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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 February 2017

University of Richmond, Virginia


When Britain withdrew recognition from Kabaka Mutesa II in 1953, considering him disloyal for failure to advocate for the new governor's progressive initiatives, Buganda's response was distinctive and successful: mourning. Ganda wept publicly, and portrayed themselves as wives forcibly divorced from their king/husband. With the removal of Mutesa, they argued, Britain even violated its own alliance, or marriage, with Buganda. Metaphors of marriage and declarations of loyal wives proved successful in destabilizing imperial efforts to reshape power in Buganda to fit into a unified Uganda. Drawing on specific associations of love and politics associated with Ganda marriage, Ganda fought, successfully, to achieve Mutesa II's return and to ensure Buganda's distinctive political identity. In the process, though, they declared and institutionalized an identity as subjects of the Kabaka, abandoning ideas of citizenship through Bataka (clans) voiced by earlier activists and enacting troublesome precedents for proponents of Ugandan nationalism.

Disputing Political Power in Buganda
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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1 The crisis motivated people, but ‘eroded the revolutionary base’, noted Kayunga, S. S., Uganda National Congress and the Struggle for Democracy: 1952–1962 (Kampala, 1995), 67 Google Scholar.

2 Cole, J. and Thomas, L. (eds.), Love in Africa (Chicago, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hunter, M., Love in the Time of AIDS (Bloomington, 2010)Google Scholar.

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4 Fair, L., Pastimes and Politics (Athens, OH, 2001)Google Scholar; Askew, K., Performing the Nation: Swahili Music and Cultural Politics in Tanzania (Chicago, 2002)Google Scholar.

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6 Kavuma, P., Crisis in Buganda 1953–5 (London, 1979), 33Google Scholar. See also Mutesa II, Kabaka of Buganda, The Desecration of my Kingdom (London, 1967), 121 Google Scholar; and Ward, K., ‘The Church of Uganda and the exile of Kabaka Muteesa II, 1953–55’, Journal of Religion in Africa, 28:4 (1998), 411–49Google Scholar.

7 E. B. Kalibala, ‘The social structure of the Baganda tribe of East Africa’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Harvard University, 1946), 57.

8 Kavuma, Crisis in Buganda, 34, 37.

9 A. I. Richards Papers, London School of Economics Archives (ARLSE) 6/2/B19, Notes on the Kabaka Crisis, A. Richards to E. M. (Chilver, 1953).

10 See Sir Keith Hancock Papers, Institute for Commonwealth Studies, University of London (KHICS) 29/1/6, K. Sempa, ‘A short history of Buganda at the advent of whitemen’, 23 July 1954; J. Kiguli, ‘Gender, “ebyaffe” and power relations in the Buganda Kingdom: a study of cultural revivalism’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cologne, 2001), 257.

11 Legum, C., Must we lose Africa? (London, 1954), 20 Google Scholar.

12 Mutesa II, Desecration of my Kingdom, 122.

13 Legum, Must we lose Africa?, 20.

14 Kavuma, Crisis in Buganda, 40.

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18 These Luganda posters (with cartoons for the illiterate) went up in Katwe, the most politically volatile area of Kampala, and ‘The general African opinion concerning these posters is that they have been published by or on behalf of the Uganda National Congress who wish to bring His Highness the Kabaka into disrepute.’ National Archives of Great Britain (NAGB) FCO 141/18100, Fortnightly Intelligence Review, 13 Aug. 1953.

19 Archbishop G. Fisher's Papers Lambeth Palace Archives (AFPLA) v. 133, Bishop L. Brown to Archbishop, 17 Apr. 1953.

20 NAGB CO 822/567, notes of meetings in Government House between Governor Cohen, Kabaka Mutesa II and his ministers, on 3 Nov. 1953 and 6 Nov. 1953.

21 Rhodes House, Oxford University (RH) MSS Afr. S 2146, F. R .J. Williams, ‘A personal account of my role in the deportation of the Kabaka of Buganda in 1953’.

22 NAGB CO 822/762, Bates, note, 20 Mar. 1954. In Mutesa's narrative, drinking and running up bills at the hotel was a way to strike back at the Colonial office. Mutesa, Desecration of my Kingdom, 127, 139.

