1966 Uganda Crisis

From the start, the alliance between KY and UPC was bound to collapse because Obote and Muteesa had different agendas. The issue of the ‘lost counties’ of Buyaga, Buwekula and Bugangayizi became a hot issue and a referendum was held in those counties, to resolve it.
The Kabaka and the Lukiiko opposed this referendum and tried to organize a boycott against it but to no avail. This created tension between Obote and the Mengo establishment. Especially when the Kabaka refused to sign the instruments transferring the two counties of Buyaga and Bugangaizi, which opted to return to Bunyoro.

Buwekula opted to remain in Buganda. A dangerous rift thus developed between Obote and Mutesa. In his book, Desecration of My Kingdom (1967), Mutesa writes: ” I was supposed to be kept informed of affairs by the Prime Minister, but he gradually ceased to bother to do this. Also I had certain rights such as appointing and dismissing ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. Even when Obote could be sure of my support, he was not interested in honouring such obligations.”

The UPC itself was not spared the confusion. Owing to Obote’s tactics of divide and rule, the party split into three wings: the right wing led by Grace Ibingira, the centre by Obote and the left wing by John Kakonge.

Some members of Kakonge’s faction were either suspended or expelled from the party for their attempt to introduce a different ideological viewpoint. There were many conspiracies and intrigues within the UPC.
For instance, at Independence, there had been an understanding that as UPC secretary-general, Kakonge should not seek election as a constituency MP but that he should work nationally for the success of the party. He would become an MP through the specially elected MPs, as the constitution provided.

However, when the list of specially elected MPs came out, his name was not on it. He fled to Tanzania to seek Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s intervention in the crisis. Later in 1964, as a result of infighting within the party, Kakonge was replaced by Grace Ibingira as the party secretary-general. Many members of Parliament, as a result of rewards Obote promised them, without their voters’ consent crossed from KY and DP to UPC. This was not a reflection of the true strength of the UPC in the country, as the MPs had not gone back to their constituencies to seek re-election as UPC MPs.

The rewards included ministerial positions. For instance, after ditching DP for UPC, Basil Bataringaya was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs. There were attempts by KY and DP to merge to oppose Obote but this failed, as there was an internal rift within DP MPs and the party’s supporters outside Parliament.
A new name for the merger had been proposed as “Yekka Democrat”. Kabaka Mutesa writes: There was something of a split between the Parliamentary party and its supporters outside, so there was some doubt as to precisely what we were joining.”

In February 1966, Daudi Ochieng moved a motion in Parliament on what is known as the gold scandal. The motion had two main allegations: that some members of the government were planning to overthrow the constitution and that four people namely, Adoko Nekyon, Felix Onama, Colonel Idi Amin, as well as the Prime Minister Milton Obote, had received large sums in gold and ivory from Congo.
Onama, who was in the House, denied the allegations and later, Obote denied the allegations at a press conference. Parliament passed a resolution suspending Colonel Amin and decided that his bank account, which had 17,000 pounds sterling on it, should be investigated.

However, Amin was not suspended but was, later promoted to the rank of major general and appointed as army commander. Later, some ministers demanded an investigation into the gold allegations. As the differences within UPC intensified, Obote used force and intimidation against other party leaders opposed to him.
On February 24 1966, five ministers were arrested in a cabinet meeting including the secretary-general of the party, Grace Ibingira. The others were: Balaki Kirya, George Magezi, Dr. SB Lumu and Mathias Ngobi. These ministers were accused of having plotted with the Mengo group to oust Obote.

Obote then suspended the 1962 Constitution; introduced the infamous ‘Pigeon Hole’ Constitution on April 15 1966 and humiliated the President who was locked out of State House. He was only allowed to collect his personal belongings. The infuriated Lukiiko passed a resolution asking Obote to take the central government off Buganda soil and gave May 30 as the last date for central government to leave.
Obote responded by using the army led by Idi Amin, to storm the Kabaka’s palace on May 24 1966, and the Kabaka fled to Britain. In 1967, the Parliament converted itself into a constituent assembly, which, among other things abolished all the kingdoms.