Independence and the first Obote Government
When cries for independence tore across the African continent, in Uganda they were somewhat muted because Uganda didn’t have European settlements, and though there was dissent from most tribes about Buganda’s privileged position it wasn’t a call for independence. The call came from an unlikely quarter, Buganda and from Kabaka Mutesa II in 1953, who defied the British administration’s proposed federation of Uganda with Kenya and Tanzania and demanded full independence not for Uganda but Buganda alone. An infuriated governor at what he deemed disloyalty to Britain deposed Mutesa from the throne and exiled him to Britain. However, When Mutesa returned, exulted as a national hero his interests were still tribal and not national and consequently, a new Buganda Agreement was signed on 18 Ooctober 1955 giving Buganda even greater federal powers.
Multi- partism dawned in Uganda when Mutesa refused as Prime Minister Matayo Mugwanya on account of his Catholicism. Consequently, Matayo formed the Democratic Party (DP) Uganda’s very first indigenous party of consequence, but it was regarded as essentially catholic because of it’s platform for the legitimate grievances of the catholics who had always been treated as secondhand citizens. Next was the Uganda’s Peoples Union(UPU), Uganda National Congress(UNC) and Uganda People’s Congress led by Apollo Milton Obote. Later, the overtly protestant and pro- Buganda Kabaka Yekka (KY) was formed by a merger between the UNC and the Federal government of Buganda.
The main contenders for the general elections of 1962 were DP, UPC and KY. DP won through a Buganda boycott which gave 19 of the seats within the kingdom and DP’s Benedicto Kiwanuka became the first prime minister of Uganda when self- governance was granted on 7 March 1962. However, another general election held in April of that same year in the build up to granting full independence saw the alliance between UPC and KY based on solely mutual non Catholicism win UPC 43 seats, DP 24 seats and KY 24 which would have been 48 for Buganda without the UPC- KY alliance. Thus UPC- KY alliance won the majority 67 seats and Milton Obote led Uganda to full Independence on 9th October 1962.
Obote received from the British a deeply divided Uganda. Religious and ethnic interests ripped the country and this was further compounded by Buganda’s full federal status and the rest of dissenting Uganda was under the central government. As if this wasn’t enough, the issue of the lost counties (formerly counties belonging to Ankole which were given to Buganda during the 1901 agreement between the Kabaka and the British) reared up it’s head immediately after independence and pitied Obote against Kabaka Mutesa for Obote’s resolution of the contentious issue was to hold a referendum allowing the inhabitants of the lost counties decide whether to remain a part of Buganda or be incorporated into Bunyoro. As expected, an overwhelming 80% voted for reincorporation.
As a result, tensions flared up between the Kabaka and Obote and the Constitutional Crisis of 1966 was the culmination of these tensions. Obote scraped the Independence Constitution and stripped the Kabaka of his presidency. Mutesa’s appeal against this was met with the storming of the Lubirir ( his palace ) by Obote’s army and with no other choice but flee, Mutesa jumped over his palace walls and went into exile in London. An estimated 2000 Baganda who had rallied around his palace in protest were loaded onto army trucks and driven away and killed.
On April 1966, Obote unveiled a new constitution in which he proclaimed himself “life president of Uganda,” and abolished the role of prime minister. Yet in another constitution, Obote made Uganda a republic, abolished kingdoms, divided Buganda into four districts and gave the army excessive powers of detention without trial. Next, he stifled the opposition by banning DP and other political parties. With the army’s Carteblanch and intolerance of opposition, what followed was a spate of detentions of political opponents, perceived dissidents within the UPC and critics of all walks of life.
The army had because of the powers vested in it by Obote had started to act with impunity and when Obote on January 11 flew to Singapore for the common wealth conference, he left a referendum to the commander in Chief of the Uganda army demanding an explaination not only in the disappearance of 4000,000 US$ from the army coffers but also the commanders alleged involvement in the murder of a Brigadier and his wife in Gulu and for which he was to be tried. Rather than bare a public inquisition and so much empowered by Obote, the commander decided to stage a coup in Obote’s absence and on 25 January 1971 Obote was toppled as president.