23 For a vivid depiction of how this idea has persisted, see S. Nannyonga-Tamusuza, ‘Baakisimba: Music, dance and gender of the Baganda people of Uganda’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 2001), 73–5.

24 S. Mukwaya, quoted and translated in ibid. 74.

25 Mair, L., An African People in the Twentieth Century (London, 1965 [orig. pub. 1934]), 74–5Google Scholar.

26 Ibid . 76. Mair went on to quote, with some incredulity, a man who after begetting a child rejected marriage, explaining: ‘She was a lazy girl and would have spoiled my religion.’ See also Kalibala, ‘Social structure’, 276. Roscoe, J., The Baganda (London, 1911), 79 Google Scholar, 91 was more judgmental on the subject of girls’ sexuality. His version may reflect Christian informants descriptions of what they thought a missionary wanted to hear. It clashes with Mair, Kalibala, and others.

27 Legum, Must we lose Africa?, 56–8. For a summary discussion, see Boyd, L., Preaching Prevention (Athens, OH, 2015), 5876 Google Scholar.

28 Mukwaya, quoted in Nannyonga-Tamusaza, ‘Baakisimba’, 74.

29 Roscoe, The Baganda, 87–92. Individual choice was unusually prominent both in older normative ideas of marriage, and newer practices emerging in the colonial era, according to Doyle, S., Before HIV: Sexuality, Fertility and Mortality in East Africa, 1900–1980 (Oxford, 2013), 149–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 Kiguli, ‘Gender, “ebyaffe”’, 259–62.

31 Hanson, H. E., Landed Obligation: The Practice of Power in Buganda (Portsmouth, NH, 2003), 2930 Google Scholar.

32 For a more extended discussion of kusenga (accepting a patron) and kusenguka (leaving a superior), see Hanson, Landed Obligation, 29. Years after Mair's study, another visitor to Buganda reported similar exchanges, describing the girl announcing her choice, saying ‘I have found my master’ and indicating ‘This is the man who has made me rebel.’ Ingrams, H., Uganda: A Crisis of Nationhood (London, 1960), 41 Google Scholar.

33 Mair, African people, 80–1.

34 Kalibala, ‘Social structure’, 251. Also Roscoe, Baganda, 90–2.

35 Kalibala, ‘Social structure’, 236.

36 Ibid . 259. See also Doyle, Before HIV, 153.

37 Kalibala, ‘Social structure’, 475–6, 482.

38 Ibid . 273 and also Doyle, Before HIV, 155–7, who emphasizes women's perceived economic self-sufficiency.

39 Kalibala, ‘Social structure’, 300.

40 Ibid . 307.

41 Richards, A., ‘Authority patterns in traditional Buganda’, in Fallers, L. A. (ed.), The King's Men (London, 1964), 257–8Google Scholar. See also Doyle, Before HIV, 155–8.

42 Hanson, Landed Obligation, 29.

43 AFPLA v. 20 (167), Bishop C. Stuart to Archbishop Fisher, 16 Dec. 1946.

44 AFPLA v. 13 (83), Bishop L. Brown to Archbishop Fisher, 15 July 1953.

45 Musisi, N., ‘Women, “elite polygamy” and Buganda state formation’, Signs, 16:4 (1991), 757–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46 Kiguli, ‘Gender, “ebyaffe”’, 14.

47 Nannyonga-Tamusaza, ‘Baakisimba’, 82–8.

48 Men's expressions of bereavement expressed solidarity within Buganda and stalled British efforts to force them to accept the derecognition and elect a new Kabaka. NAGB CO 822, Sir Andrew Cohen to Secretary of State for Colonies, 1 Dec. 1953; Cohen to Gorell Barnes, secret and personal, 31 Dec. 1953. Beyond weeping, men closer to the Kabaka recalled even more dramatic visceral reactions: the Kabaka's brother Henry reportedly vomited when hearing the news on the radio, and a student, stunned by the news in the newspaper, sat on a park bench unable to move, reading the paper upside down. Mutesa, Desecration of my Kingdom, 123.

49 ARLSE 6/2 B19, Richards to Chilvers.

50 AFPLA v. 150, unsigned copy of a letter (from Mary Stuart?) written end of 1953, forwarded to Archbishop of Canterbury for his information.

