|UGANDA 60- YEAR CONFLICT (PART 3): Was Mutesa plotting a coup against Obote?|
|Written by Michael Mubanginzi & Henry Lubega|
|Wednesday, 30 December 2009 21:34|
1962 – Obote recieves instruments of power
In this part of our series on the conflict between Buganda and the central government dating back to the colonial times, MICHAEL MUBANGIZI inquires whether Kabaka Edward Mutesa was planning to overthrow the government in 1966 as alleged by the then Prime Minister, Milton Obote:
“I also got information that Mengo elements got foreign funds to further their aims of fighting the NRM and undermining the Constitution… I encourage my friend His Highness Kabaka Mutebi to distance himself from the Judases,” said Museveni in his address to the nation on September 10. The riots, in which at least 30 people died, were sparked off by government’s refusal to let Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II visit Kayunga, a part of his Buganda Kingdom.
Whether Museveni’s claims are true, or they were intended to provide justification for the heavy use of force against the rioters, will remain as much a mystery as similar claims made by President Milton Obote in 1966.
Armed or not?
When he ordered his troops to attack Kabaka Edward Mutesa, forcing him to flee into exile, Obote alleged that the Kabaka was plotting against his government.
“It’s my duty to inform the House that there has been an open declaration of rebellion by Buganda Lukiiko and by Sir Edward Mutesa. The government is in possession of documentary evidence that Sir Edward Mutesa had already decided by April 12, 1966 to mount a full-scale rebellion against the authority of the Government of Uganda….,” Obote told Parliament on May 24, the day of the attack on the palace.
Obote claimed that Lubiri (the Kingdom’s seat of power) was full of guns and that his government had captured people with illegal guns who confessed to getting them from the Palace. This was his justification for the attack.
In his address to Parliament on Friday April 15, 1966 when he announced the abrogation of the 1962 Constitution, Obote referred to his earlier correspondences with Mutesa and the media.
“During my tour of northern region, the President (Mutesa) did not hesitate to summon some ambassadors accredited to this country and made firm requests for military assistance…without notifying the foreign office or myself or any other minister of the government…”
“The diplomat concerned has written to me acknowledging that he was asked about this military assistance.”
“I had established beyond doubt and in writing that Sir. Edward Mutesa had actually, in my absence and by himself made the requests in question…In so far as I was concerned I am convinced that he was plotting against the Government of Uganda.”
Mengo has always denied Obote’s allegations. But those who were on the opposite side of the conflict maintain that Mengo was arming to topple Obote’s government. In his book Desecration of my Kingdom, Mutesa says that apart from the guns and a bodyguard of 300 people that he was entitled to, he had no secret guns in the Lubiri.
“There was unfortunately, no hidden arsenal, though Obote said later that that was what his soldiers had called at this early hour to collect… I think they believed their own stories about hidden supplies of arms, and even indulged in fanciful ideas that a king must have hoards of treasure buried beneath his palace.”
“I had thought at first of trying to raise a force, but discarded the idea as impossible. I would rally all my most loyal subjects only to have them shot. Obote continued to think that I had about twenty men, and perhaps that is why I slipped through his fingers.”
Uganda Land Commission Chairman, Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi, was Buganda’s Katikkiro (prime minister) at the time. He backs Mutesa, saying in an earlier interview with The Observer, that the authorities might have misunderstood the over 100 guards that the Kabaka was entitled to.
Sticking to their guns
However, former President Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, who was the central government’s Attorney General in 1966, insists that there were hidden guns in Lubiri.
That is when Obote realised that he wanted to take his seat,” Binaisa said in an earlier interview (Lubiri attack: Kabaka had guns, wanted to overthrow Obote; The Weekly Observer, August 30 – September 5, 2007). Recently, Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) President, Miria Kalule Obote, told The Observer that her husband’s attack on the palace was meant to get the “big guns” that, she said, were in Lubiri.
“In 1966, the situation was more serious because there was shooting in Lubiri. When they first sent the special force to investigate whether there were guns or not, they were all killed. So the government had no choice but to send the army to Lubiri…There were also big guns in Lubiri,” she said.
“1966 was different. That was a serious matter. You had guns firing, people digging trenches across roads, people attacking police stations and army lorries with guns,” she added.
There were reports at the time that Mutesa had sought military assistance from the British government, as well as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. If he, indeed, asked for foreign assistance, it would seem that he didn’t get it.
Like other Buganda officials, former Mengo minister and city lawyer, Peter Mulira, rubbishes claims that the Kabaka had hidden guns in Lubiri.
“What powers did the Kabaka have to compromise people at all border points to smuggle guns in the country unnoticed?”
“It is the central government that mans all borders and all entry points, so how could guns have entered the country without their knowledge?” With all parties holding their positions, it is unlikely that Ugandans will ever find Lubiri’s smoking gun, so to speak.
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Next Thursday, Kabaka Mutesa appeals to the UN for help.