Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Monarch Profile: King Mutesa II of Buganda
Despite being the target of some of these protests, King Mutesa II actually agreed with them and opposed the idea of a federation. Against the wishes of Sir Andrew Cohen, the British Governor of Uganda, King Mutesa II called for the secession of Buganda from the rest of the country if the federation idea went forward. Ironically enough, most of the people in Buganda felt safer being under the direction of the Foreign Office in London rather than the Kenyan government in Nairobi. Feeling they had no other option the traditional parliament formally called for independence from the rest of Uganda in 1953 with the full support of King Mutesa II. Sir Andrew Cohen responded by using his own forces to have the King deposed and swiftly removed from the country, sending him into exile in London, accusing him of being an obstacle to the plan for transition from a British protectorate to full independence.
This was not true of course, the King was not against independence, but was against the proposed federation. Cohen, a Jew who was certainly opposed to racism, had done a similar job with the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. His idea was that the version of “White” rule practiced in places like Rhodesia and Kenya was preferable to that of South Africa and he was trying to unite as many British African countries as possible against that method. However, removing the King was exactly the wrong thing to do as he was faced with the immediate opposition and even hostility of the entire population who demanded that “King Freddie” be given back to them. With no one even willing to work with him, Governor Cohen at last had to agree and negotiated the return of the King to Kampala on October 17, 1955 in a new constitutional monarchy for Buganda with an elected parliament but remaining within the country of Uganda.
The coalition of the Uganda People’s Congress and the Kabaka Yekka soon began to come apart. The UPC accused the monarchist party of favoring only the interests of their own tribal nation and of stocking the government with their own people. There was some truth in this but it was only because Kampala was located in their territory and, as a result, more of their people were educated and qualified for government service. The real reason, of course, was that Milton Obote was envious of the position of the King and wanted the presidency for himself. As the parties grew apart so did the King-President and his Prime Minister who were frequently at odds. The coalition ended in 1964 and things quickly spiraled out of control. Obote was challenged in his own party and after brutally suppressing his opposition suspended the constitution and declared himself President of Uganda in February of 1966.
Major General Sir Edward Frederick William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Mutesa II, KBE, as he was formally known in England, was granted asylum in the United Kingdom and spent the rest of his life in exile there. Obote enacted a new constitution in 1967 that abolished the traditional monarchies and he set up a brutal, leftist dictatorship. The King wrote his autobiography and on November 21, 1969 died under mysterious circumstances. The official cause of death was given as suicide by alcohol poisoning though this remains highly questionable and many believe the King was assassinated by agents of Obote. Without his leadership, Uganda went downhill rapidly. Obote was eventually overthrown by a military coup led by Idi Amin who became dictator of Uganda. In 1971 he arranged for the body of King Mutesa II to be returned home and gave him a full state funeral. As we know, he went on to kill hundreds of thousands of Ugandans before being overthrown himself by Obote who was overthrown again by another military coup in due course. It was after that time, in 1988 that Ronald Mutebi II, the son of Mutesa II, returned to Uganda and was proclaimed Kabaka of Buganda in the traditional way in 1993 following the restoration of the sub-national monarchies.