CROSSING THE RUBICON
Letter from Abu Mayanja to the Uganda Argus [6 March 1958]
The threat by the Kabaka’s Government to sabotage direct elections for Legislative Council in Buganda is so full of ugly possibilities for the future that it is high time somebody did some very straight talking to the reactionary elements in Buganda who seem to imagine that somehow Buganda can contract out of the 20th century, -and revert to a system of administration when the efficiency of guns used to be tested on human beings.
These elements are ‘seeking to block the development of democracy in Buganda whilst pretending to pay lip-service to its principles. An example of this was the attempted intimidation of Makerere students by the Lukiko speaker when the former demonstrated against the reject of direct elec tions to the Lukiko. The Katikiro’s admonition of those who dared to criticize the speech from the Throne is another pointer in the same direction. So, too, is the recent statement by the clan leaders threatening those joining political parties with expulsion from the, clans. Nor is it purely coincidental that leaders of the political parties have been subjected to a spate of denigration and prosecutions – only to be acquitted after their reputations had been tarnished. Sir, it is not at all fanciful to see in these and other instances the presence of a plan not only to sabotage democracy within Buganda, but also to seek to entrench the anti-democratic system by cutting Buganda from the rest of Uganda where it might be subjected to democratic influences. I am not saying that it is wrong for anyone to be against democracy; the world is only too full of examples of anti-democratic regimes. What I am pleading for is that we should recognize these facts for what they are. I am also appealing to those who think in this way to come out in the open and tell the country exactly what they believe in.
If they want Buganda to go back to the 18th century, with the Kabaka ruling through hand-picked men and clan heads, let them say so – they owe it to the country to speak the truth. I also think that the notion that the Kabaka’s Government – which is but part of the Government of Uganda – can defy the latter is a matter so grave that it must be clarified and the correct position authoritatively stated.
There is grave responsibility which these events cast on the Protectorate Government. There is obviously a clash of objectives between those who want to see a democratic system developing in Buganda, and those who do not.
It would be dangerously tempting for the Protectorate Government either to observe a benevolent neutrality, or to playoff one faction against the other. I hope the Protectorate Government will realize that it has a duty to pursue with vigour those policies calculated to fulfill Britain’s mission in her dependencies – to take Uganda to democratic self-government.
I hope that the Government will take this attitude not only in the full confidence that history is on its side, but also with the knowledge that it has the unstinting support of the overwhelming majority of the educated Baganda who will struggle tooth and nail to resist the reimposition of feudal tyranny based on the debasement of the human personality and the vagaries of the so-called customary law.
I should like to warn our reactionary rulers that they are running a great danger of discrediting our traditional institutions, and thus making it impossible for many of us to reform and adapt what is good in them to the conditions of modern life.
I also wish to address a word of warning to the forward-looking, educated Baganda. I think we intellectuals (yes, though some people may laugh at this word) – I think we intellectuals have been much too timid so far. I think we have allowed ourselves the luxury of sleeping in strange beds for too long; I think we have compromised our position much too much; I think it is not too soon for us to declare from the hilltops what we believe in.
Speaking for myself I have crossed the Rubicon. I have set my face firmly against any autocracy whether it be foreign and imperialist or native and feudal. I stake my future and dedicate my life to the realization of democratic principles in my coup try no matter from which side the obstacles may emanate. This is a declaration of political faith, and I call on other intellectuals to do likewise.
Abu Kakyama Mayanja