Kabaka Mutebi’s secret with President Kenyatta


Pictures of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi meeting President Uhuru Kenyatta circulated  widely among Ugandans and many thought it was a simple courtesy call by one dignitary on another, which it may as well be.  

What is interesting is that some Ugandans were so surprised that they found it impossible for the two to meet and even suggested that the photos were photoshopped. This is not surprising considering how much Uganda of Uganda’s pre-independence story remains  unwritten and for that matter untaught in our schools. Raise your hand if you studied details of Uganda’s independence struggle in your Primary or secondary school.  

The other (un)academic characteristic of Uganda is the people’s aversion to reading and researching. So, it will come as a surprise to many that there was a deep connection between  Kenya’s independence struggle with Uganda, especially the (very politically conscious) student community at Makerere University College in the 1950s.   I do not pretend to know whatever is involved in the friendship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kabaka Ronald Mutebi. But for those who have not had the opportunity to research into the struggles for self determination by Ugandans and Kenyans in the 1950s, here are a few pointers to guide your search for the knowledge.

  In the March of 1952, the Katwe based Uganda National Congress (UNC) invited and admitted  interested Makerere University students, who started rubbing shoulders with leading nationalists of the day like IK Musaazi, Abu Mayanja, Jolly Joe Kiwanuka,  Yekosofati Engur and Doctor Kununka.   The Makerere group were very much concerned with the plight of their Kenyan colleagues whose country was embroiled in the bitter anti-colonial Mau Mau struggle. The following month, two of the five Makerere students who were expelled for submitting an anti-racism petition to Governor Andrew Cohen were Kenyans named Muriithi and Gitau.

There was significant pro Mau-Mau activism at Makerere and about half of the activists were Ugandan.   In the September of 1952, the government (of Governor Andrew Cohen) had launched a retraining drive for student cadets (High school students used to undergo military training) but the already mobilizable students rejected the retraining which they saw as mainly ideological to discourage support for the military anti-colonial uprisings like the Mau-Mau next door. The angry Makerereans went ahead and instead formed formed the Uganda-Kenya Students Solidarity led by one Mwai Kibaki.  

With Jommo Kenyatta arrested, some radical (Ugandan) students at Makerere formed the ‘Kapenguria Club’. Several were arrested in the ‘Control of the Kikuyu in Uganda Operations’ by the Colonial Police.   In the November of 1953, student leaders of (old) Mitchell Hall demanded that the name of their residence be changed because Sir Philip Mitchell who had been the Governor of Uganda from 1936 to 1940 and key tormentor to Kabaka Daudi Chwa had also been  behind the policies that sparked the Mau Mau uprising when he moved to Kenya.   (Todate, Mitchel is one of anti-African colonialists whose names still grace key installations,  to the chagrin of author Apollo Nelson Makubuya.)

 On November 30, Kabaka Edward Mutesa II was arrested and swiftly deported. Among the charges against Mutesa was opposition to the format of the federation the British were proposing for East Africa.    Mutesa has since been accused by lazy ‘intellectuals’ of opposing the federation without looking into the details of the arguments he presented to Andrew Cohen. Several different  Ugandans with military skills, some from service in World War II and others from high school  military cadet training, were meanwhile training Mau Mau fighters in the forests of Lweza – Kigo and Nansana.  

Kenyan students had been enjoying rather free access to the Kabaka’s palace. Eventually, Kenya became independent. The new Prime Minister, later president, Jommo Kenyatta, ordered the Mau Mau still in the forests of Kenya to surrender. That order has been used by some ‘scholars’ to argue that Kenyatta was anti-Mau Mau. Well, even Mandela is now accused by some of betraying the ANC by reaching agreement with de Klerk &co.  

I had occasion to interview some recently deceased Ugandans from both the forest instructors of the 1950s and from the well placed Ganda aristocracy like John Kulubya who interacted deeply with the Kenyan independence-time leaders. Suffice it to say that there was deep contact between the Kenyan elite that took government in 1963 and the Kabakaship.   There was indeed more to the anger with which Mutesa was deported than mere disagreement over the format of a federation. Perusing the newspapers of the early to mid fifties revels armed clashes between ‘kondos’ and police though not mentioning what the kondos were robbing. Neither the British nor those who took power n Uganda in 1962 were keen on publicizing the fact that there was armed resistance to colonialism in Uganda from the day the British took over to the day they left.  

It started with Kings Mwanga of Buganda (Mutebi’s grandfather) and Kabalega of Bunyoro, who were both exiled to the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles. And even though Mwanga;s son Daudi Chwa was a baby on ascending to the throne, by the time he died, he had opted to rebel against  the British and throw out the 1900 Agreement. He died just before being deported, the way his son  Mutesa II was. Jommo Kenyatta was close to Ugandan royalty.

Even arap Moi, Kenyatta’s successor  who must have known a thing or two, paid a courtesy call on newly crowned Kabaka Mutebi when he  visited Uganda in 1994 (after a few years of cold relations with Uganda’s new NRM administration).    State House Nairobi said Kabaka Mutebi and President Uhuru Kenyatta discussed cultural integration  in East Africa. With this background, I believe them. And on a less political note, one of  Kabaka Mutebi’s mums (Mutesa’s muzaana) was a Kikuyu.

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