, Cuthbert Obwangor and Balaki Kirya were the main speakers in the Uganda Legislative Council (LEGCO) on the motions demanding independence.

FORMATION OF Democratic Party

While the Kabaka was exiled in London, Buganda became highly politicised, leading to the formation of Uganda’s second political party – the Democratic Party (DP).

DP was founded by eight young revolutionary Catholics; Joseph Kasolo, the founding president general, Joseph Kasule, the secretary general, S.B. Kibuuka, P. Nsubuga, A.B. Serubiri, L.M. Tyaba, M. Kiddu, and Alfonse Ntale.

The party was founded on October 6, 1954, at Rubaga. Kasolo led the party for a short time and handed over to Matayo Mugwanya.

The eight leaders were the products of then then famous Catholic schools; Namilyango College, St Mary’s College Kisubi, St Henry’s College Kitovu and St Peter’s Secondary School, Nsambya.

In 1958, the party changed leadership from a conservative Matayo Mugwanya to a young, charismatic and visionary British trained lawyer Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka.

Kiwanuka transformed DP into a party of all tribes and religions. His good leadership qualities saw him lead the party to victory in the first general elections of internal self- government and he became the first prime minister from March 1961 to October 1962.


In 1955, the country was gripped by all kinds of political activities. The year saw the formation of Uganda’s third political party – the Progressive Party – by Eridadi Medadi Kasirye Mulira, one of the most highly educated Baganda and a nationalist at heart. He traversed the whole country, preaching the gospel of nationalism and independence.

Mulira was one of the Baganda negotiators in the Namirembe Conference which made the 1955 Buganda Agreement, and he was one of those chosen by the Buganda Lukiiko to go to London and negotiate for the Kabaka’s return in 1955.

Besides the formation of political parties, the exiling of the Kabaka of Buganda in 1953 marked a turning point in the struggle for Uganda’s self-rule.

The Kabaka did not only refuse to accept the East African political federation but he also demanded Independence for Uganda. The relationship between Buganda and Britain was completely shuttered by this standoff.

The situation warranted an independent mediation between Buganda and Britain. The British Government agreed to the mediation and a constitutional expert, Sir Keith Hancock, was sent to Uganda in 1954 to chair the negotiations which were named Namirembe Conference.

The negotiations ended in the making of the 1955 Buganda Agreement, which allowed the return of the Kabaka on October 17, 1955.

The 1955 Buganda Agreement made big political changes in Buganda and Uganda. The agreement had an important Clause touching on the Independence of Uganda.

When 1961 was approaching, the British government, in line with what was stated in the Buganda Agreement, set up the “road map” to Uganda’s Independence. They appointed the J.V. Wild Committee in January 1959 to study the views of Ugandans on Independence. J.V. Wild was a constitutional lawyer in the Secretariat at Entebbe.

The J. V Wild Committee recommended the registration of voters throughout the country and the holding of General Elections in March 1961 and the formation of an internal self-government. The committee also recommended the setting up of the Constitutional Commission to tour the country and collect the views and recommendations from Ugandans on the Independence Constitution and to draft it.

When the registration of voters started, the Kabaka’s government and the Buganda Lukiiko advised the Baganda to boycott the registration “because the position of the Kabaka and Buganda had not been made known as to how it will be in an independent Uganda”.

Buganda took this stand because in 1958, the British Colonial Secretary, Mr Reginald Maulding, announced that “Uganda shall be developed as purely an African Unitary State with proper safeguard for the minorities”.

Buganda strongly objected to this statement because it was not in line with what was stipulated in the 1900 Uganda Agreement and the 1955 Buganda Agreement with Britain. According to the two agreements, Buganda had limited autonomous powers and was to be a federal state when Uganda became independent.

The situation was rectified when the British Government set up the Relationship Commission in 1961 after the first General Elections.

Lord Munster chaired the commission which toured the whole vountry, collecting views of Ugandans on independence.

Lord Munster recommended a Federal System for Buganda, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and Busoga.

In July 1961, there was the first Constitutional Conference at Marbrough House in London and Ben Kiwanuka attended as prime minister. This is where he vehemently opposed indirect elections to Parliament for Buganda. Britain had already received the Lord Munster recommendations that Buganda should be a Federal State.

“As a matter of principle, I cannot accept indirect elections for Buganda,” Ben Kiwanuka told the Colonial Secretary, adding: “If you insist on this, I will walk out of the conference.” And he walked out.

Earlier on although Buganda had boycotted the registration of voters, two strong political parties at the time, UNC and DP, defied Mengo and advised the Baganda to register. Kiwanuka issued a statement, calling upon the Baganda to register “because independence was coming”.

The elections were held on March 25, 1961, and won by DP. Ben Kiwanuka became the first prime minister and he formed the Internal Self Government. His Government awarded scholarships to 400 Ugandan graduates who went to Europe and America for training so as to later take over from European civil servants


Towards the end of 1959, a terrible situation developed within the seven-year-old Uganda National Congress. The party split into two factions due to a serious disagreement among the top leaders concerning the management of funds which were donated by the People’s Republic of China to assist UNC in the liberation struggle.

There was the faction of Musaazi, Kiwanuka, Kununka, Kavuma-Kaggwa, Paul Sengendo, Jenkins Kiwanuka, Grace Mukupe and Hannington Kiwanuka

The other faction had Mayanja, Milton Obote, Otema Allimadi, Balaki Kirya and Peter Oola.

