During his recent tour of Bukedi and Bugisu sub-regions to fundraise for the reconstruction of Kasubi Tombs and completion of Masengeri Plaza at Mengo, the Katikiro of Buganda is reported to have encouraged Baganda to emulate the late Semei Kakungulu, who championed unity and caused development in Bugisu and Bukedi in eastern region.
The Katikkiro is wrong to claim that Kakungulu brought unity and development. Kakungulu was a colonial mercenary who did a lot to spoil the relationship between the inhabitants of what used to be called Bukedi and Bugisu on the one hand and the Baganda on the other.
The memories of Kakungulu in the area that used to be called Bukedi, that is up to present Lango, is so bad that nothing of Kakugulu’s activities in the area can be emulated as the katikkiro says.
The Katikkiro should remember that Kakungulu took off from Buganda after a disagreement with Apollo Kagwa.
That he left with the intention of coming to found himself a kingdom out of the area. Such a condescending attitude alone requires the Baganda to aplogise (and not emulate) on behalf of Kakungulu.
Beyond this attitude, the British used Kakungulu to subjugate the people of the areas the Katikkiro is talking about.
Apart from the resentment that such foreign intrusion was bound to arouse, bitterness also came from Kakungulu’s method of warfare which involved the erection of forts - one of which “took only three weeks to build and whose massive ramparts can be seen to this day must have required the labour of many hundreds of unwilling workers”.
The practice of taking war booty that included women and cattle was another cause not only of immediate resistance, but of long-term hatred. In April and May of 1895, Kakungulu was sent on a mission to capture Kabalega who had taken refuge in Lango.
The mission failed because the troops were afraid of going deep into unknown territory. However, much as they had not gone that far, they looted over 500 head of cattle.
In October 1901, Grant sent W.W. Walker, a junior administrative officer, to reside temporarily at Kakungulu’s headquarters in Budaka and establish why no tax revenue was forthcoming from the area.
Walker very soon got insight into what Kakungulu was doing to the people under his control. Walker “reported that the vast majority of the inhabitants were practically destitute.
Some even asserted that they had been driven to feeding on rats. There was practically no cattle, sheep or goats to be seen in the country except those that belonged to Kakungulu and his followers. ”
In 1905, there erupted a serious and spontaneous revolt in Padhola. The Ganda chief administering the area, Mika Kisaka, had exceeded the instructions of the British collector and was committing what the Jopadhola felt were unbearable excesses.
The last straw came in June 1905 when Kakungulu ordered tax to be forcibly collected from Budama. The Baganda tax collectors levied tax by seizing cattle.
In the inflammatory situation, a Muganda official seized the wife of a prominent chief, tied her up and beat her because she had not given him beer. Her son rescued her and then collected a band of young men who entered the Boma where the Baganda lived and massacred all of them.
A colonial review of this incident concluded that Kakungulu’s usefulness in Bukedi was by far outweighed by his nuisance value and that he needed to be removed from Bukedi.
In 1906, he was sent to Busoga to take up the position of president of the Busoga Lukiiko (the Kyabazinga).
He stayed in Busoga for seven years and returned to Mbale to resume his duties as Ssaza chief. He remained in that position until 1923. He died of natural causes at his home at Gangama on November 19, 1929.
The experiences the people of these areas had with Kakungulu was so traumatic that it had very long range consequences.
In his book, “Local Government and Politics in Uganda,” Professor Burke, the anthropologist who did a study of some of the areas in which the Ganda administrative system was imposed and agents used, was to observe that the subsequent political history of these areas is a product of rebellion against the Baganda.
Mr Adhola is a leading UPC ideologue.