Reviews & Profiles
Kabaka Edward Muteesa: A look at his life and politics
Posted Saturday, February 16 2013 at 00:00
It is one of the brilliant projects birthed in the euphoria of celebrating Uganda’s 50th independence anniversary.
There are books you read in your adult life and think “I wish I had that in secondary school.” Godfrey Nsubuga’s Sir Edward Muteesa: His Life and Politics is that kind of book.
If you are one for first impressions, you might miss it on the shelf. Its cover manages to make a young Muteesa look uninteresting. The story centres on the first president of Uganda, telling you little things you did not know and reminding you of the ones you did know.
Distracting but enriching
As a reader, for example, I knew that Daudi Chwa II was the father of Sir Edward Muteesa but I had no idea that he was born in Dr Albert Cook’s home in Makindye.
Loads of research went into this book and the author shows you exactly how much in his footnotes and quotations from books, print media (you will find a lot of information attributed to Uganda Argus), historians and former politicians. They are distracting but in this book, they are enriching.
In addition to this long bibliography, you have Appendix 1-9 which include a translation of Muteesa’s will, a telegram that was sent to Queen Elizabeth II by the then Nnabagereka of Buganda when he died and also President Idi Amin’s speech at Kololo Airstrip during Muteesa’s funeral.
It is astounding how much history has been transcribed onto these pages.
A lot of work went into celebrating Uganda at 50 years of Independence--in politics, in the media, in the arts, everywhere. There were several good products and many promotional ones. This book is one of the good products.
About one character
The smartness of the project that inspired this book was zooming in on one person. One critical person. In talking about Muteesa, one covers colonial years and the fight for independence, first years of independence and structuring a new government, as well as kingdoms and their politics.
One has to be careful though not to forget that the book is about Muteesa and not everything else.
For issues like the referendum to restore the lost counties are centred around him, this is how the author handles it: “Muteesa as the president found himself in a very precarious situation … it was like signing for self-amputation. Obote pressurised Muteesa as the president to sign the Parliamentary Act…When Muteesa failed to do his presidential responsibility, Obote signed them…There was almost total anarchy in Buganda.” (148).
What this book does is take one characer: a King of a centrally-located Kingdom and a President at a time when the Prime Minister had a lot of power- and tell history using him as a subject. This is not how history books are written.
History books make the protagonists objects and have things happen to them. While things are indeed happening to Sir Edward Muteesa, the agency is his for he is the subject in this case.
It is about his politics, his decisions, his failures, his reactions to events, and that makes all the difference.
If you are writing a thesis, doing research on Uganda’s politics or even just on Muteesa II, this is a book you ought to pick up. Actually, all school libraries should buy it because if history is told in stories like this, then school would not be such a pain.
Title: Sir Edward Muteesa: His Life and Politics
Author: Godfrey Nsubuga
Available: Aristoc Bookshops for Shs29,000
Published: 2012 by Nissi Publishers