On May 24, 1966, the Uganda Army stormed Mengo palace, the seat of Buganda Kingdom. The attack forced then Kabaka (king) Edward Muteesa II to flee to exile. The king fled to Britain where he eventually died in 1969.
The attack on the palace was commanded by then chief-of-staff, Col Idi Amin, on the orders of the then prime minister Milton Obote. Sir Edward Muteesa was also the president of Uganda.
Brig Shaban Opolot was the army commander, but was not involved in any way in the attack on the palace. The attack was precipitated by the fight of egos between the king and his Mengo supporters on one hand and prime minister Obote and his supporters, especially those who had a republican ideology, on the other.
It should also be remembered that two days before Obote sent Amin to humiliate Muteesa, there had been riots in Buganda, especially in Buddu, Kyagwe and Bulemeezi counties.
The rioters were calling for the removal of the central government headquarters, staff and property from Buganda’s land. The rioters attacked central government police posts.
Following the attack on the palace, on June 2, 1966, chief-of-staff Amin wrote to all battalion commanders, especially those in Buganda, explaining the situation. He ordered them to search for illegal firearms and also to crush the rebellion in Buganda Kingdom. We reproduce the letter verbatim:
All battalion commanders,
All staff officers
When the emergency was declared, police and army moved to strategic positions and regained police posts taken by mobs. The army took over the king’s palace, Lubiri, at Mengo.
In the Lubiri the army did not find the Kabaka, but found arms. At Lubiri, some two persons found dead were not shot by the army, therefore, some people in Lubiri might have shot some of their own people.
Other places like Bamunanika, Masaka, etc. were peacefully taken by the army. Between Luweero and Wobulenzi, there were 30 places of roads’ digging to obstruct traffic.
Attacks on Buikwe, Nagalama, Kayunga, Busunju, Kitalya, Masaka and Mpigi were also reported. Incidences of insecurity declined when the army and police moved in. the Attorney General should provide more magistrates to deal with curfew cases.
Three judicial magistrates have already been selected to this purpose. There are large numbers of people in Lubiri – children, women and men – and some of them overwhelmingly have security and political interests. These are to be detained. Others like children are to be released. But other offenders are to be dealt with very quickly by the police and the courts of law.
Some firearms returned
Many people have returned firearms. Even some of those who have locally manufactured guns and other illegal firearms have returned some to the police.
But to be on the safe side, we should plan to search for illegal firearms. It happens that large firearms have been coming into Uganda illegally. The ones from Lubiri were not the only firearms. Officially, the Kabaka was meant to have three Vickers MMGs. This shows that some firearms are still hidden as only one Vickers MMG was found by the army. Therefore, illegal firearms should be searched throughout Buganda. This could be done by special squads. The army or police will coordinate their activities and findings.
Police officers hiding in the forests and in the grass, especially at Luweero, are preparing attacks on the security forces.
Opinion is divided though. Some say yes, some say they fear to come home because they fear the soldiers. But government should persuade them to return home as soon as they are sighted. Continuous persuasion should be due on the radio.
The relationship between security forces and the people is expected to be improved soon. The chiefs at the beginning were totally opposed to the central government and they were the vehicles of the rebellion.
Some have run away. Some are still misleading people and some don’t like to reconcile with the central government. The decision has been reached to allow the Minister of Regional Administration and Public Service to convene the chiefs through various visits. Even in Gombololas and Sazas, police should assist in those areas up to Mengo.
How rebellion was planned
The rebellion was planned at Lubiri and endorsed by the Lukiiko (Buganda parliament). The ministers supported the rebellion. The Lukiiko should be dealt with. Those who didn’t get involved will be set free and those found guilty will be charged with treason or murder.
The Kabaka was meant to be a ruler, but he acted like a dictator. If he were to be alive, how long could we have tolerated his silence of declaring that he has abdicated his throne? Therefore, administration will have to be carried on.
It is known that the local dispensaries all over Buganda have run short of medical supplies. The central government under the emergency rule has authorised drugs and supplies to be taken out from Bulange, or the dispensary on Rubaga Road, and be supplied to the people of Buganda.
The Attorney General has summoned all those who were working in the Kabaka’s government to report to him, if they still want to work. But among those to report, only qualified judges will be allowed to work, or be re-engaged as magistrates, registrars.
The Inspector General of Police went around Buganda, except Mityana and Mubende, to meet police and army officers. At Luzira and Buikwe, people were running away into the forests. At Wobulenzi and Luweero, the most affected areas, non-Baganda are okay but there is a lot of threats on their live and properties.
Perpetrators set free
People fear the security forces and are sabotaging their movements. Bridges have been destroyed. In Kayunga, there are general cries that the poor people are suffering but the instigators of the rebellion are left free.
The ringleaders’ list is in various police stations and they will be dealt with strongly. The meeting resolved that the people should not fear the security forces and an attempt to run away from them will cause suspicion and they may be chased, or shot dead.
Total arrests have reached 1,641 persons. Firearms handed over to police are 6,700. In a state of emergency,
(a) If people do not obey orders, army and police will be rough.
(b) Instructions should be given clearly and made known to all soldiers.
(c) People themselves must begin to work with security forces. Medical men and women will be given a security card to identify themselves so as not be misunderstood. Troops will go to the bush to ask people to come back.
(d) Soldiers should be tough and rough, but should not go on slapping people unnecessarily.
(e) Assist quick return to normalcy. It was stressed that soldiers should be kind and treat people in a courteous manner – politely.
The Inspector General of Police pointed out that the security men should adjust their behaviour to the public. He further added that there should be more cooperation between the police and army.
There were allegations that the army personnel were robbing people’s property, raping women etc. this was not true as these acts, if true, were committed by imposters in army uniforms. There is, therefore, no truth in the allegation.
The president [Obote] further emphasised that field officers should send full details of events in the field to the headquarters for onward transmission to the security committee. We are to show all lists of things captured at Lubiri during the next meeting.
It was pointed out that should any foreigner be arrested, the army should be informed immediately for onward transmission to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was also agreed that Mengo ministers should be arrested as they had sided or knowingly failed to persuade the Lukiiko from passing its treasonous resolution.”