UGANDA 60 – YEAR CONFLICT (PART 3b): How Nkangi tried to avert disaster

UGANDA 60 – YEAR CONFLICT (PART 3b): How Nkangi tried to avert disaster Print E-mail
Friday, 01 January 2010 11:59
Mayanja Nkagi

Uganda Land Commission Chairman, JEHOASH MAYANJA NKANGI, was Buganda’s Prime Minister at the time of the 1966 crisis. He tells HENRY LUBEGA how he attempted to prevent the Lukiiko from passing a resolution chasing Obote’s government from Buganda that escalated the crisis. This is an edited version of his recollection of the events leading up to the 1966 crisis:
[Mayanja Nkagi] It was in February 1966 when Obote removed the President, Sir Edward Mutesa, and the Vice President, Wilberforce Nadiope, and declared himself the executive head of state.

Why did he remove the President and the Vice President? Because that same week, UPC, the majority [party] in the National Assembly, had voted to pass a motion by Daudi Ocheng, a member of KY [Kabaka Yekka] saying that the Prime Minister, Milton Obote, and [Deputy Army Commander] Col. Idi Amin were involved in some corrupt dealings.  He suggested an inquiry into their dealings. The motion was passed by Parliament, which was predominantly a UPC House.

Had it not been for KY, or call it Buganda [which formed an alliance with UPC, enabling Obote to become Prime Minister], history would have been different.  We sang Obote’s praises, that “[only Obote should rule. He is from Lango but he knows what Buganda wants – federo – better than a Muganda man (Democratic Party’s Ben Kiwanuka)].” Obote knew what he was looking for as the Baganda were singing his praises; we never knew it.

In April 1966, he downsized our government from seven ministries to three, the same size as it was during Kabaka Chwa’s days. The three were the Prime Minister (Katikkiro), Chief Justice (Omulamuzi) and the Treasurer (Omuwanika). The rest, he dismissed. We were so surprised and asked ourselves what this was all about.  As Lukiiko, we passed two resolutions in which we asked him to get back to the Constitution which recognised the Kabaka’s cabinet.

In response, they brought soldiers on Jeeps to Bulange. We who had no guns thought of using stones, but we never did. By this time, the Kabaka had been removed as president but he was still staying in Makindye State Lodge.
While there one morning, we saw a military Jeep come to the house. It was at 9a.m. The Kabaka got up barefoot and moved to the veranda. They entered and after a short while, they left without doing anything. We never knew what Obote wanted.


On the night of [May 19], the Speaker of the Lukiiko, [E.M.] Kalule, called for a session of the Lukiiko the following day. As we went for the Lukiiko session, one of the [Buganda government] ministers called me aside and said “Katikkiro, these meetings you are calling at this moment will bring us problems.”

I told him it was not me who had called the Lukiiko sitting. When we entered the hall, George Kaggwa, a member of the Lukiiko from Kooki, tabled a motion.
He said, “Obote the Prime Minister has done a number of things contrary to the Constitution, therefore, he should take his government off Buganda land.”

We started debating the motion. At around noon, I asked for an adjournment, which was granted by the speaker. I called Kaggwa to my office at Bulange. I told him, “you have brought the motion, suppose it is passed and he refuses to take the government away, what are we going to do?”  He replied, “Ah, this is politics.” I told him “I have worked with Obote and I know him. What do you call politics?

When we go back, I’m going to make amendments to the motion to say ‘Prime Minister, we ask you to go back to the rule of the Constitution, reinstate all the Buganda ministers you sacked, and the President and the Vice President. Should you refuse to do so, Buganda will reconsider her position’”.

We agreed with Kaggwa that I was going to make that amendment. He left me in my office and went back to some saza chiefs who were members of the Lukiiko and had wanted to topple me from the office of Katikkiro. This I got to know much later. I came back and the session continued.

When I tabled the amendment, the first person to oppose it was Kaggwa, the same person I had agreed with to table it! I don’t recall that there were people in the Lukiiko who were on my side to support the amendment. I never knew why they did that. After the debate, they asked me, as the Katikkiro, whether they should vote on the motion and I was like, fine, you can vote on it.

But there was a dilemma. If one is in the wrong and you decide not to take a vote on the matter, you are condoning that wrong. If you vote on it, you don’t have the guns to defend your decision. On [May 23], I was at Butikkiro and someone brought me a hand-written note from my friend, the then Attorney General Godfrey Binaisa, ordering the arrest of some saza chiefs.

They were [Michael] Matovu from Buddu, [Lameka] Sebanakita from Kyagwe, another one from Bugerere, and others whose names I don’t recall. In total, they were five. (Other names that have been mentioned include James Lutaya and Amos Sempa. However, in interviews published by The Monitor, Obote said three chiefs were arrested – Lutaya, Matovu and Sebanakita).

Buganda’s share in the conflict was the issuing of the ultimatum chasing the central government off Buganda land. Besides that, I don’t see [any role] that Buganda played in the conflict.


The plot to overthrow Obote was a party plot. People within the UPC themselves wanted to do so. Now blaming it on Buganda, because of the many KY people [in Parliament] who became UPC members, was uncalled for.  When [ministers] Grace Ibingira, George Magezi, [E.S.] Lumu and [army commander Shaban] Opolot were arrested, I was later told they complained that they wanted to arrest Obote but it was Mutesa who stopped them, otherwise they would not be in jail.

One time an old man who used to make Mutesa’s bed told me, “there are people who suggest Mutesa should put Obote under arrest”, but he never agreed to the mission.

I recall one day, while at my office at Butikkiro, one of the secretaries to the Kabaka came asking for money to travel to Ethiopia on the orders of the Kabaka. I never asked what he was going to do there. I just authorised and he went to the treasurer and got the money. He was going to see the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie.  The Kabaka and the Emperor had their own understanding.  At 9p.m, the same day, Obote was on radio talking about it!

“This day, as I speak, there is someone the Kabaka has sent to Ethiopia.” How he got to know that, I will never know. But chances are that information came from Mengo itself. The wife of the treasurer, who was a minister of state in Obote’s government, passed on the information.

On another occasion, I went to Lubiri and found [Fred] Mpanga, the attorney general then, advising the Kabaka to take the issues between Buganda and the central government to the United Nations.
I told them that in the United Nations, it’s Uganda that is known, not Buganda. The Kabaka later replied to me, “now it’s only Mpanga with courage.” I never responded.

After a couple of years, when we were both in exile in London, I asked him a pointed question: “What happened to your friend, the Emperor of Ethiopia?”
He gave me a straight forward answer, “oyo yankuba amabega” (He turned his back on me). That’s what happened.  Whatever it was, I say Obote was wrong. I don’t believe in “might is right”.


Buganda’s question cannot be settled for good, because people keep on changing. Those of today may put it right, but those who come later may change it. But let’s ask; what’s Buganda’s question? To me, the Buganda question is a question of liberty. To settle it, the first thing is the attitude of the non-Baganda. People should accept that autonomy in this multi-ethnic set-up is necessary.

Both parties need to let go of certain things and know who should be in charge of what. That could be the best way to settle the Buganda question. The world has changed. Many years ago, it was said that the sun would never set on the British Empire, but now they are like small states. What I’m saying is that age for microscopic states is [ending].

Countries like Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and others still exist. Why? Because if you are small and your neighbours like you, you can survive. For Buganda, I’m saying those of us who like federalism within Uganda have to watch out. Because this is an era of bigness, we must unite but under federalism. If the rest don’t want to unite under federalism, the Buganda question will not be solved for a long time.

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About ekitibwakyabuganda

Ba Ssebo ne ba Nyabo, Twebaza Abaganda bonna abulumulirwa Obuganda . Era twebaza ne mikwano gya Buganda gyonna wonna wegiri munsi yonna. Omukutu guno gwatandikibwawo nga e’kigendererwa kwe kuyigiriza abantu ebintu ebikwatagana no’Buganda era nokuwanyisiganya ebilowozo nebanaffe abatali Baganda. Abaganda ne mikwano gya Buganda mukozese omukisa guno muwereze ebirowozo byamwe no’bubaka bwona obunaagasa Abaganda na’baana Buganda berizala mu maaso eyo. Obumu ku bubaka obuwerezebwa ku mukutu guno bugyibwa mukuwanyisiganya ebirowozo okubera kumukutu gwa Ugandan’s at Heart (UAH) Forum ogwatandikibwawo Mwami Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba. Era twebaza muzukulu wa Kintu ne Nnambi ono olw’omulimu gwakoledde bana Uganda bonna abali e’bunayira mungeri yo kubagatta mu byempuliziganya no’kutumbula okukolaganira awamu.

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