51 See, for example, AFPLA v. 150, Nnabagareka to M. Warren, 22 Dec. 1953.

52 On women's organizations, see Ntiro, A. Tripp with S., ‘Women's activism in colonial Uganda’, in Tripp, A. M. and Kwesiga, J. C. (eds.), The Women's Movement in Uganda (Kampala, 2002), 30–4Google Scholar.

53 Interview with E. K. K. Sempebwa, Kampala, 10 June 2004, described reactions to the proposed marriage, explaining that Damali's father was Mugema, functioning as grandfather to the king. Thus, ‘when Mutesa took to the family of Kisosonkole, people said “But that can't be. He can't marry from his parents”.’

54 RH MSS Afr s. 951, Boyd papers, Memorandum submitted by government to the commission appointed to inquire into the disturbances that occurred in Uganda in Apr. and May 1949.

55 NAGB CO 536/4683, Uganda Star, translated in Fortnightly Intelligence Review, 3 Nov. 1949; NAGB CO 537/3593, S. Mulumba to Kabaka Mutesa II of Buganda, 28 Oct. 1948.

56 Church Missionary Society Archives, University of Birmingham (CMS) G3 A7 e2, Nancy H. Corby to Hooper, 2 Sept. 49, which discusses Damali's faith.

57 For summary, see ALPLA v. 93 (61–4), Bishop Stuart to Archbishop Fisher, 26 Feb. 1951; and Coleman, S. J., East Africa in the 1950s: A View of Late Imperial Life (New York, 1998), 68 Google Scholar, 70.

58 Interestingly, the Church of Uganda's missionaries and the Archbishop of Canterbury were willing to go along with this rejection of moral tests. See ALPLA v. 150, M. Warren to Archbishop, 21 Jan. 1954.

59 Kavuma, Crisis in Buganda, 48–9.

60 AFPLA v. 150, Nnabagareka to Dr Warren, 22 Dec. 1953 (copy).

61 AFPLA v. 150, M. Warren, describing the Bishop of Uganda's analysis, to Archbishop of Canterbury, 1 Jan. 1954.

62 AFPLA v. 150, Bishop Stuart to Archbishop, 1 Jan. 1954. Mary Stuart, an education expert, was a supporter of the Kabaka, taking a seat in his plane for his return to Uganda. Mutesa, Desecration of my Kingdom, 142–3.

63 AFPLA v. 150, Nnabagareka to Dr Warren, 22 Dec. 1953 (copy).

64 The delegation's aims were evocative: ‘It is our sincere desire that our beloved Kabaka shall be restored to his people … the most ardent wish of the Kabaka's subjects.’ NAGB CO822/762, M. Mugwanya, A. K. Sempa, E. M. K Mulira, T. Makubi, and A. Kironde, ‘Comments by the Buganda Delegation on the White Paper’, typescript, 21 Dec. 1953.

65 NAGB CO 822/751, Note of meeting between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Baganda delegation, 22 Dec. 1953.

66 Kavuma, Crisis in Buganda, 54.

67 Peter Mulira, for example, emphasized other factors (such as the Kabaka's British connections, good legal advice and the support of liberal imperialists such as Marjorie Perham) over his mother Rebecca Mulira's leadership in agitating for the Kabaka's return. Interview with Peter Mulira, Kampala, Uganda, 7 July 2006.

68 KHICS MS 29/1/1–7, Cohen to Hancock, 14 June 1954. The scale of what they were seeking to reclaim from the Nnabagareka – cars, servants, and luxuries – undermines any portrayal of the Kabaka's domestic life as simple. But the image in Britain and in Buganda was that of evicting a bereaved but loyal wife. Official statements were as defensive as the quoted private defense. See, for example, ‘Our correspondent’, ‘The Kabaka's retainers’, The Times (London), 9 June 1954.

69 Mutesa, Desecration of my Kingdom, 138.

70 See, for example, NAGB CO 536/211, letters written by wives of the 1945 deportees.

71 Kavuma, Crisis in Buganda, 56.

72 AFPLA v. 150, M. Parma-Ntanda, for the Women's League of Buganda, ‘Deposition of H. H. the Kabaka of Buganda’ (undated 1954 statement).

