Political Parties

There were several political parties that were formed to unite and rally Ugandans against the British Rule.

By the 1950s, some elements in the population had realized the need for a political platform where they could derive power to agitate for economic independence and reject exploitation and monopoly, especially by the Indians.
They wanted political independence from the colonial administrators. In 1952, politicians outside the Mengo establishment who were frustrated by the failure of the 1949 protests formed the Uganda National Congress (UNC). Ignatius Musaazi became its first president.
The party executive made efforts to pull people from all corners of Uganda. These included Yekosofati Engur from Lango, Peter Oula from Acholi, Abanya from West Nile, Okwerede from Teso, John Kale from present-day Kisoro who was dispatched to Cairo to open up the Uganda office, Dr. Barnabas Kununka from Bunyoro and many others.

The Catholics who were not accommodated in the party ranks became spectators and were disgruntled. The Muslims had long ceased being part of the kingdom’s leadership. When the party started going out of Buganda to mobilize for support, it was faced with the reality of divide and rule, as there were no countrywide issues on which it could base its appeal.
In many areas the party raised local grievances but whenever the colonial administration addressed them its support dwindled. For example, in Buganda, during the time of the deportation of the Kabaka, the party support rose but when he returned, its support significantly reduced. This lack of countrywide appeal and its Protestant domination meant that the party could not mobilize substantial support throughout the country.

In 1956, the Democratic Party (DP) came on the scene. Matayo Mugwanya, a descendant of Stanislus Mugwanya, who had led the Catholic group through the wars of 1890s, was its first leader. For a long time, the Catholics had been marginalized in the politics of the protectorate. In all the Kingdoms the kings and the most senior ministers and most of the chiefs were Protestants.
Although not officially pronounced, Protestantism was the de facto state religion. In the case of Buganda, Matayo Mugwanya ran for the office of the Katikkiro (Prime Minister) after the return of the Kabaka in 1955. He was poised to win but the Mengo establishment was not ready for a Catholic Katikkiro.

The Kabaka asked Paulo Kavuma, a Protestant who had been Katikkiro before the deportation to step down for Kintu, a protestant, who beat Mugwanya by four votes.
Mugwanya later won a by-election to represent Mawokota in Lukiiko but was refused leave to take his seat by the Kabaka on the dubious grounds that he was a member of the African Legislative Assembly. Feeling rejected and frustrated, he formed the Democratic Party (DP), which registered the support of the Catholics throughout Uganda. The colonial state had promoted Protestantism and marginalized Catholics who, therefore, formed the party as an outlet to challenge a political order that was against them.

In 1958, the Uganda People’s Union (UPU) was formed. This was, for the first time, an independent party not encircled with the religious affiliations. It comprised the representatives of the Uganda Legislative Council under the leadership of William Rwetsiba from Ankole as the party’s president general, with William Nadiope from Busoga and John Babiiha from Toro as vice presidents, and George Magezi from Bunyoro, who was the party’s secretary general.

The party did not have a Muganda within its ranks because the Baganda had boycotted the 1958 Legislative Council (Legco) elections. However, the party leadership made efforts to recruit Baganda.
Under minute 28/59 of the 5th meeting of UPU promoters held on January 10 1959, it was recorded as follows: “After lengthy discussion, it was resolved that each founding member should regard it as a duty to approach reasonable Baganda for recruitment.”
In the Legco elections of 1958, most of the district councils, which were predominantly Protestant, and the Buganda kingdom rejected direct elections. They preferred indirectly elected members because they feared that the Catholics, who were believed to be the majority, would win. The party was weak because it had not yet mustered support outside the Legco.

Augustine Kamya, a cobbler, formed the Uganda National Movement basically for Buganda’s economically exploited group who had longstanding grievances against the colonial government. The Movement declared a trade boycott of non-African goods. The boycott was enforced through intimidation and actual violence against Asians and those who attempted to buy from them. Although the Mengo establishment was in favour of the boycott, it could not publicly endorse lawlessness.

The local people supported the boycott because they wanted control of the ginneries and marketing of cash crops, which was a monopoly of Asians. When the party resorted to violence it was proscribed and the colonial government arrested many of its leaders. The party did not gain support outside Buganda.

Instead of pursuing its stated mission of ‘self government now’ in the wake of the ‘wind of change’ that was sweeping across Africa, the UNC was instead engaged in factional fighting. In January 1959, the party split into two: the Baganda faction under Ignatius Musaazi and the non-Baganda faction under Milton Obote. The Obote faction of the UNC in 1960 merged with UPU to form Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), with Obote as its president-general and John Kakonge (who had studied in India) as its secretary-general.
Other young nationalists and radical graduates from the Indian sub-continent who included Wadada Musani, Kirunda Kivejinja, Bidandi Ssali and Kintu Musoke soon joined Kakonge. The party had a few Baganda within its ranks and it was protestant dominated.

Meanwhile, the colonial administration started preparing for a constitutional conference in London. The Buganda leaders did not appreciate Kiwanuka’s ascendancy to power because he was a Catholic. This same view seems to have been held by the colonial administration who had all along promoted Protestant leadership and dominance in Uganda. In 1961, the Kabaka Yekka party (KY) was formed to protect the threatened position of the Kabaka and the Protestant clique at Mengo.