Resistance Movements

The first resistance in Uganda was directed at Buganda’s proxy colonialism. Examples are the Nyangire-Abaganda rebellion of Bunyoro and Ankole, which was against the Baganda chiefs whom the colonial administration deployed in Bunyoro after the fall the fall of the Omukama (king) Kabalega; the Nyabingi cult of Kigezi; the Lamogi of the Lamogi clan of Acholi.
The latter two were trying to overturn the bitter legacy of the colonial administration. The religions that had brought the education paradoxically provided the base for future agitation in a more organized manner against colonialism.

It was the semi-educated elite who later absorbed the ways of the colonialists and organized themselves against exploitation, suppression and discrimination by the colonialists. The first organized resistance was the Bataka Movement of the 1920s. This was a movement of the Baganda clan heads against the new Mengo establishment.
With the coming into force of the Buganda Agreement of 1900, the Bataka had lost their ancestral lands to the newly created chiefs. The new chiefs were drawn from the Christian converts, abasomi, who were sectarian in orientation as described above.

The clan leaders had been supplanted by these new colonially created chiefs who were given huge chunks of land totaling 8,000sq miles – hence the Luganda term kanana meaning eight thousand.

Each of the 1,000 chiefs got eight square miles of land and all the previous or new occupants became serfs paying rent to the new owners. The Bataka Movement was, therefore, a move by the clan heads to regain control of their land and authority.
Then there was the Native Civil Servants Association of 1922, which was for the educated elite agitating for better conditions of service. There were other resistance groups, some mainly ethnically based, and they included the Young Basoga Association, the Young Acholi Association, the Young Lango Association, the Young Bagwere Association and the Bugisu Welfare Association.

These Movements were led by farmers whose major motivation was to find markets for their products; the African traders who were against the domination of trade by the Indians; the professionals and wage earners who wanted improved welfare and terms of service.
The Mubende-Banyoro Association was formed in 1921 and revived in 1931 by E. Kaliisa to pressurize for the return of Bunyoro’s lost counties from Buganda. The Uganda Motor Drivers Association of 1938 was for he drivers of lorries and buses.
There were the Baana ba Kintu (sons of Kintu) in 1938, which was against the Baganda landlords offering land to Makerere College and the Buganda old leadership, which, according to the young generation, had outlived its usefulness. Baana ba Kintu included farmers, traders and the youth.

The Uganda African Farmers’ Association was formed in the early 1940s under the leadership of Ignatius Musaazi who was a veteran of the Bataka movement, which had been formed in the 1920s. Both organisations agitated against Asian control of processing and marketing of their cash crops leading to riots and strikes in 1945 and 1949. By 1949, they started to gin their cotton and sell it; and they also demanded representatives to the Lukiiko, which was refused by the Kabaka.

They, however, did not ally with other Ugandans such as those from Busoga (which was the area that grew cotton most), to form a big pressure group. As a result, the Mengo government, together with the colonial administration, suppressed them. The major handicap of these pre-independence resistance movements was that most of them operated only within their locality and thus lacked a countrywide appeal.
This made it easy for the colonial government to suppress them either by force or concessions. The biggest concession was the enactment of the Busuulu and Envujjo laws of 1928.

This was a reaction to the peasant farmers’ agitation against exploitation by the colonially created landlords. The law limited the rent the landlords could exact from the peasants, thereby defusing the anger of the peasants against the colonial system.

In effect, colonialists had ditched their puppets after using them.

In 1952, the British Government mooted the idea of a federation of East Africa and all the Kingdoms rejected it. However, Buganda’s response was the strongest. The Kabaka responded by asking for the ‘independence’ of Buganda from Uganda. This request was rejected by the Protectorate Government, which responded by deporting Kabaka Mutesa on 30 November 1953, on the charge that he had refused to co-operate with the British Government as per the 1900 Agreement, which had stripped him of his political powers.

The agreement had turned the Kabaka into a servant of the colonial state because he could not do anything political without the approval of the colonial rulers. The deportation of the Kabaka provoked Buganda nationalism arousing the Baganda to agitate for his return. Also, almost all the district councils in the Protectorate passed resolutions condemning the British.
As a result of increased pressure, the Governor worked out ways for his return. He proposed a conference under the chairmanship of Professor Keith Hancock. This resulted into the Namirembe Conference of 1954, which formed the basis for the return of the Kabaka on October 17 1955.