75 See, for example, NAGB CO 822/762, Report by Special Branch, 13 Feb. 1954.

76 NAGB CO 822/751, A. Cohen, The Buganda situation, top secret cabinet paper, 29 Sept. 1954.

77 According to one sympathetic observer, Cohen seemed ‘very overdone by all this business and almost in danger of some kind of breakdown … The whole thing has come to him as a terrific shock obviously, and he does not see his way through.’ AFPLA v. 150, Archbishop to Warren, 24 Feb. 1954.

78 KHICS Ms 29/1/1–7, Cohen to Hancock, 1 Apr. 1954.

79 KHICS Ms 29/1/1–7. Hancock to Cohen, 10 Apr. 1954.

80 AFPLA v. 150, M. Warren to Archbishop, 11 May 1954 (notes on discussion with Hancock).

81 KHICS Ms 29/1/1–7, E. B. David (Colonial Office) to Hancock, 16 June 1954.

82 KHICS Ms 29/1/10, P. Kisosonkole et al. to Hancock, 21 June 1954.

84 KHICS Ms 29/1/10, D. Kisosonkole, Nnabagereka, quoted in Hancock's Uganda Diary 10.114.

85 KHICS, Hancock's Uganda Diary 10.114, Hancock to Kisosonkole, 22 June 1954.

86 KHICS Ms 29/1/10, Children of Daudi Chwa to Hancock, 9 July 1954 and notes on meeting 26 July 1954.

87 KHICS Ms 29/1/10, ‘Kasubi Mourners’ to Hancock, 2 Sept. 1954.

88 KHICS, Hancock to D. A. Low, 24 July 1954 and notes from Uganda journal 10.51 and 10.51b. See also his meeting with the women of Natete Village, Memo summary, 10 June 1954.

89 KHICS, Hancock, undated notes 11.6. Government officials failed in efforts to tell different histories of the Bataka and the relations between subjects, chiefs, and king.

90 AFPLA v. 150, M. Warren to Archbishop, 26 Feb. 1954.

91 NAGB CO 822/762, Report by Special Branch, 13 Feb. 1954. The reporter Colin Legum, summarized this in his book Must we lose Africa?, finding activists’ metaphor of marriage so compelling that his history chapters have suggestive titles such as ‘Give me the White Men’ and ‘Honeymoon with the West’. Legum, Must we lose Africa?.

92 KHICS Ms 29/1/6, C. Wrigley, ‘The internal structure of Buganda’, 1954.

93 Ibid .; KHICS MS 29/1/7, ‘The political situation in Buganda’, 1954.

94 Summers, ‘Grandfathers’; Summers, C., ‘Catholic action and Ugandan radicalism: political activism in Buganda, 1930–1950’, Journal of Religion in Africa, 39:1 (2009), 6090 Google Scholar. Recent studies of the kingdom have also challenged the historical accuracy of Wrigley's analysis. See, for example, Kodesh, N., Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda (Charlottesville, VA, 2010)Google Scholar, which, like earlier Bataka activists, emphasized clans rather than the king alone as the basis of the kingdom.

95 NAGB CO 822/762, Note of ‘Katimiro’ speech, Report by Special Branch, 13 Feb. 1954.

96 Karugire, S. R., A Political History of Uganda (Nairobi, 1980), 155 Google Scholar.

97 KHICS Ms 29/1/6, A. K. Sempa, ‘A short history of Buganda at the advent of whitemen’, 23 July 1954.

98 NAGB CO 822/815 includes correspondence on retribution against chiefs.

99 AFPLA v. 150, Bishop Stuart to Archbishop, 24 Apr. 1954. Bishop Brown believed the Kabaka was the father. Also NAGB CO 822/1212, Governor Crawford, notes for top secret file on Kabaka Mutesa II, 6 Jan. 1958.

100 Their father, C. M. S. Kisosonkole, went from a post in the East African Literature Bureau and work in community development to one of the most lucrative offices in the country. NAGB CO 822/815, Uganda Monthly Intelligence Appreciation for period ended 31 Dec. 1955.

101 NAGB CO 822/1212, Chief Secretary to Max, 25 Nov. 1959 and Governor Crawford, notes for top secret file on Kabaka Mutesa II, 6 Jan. 1958.

102 Ibid .

103 Low, D. A., Buganda in Modern History (Berkeley, 1971), 133 Google Scholar.

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