In March 1960, Obote decided to enter into negotiations with W.W. Rwetsiba, who was the leader of the Uganda People’s Union. The Banyankole Protestants had formed UPU to rival DP which was very strong in Ankole because of the Catholic Church and people such as John Kabaireho (then prime minister of Ankole), Basil Bataringaya and Boniface Byanyima.

During these negotiations, Obote insisted that because UNC was extremely popular everywhere in Uganda, the word “Congress” must be in the name of the new party.

Rwetsiba agreed, and they both formed Uganda People’s Congress, UPC and elected Obote the president general. He led the party for 45 years until his death in 2005. When UNC split, Mayanja joined the Kabaka’s government as minister for Education. The Musaazi faction died a natural death because of the popularity of DP under the leadership of Ben Kiwanuka, and the emergence of Kabaka Yekka party on the political scene in Buganda.


Early in 1962, a group of influential Baganda resolved to form a Buganda-based political party; Kabaka Yekka (KY). Other Ugandans nicknamed them “Mengo Baganda” because they showed an attitude of being “more Baganda than others”.

Masembe Kabali, who was very influential in the Kabaka’s government, spearheaded the formation of Kabaka Yekka and he was elected the chairman.

The party’s objective was to protect the position of the Kabaka and Buganda in an independent Uganda and to ensure federalism for Buganda. The Buganda delegates in the Lancaster House Conference to approve the 1962 Constitution were all members of Kabaka Yekka and they made sure that Buganda’s interests were entrenched in the 1962 Constitution.

All the 21 Buganda MPs who were nominated by the Buganda Lukiiko were KY members. KY played a leading role in the negotiations with Obote/UPC in September 1962 at the time of forming a political alliance after the second general elections, before Independence.


In June 1962, the British Government convened the Uganda Independence Constitutional Conference at Lancaster House in London. The draft Constitution, which was prepared by Lord Munster, was discussed and approved by the delegates from all areas of Uganda:

The delegates approved the following;

1. Independence Day October 9, 1962

2. Federal system for Buganda, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and Busoga.

3. Buganda Lukiiko to nominate 21 Buganda Members to the Uganda National Assembly, except in Kampala.

4. Holding a referendum two years after Independence in the “Lost Counties” for the people to decide whether they wanted to remain in Buganda Kingdom or to be under the kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara.

A referendum was held in 1964 and the people in the counties of Buyaga and Bugangayizi voted to be under the kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara.


After the Lancaster Conference, Buganda demanded that there should be another general election before Independence on October 9 1962. The reason was that “Buganda did not participate fully in the March 1961 General Elections”. The British Government supported Buganda’s demand and announced that another general election was to be held throughout Uganda on September 4, 1962, so that the people elect a new Parliament and a government to lead them during full Independence.

The two major parties in the 1962 General Elections were DP and UPC. They both secured an equal number of seats in Parliament outside Buganda. Buganda had to offer “the deciding vote” to either party to make it gain a “majority” in Parliament so as to be able to form a government.

Because Obote had “supported Buganda to the hilt” in the London Conference, the Buganda Lukiiko decided that Kabaka Yekka should form a political alliance with UPC.

That political alliance enabled UPC to secure a majority in Parliament and to form a government and its leader, Obote, became the Executive Prime Minister.

Milton Obote received the Constitutional Instruments of Independence from the Duke of Kent on October 9, 1962, at Kololo. The then Kabaka of Buganda, Sir Edward Mutesa II, stood next to Obote at the ceremony.

In truth, there was no need to repeat the elections in September 1962. Ben Kiwanuka should have continued as Prime Minister and should have been the one to receive the instruments of independence on Independence Day, but because the Kabaka’s government insisted on having another general election, and they had the support of the British Government in this matter, the elections were repeated on September 4, 1962.

Politically, the Kabaka’s government, the Buganda Lukiiko, the “Mengo Baganda” and Kabaka Yekka party did not know or failed to realise that by dropping Ben Kiwanuka, the Baganda were losing “political power” and “State Power”, which they have not gained up to now

Abubaker K. Mayanja was the first Secretary General of the Uganda National Congress party, the first political party in Uganda set up on 6 March 1952.

On October 8,1962, the Duke of Kent, who handed over Independence to Uganda on behalf of the Queen of Britain, visited Mengo together with the Duchess of Kent, and addressed the Buganda Lukiiko. He announced the end of the protection agreements which Britain had made with Buganda, symbolising the end of the special relationship between Buganda and Britain as stipulated in the 1900 and 1955 agreements. That is why the Baganda officially celebrate October 8 as the day when Buganda achieved Independence. Now, it is called Bulungi Bwa Nsi Day.

On the night of October 8, 1962, millions of Ugandans converged at Kololo Independence Grounds to witness the hoisting of the Black, Yellow, Red Flag of the independent Uganda and the lowering of the British Union Jack.

All the kings in Uganda and leaders of different categories attended.

Jomo Kenyatta, who was president of Kenya, and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who was president of Tanzania, attended.

Besides the hoisting of the Uganda Flag, the other spectacular event was the fireworks which lit the whole sky at Kololo and that was the first time for Ugandans to see fireworks in the skies of Kampala.

On October 9, the biggest event at Kololo was the receiving of the Constitutional Instruments of Independence by Dr Milton Obote, the executive Prime Minister, from the Duke of Kent, who was the Queen’s representative. Millions of Ugandans attended and there were celebrations countrywide.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *