UGANDA’S 60-YEAR CONFLICT (Part 4a): Mutesa appeals to United Nations

UGANDA’S 60-YEAR CONFLICT (Part 4a): Mutesa appeals to United Nations Print E-mail
Written by Michael Mubangizi
Wednesday, 06 January 2010 17:42
After Prime Minister Milton Obote abrogated the 1962 Constitution and declared himself president, Edward Mutesa appealed to the UN to intervene. These are extracts from his petition to the UN Secretary-General:

Your Excellency,
In both my capacities as the duly and constitutionally elected President of Uganda, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, and the Kabaka (King) of Buganda, I am writing to you…after a situation has arisen in Uganda which may…endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.

Uganda, a former British Protectorate, became independent on 9th October, 1962. I was elected by the National Assembly…as the first President of Uganda on 8th October 1963.
The events which led to the present situation are more fully amplified in the document headed ‘The background to the events leading to the suspension of the Uganda Constitution etc’ [attached to this letter].

On 11th March, 1966 when the [background document] was written, the Uganda Constitution had been partially “suspended”.
I must point it out here that the Constitution does not provide for its own suspension either in part or as a whole by Parliament or anybody, or any individual whatsoever.

Constitution in three hours

On 24th February, 1966, the Prime Minister [Dr. Milton Obote] purported to suspend some parts of the Constitution. On 2nd March, 1966, the offices of the President and Vice President were said by the Prime Minister to have been abolished.
This process culminated in the abrogation by the Prime Minister of the Uganda Constitution [of] 1962 on Friday, 15th April, 1966. The 1962 Constitution was on that day replaced by another drafted on the initiative of the Prime Minister and passed by the National Assembly during a three-hour session.

The Prime Minister introduced his Constitution to the Assembly and on division 55 Members voted for and four Government supporters voted against the Constitution. The Opposition simply walked out. The Members after that session found their copies of the document in their respective pigeon holes: The other 33 Members either did not vote at all or they were absent. Out of a total membership of the National Assembly of 92, 33 is by no means a negligible number.
If the 1962 Constitution was going to be amended, at least 62 Members would be required before the proposed amendment became effective.

It is interesting to note that while the Prime Minister was introducing his new Constitution, troops surrounded the Parliamentary Building and Members of the Opposition were searched before entering the debating chamber. In those circumstances, Dr. Milton Obote was sworn in as President — this time an executive one.
From the new Constitution, it is not clear whether there will be general elections which were due in February 1967.

Federo no more

The most important feature of the new Constitution so far as the Kingdom of Buganda is concerned is that the federalist concept is taken away from our Constitution; we now have a unitary form of government.

In regard to the “federalist   concept,” I should like to mention what appears to me to be some of the most important events in Buganda’s history, at least during my reign.
(a) A disagreement arose between myself and the Governor, Sir Andrew Cohen over the question among other things, of whether the Kingdom of Buganda should relate to the Central Government unitarily.

Sir Andrew insisted that I should agree to Buganda being a local government unit within a unitary Uganda. I thought this was most unrealistic because since 1900, as a result of the Buganda Agreement of that year, this Kingdom had enjoyed a special position vis-a-vis the rest of the country.

Since that time, it had state powers which it could not be expected to lose.
As our points of view were irreconcilable, I had to live in exile for two years. Fortunately, my own view prevailed and the subsequent Buganda Agreement 1955 recognised that fact, while the Kabaka was made a Constitutional Monarch instead of an absolute Monarch, which the 1900 Agreement had made him.

At the same time, the powers of my Government were increased enormously, e.g. instead of the three Ministers recognised by the 1900 Agreement, the 1955 Agreement created another three Ministers to take care of Health, Education and Natural Resources.
These services were in the executive power of Central Government, but they were “transferred” and were to be administered by my own Government.

These “arrangements” have been preserved by [the 1962 Constitution].
While the services within the executive authority of the Central Government, in regard to which “arrangements” have been made in relation to the administrations other than Buganda, may be taken back by the Central Government, this cannot be done in connection with Buganda, according to section 79(3) of the Uganda Constitution 1962. The new Constitution however, purports to wipe out this power.

(b) At the end of 1960, the Lukiiko [Buganda parliament] declared Buganda’s own independence. The cause of this unilateral act was the refusal by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to grant Buganda a federal status i.e. to let Buganda have its own exclusive legislative list and absolute power over its own budget. The subsequent negotiations between Buganda and the Colonial Office resulted in the 1961 Agreement [giving the Kabaka administrative powers over Buganda].

Privileged Buganda

In order to bring the picture into as clear a focus as possible, it is necessary for me to point out:
(i) That only Buganda and no other part of the Country   enjoyed the concurrent   legislative powers,
(ii) that the 1962 Constitution was made as a result of the recommendations made by the “Uganda Relationships Commission, 1961”, popularly known as the “Muster Commission.” In paragraph 149 of its Report the Commission says:
“Our own analysis, given above, leads us to recommend a federal position for Buganda, because she has virtually reached that position already and a semi-federal position for the three Kingdoms in order to emphasize their right to preserve their traditional characteristics…”

“The feature which emerges, therefore, is one of a composite state containing a single federal Kingdom (Buganda) in association with the rest of the Country, which would be governed unitarily”.

In trying to persuade the Secretary of State for the Colonies to grant Buganda a federal status, my former Katikkiro (Prime Minister) [concluded] in his speech as leader of the Buganda:
“I should like to stress the fact that Buganda has endeavoured to bring about unity in Uganda and will continue to do so: only that unity, as far as Buganda is concerned, will be achieved in diversity.

We in Buganda believe that the survival of parliamentary democracy for a long time even after Uganda’s independence will greatly depend on the effective survival of the traditional institutions which most of our people do understand and respect. We are not averse to change, but we want the new superstructure to be based on the rock foundation of our tried and trusted customs and traditions. Naturally, we would prefer evolution to a revolution.
We have learnt from recent history that Western democracy based entirely on non-African or foreign concepts can easily defeat its own ends. We are not willing to make those mistakes: we do not want military dictatorships or sham representative democracy or even resort to the United Nations troops immediately after Uganda’s independence…”
Your Excellency, in the circumstances in which Uganda finds itself today, those might be called prophetic words.

Survival tactics

The Constitution which eventually emerged and took concrete shape in the form of the document with which Uganda launched her ship of independence has been and is still workable.
The question now is how is it that a good and workable Constitution has been abrogated by one man?
I can give only two answers to that question and they are both personal in the sense that Dr. Obote has accused me of inviting foreign troops to invade my own Country. This would not be proper forum to try and prove my innocence against that accusation.

All that I can say here, and I have already stated it, is this that the Uganda Constitution of 1962 as amended, gives the Prime Minister power to move in Parliament…a resolution to remove the President. This procedure was open to Dr. Obote. Why did he not avail himself of that procedure?

The reply to this is also the second answer to the question I posed earlier on. The taking of all the government powers, the suspension and the eventual abrogation of the Constitution, all add up to one single thing: survival.
The most crucial debate in Parliament on 4th February, 1966 clearly revealed to Dr. Obote that his support there had dwindled to almost nothing.
On 15th February, 1966 we found ourselves in a most embarrassing and unenviable position when the Cabinet had to recommend the appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry whose terms of reference were, in part, as follows:

(a) to inquire into the allegations of the receipt by the Hon. Dr. Apolo Milton Obote, Prime Minister, the Hon. Felix Kenyi Onama, Minister of State for Defence, the Hon. Akbar Akaki Adoko Nekyon, Minister of Planning and Community Development and Colonel Idi Amin, Deputy Commander of the Army, of gold, ivory, moneys or other property from the Congo….
(b) to inquire into the allegations of conspiracy, plot or plots intended to compel by force of arms or constraint or otherwise the nullification, abrogation or the defeasance of the Constitution…

Now before the Commission has had time to report, the same person has elected himself Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces.    The Commission’s findings as to the allegation of conspiracy to abrogate the Constitution will now be superfluous. Their other findings are bound to be of doubtful validity after this one-man coup d’ etat.
Dr. Obote is deliberately disrupting Uganda. After the experience of KATANGA [in Congo], it would be wrong to wait and see.

This is more than a domestic matter. The intervention of the United Nations, in any way, would not be justified in the circumstances of a popular revolution, but we have already seen that this is a one-man coup, which is bound to be resisted by an unarmed people with which he is likely to deal ruthlessly.

I am,
Your Excellency’s sincere friend,



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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s