How Buganda became a constitutional monarchy

Friday July 31 2020
specialpix

Muteesa (centre) and his prime minister (R) are greeted by his subjects following his return from exile in 1955. FILE PHOTO

As it is today, Buganda Kingdom is supposed to be a constitutional monarchy.
The Lukiiko, Buganda’s legislative council, is supposed to have the authority to oversee whatever business is conducted on behalf of the kingdom, unlike before when all power was vested in the Kabaka.

And this goes back to October 18, 1955, when Buganda ceased to be an absolute monarchy. The hitherto powerful kingdom in central Uganda lost some of its powers after the signing of the 1955 Buganda Agreement, also known as the Namirembe Agreement or Buganda Constitution of 1955.

Since its establishment nearly 1,000 years ago by its first king Kintu, Buganda Kingdom had always been an absolute monarchy. All power was centred on the Kabaka. Therefore, the king would do whatever he wanted as and when he wished.
But this was changed when Kabaka Edward Muteesa II decided to fight the British, Uganda’s colonial masters.

The collision did not only leave Buganda bleeding, but it also led to Muteesa’s deportation to the United Kingdom in November 1953 by the British government.
When the Buganda Agreement of 1955 was signed, as a kingdom, Buganda lost the political power it had.

The 1955 agreement
On October 18, 1955, a day after Muteesa returned from exile, he appended his signature on the Buganda Agreement on behalf of the kingdom.

The agreement set out how Buganda Kingdom would be governed. Article(1) stated: “The kingdom of Buganda under the Kabaka’s government shall continue as heretofore to be an integral part of the Protectorate of Uganda.”

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The constitution further stipulated that the Kabaka, as well as the prime minister, Katikkiro, would be elected by members of the Buganda legislative council. Until then, the Kabaka had often chosen the Katikkiro.
Although Buganda went to court and sued the Queen of England for the deportation of Kabaka Muteesa and won the case, diplomatically England won.

It forced the Kabaka to sign a new agreement in which Buganda became a constitutional monarchy, and worst of all, the previously hereditary Kabakaship became an elective office.

While Muteesa had opposed the Kabaka being a subordinate to the Queen of England and had also objected to the 1900 Agreement which placed Buganda Kingdom under the Kingdom of England, the Buganda Agreement of 1955 was only a replica of the 1900 Agreement which Muteesa had to sign before assuming office.

Provision (2) under chapter 5 reads: “His Highness Muteesa II, before assuming the functions of his office under this present constitution, shall enter into the solemn undertaking with Her Majesty and with the Lukiiko and people of Buganda in the presence of the governor and representatives of the Lukiiko and, so long as he observes the terms and the said solemn undertaking, he shall be entitled to perform the functions conferred upon the Kabaka by this constitution.”

Elective office
The office of the Kabaka became an elective post. If we were to uphold the Buganda Agreement of 1955, the current kabaka would have been elected by the Buganda Lukiiko.

But Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II was instead enthroned to Buganda’s Namulondo in 1993 as was traditionally done before the 1955 Agreement.
Article 3 of the 1955 Buganda constitution reads: “The Kabaka shall succeed as heretofore to the throne of Buganda by descent and election of the great Lukiiko.

The name of the person chosen by the great Lukiiko must be submitted to Her Majesty’s government for approval, and no person shall be recognised as Kabaka of Buganda whose election has not received the approval of Her Majesty’s government.”

About the title of the Kabaka, the constitution said “The Kabaka of Buganda, who is the ruler of Buganda, shall be styled ‘His Highness the Kabaka’ and shall be elected as hitherto, by the majority of votes in the Lukiiko.”
But not everyone was eligible to stand as Kabaka; only members of Kabaka Daudi Chwa II’s family.

“The range of selection must be limited to the royal family of Buganda, that is to say, the descendants of Kabaka Daudi Chwa II and the name of the prince chosen by the Lukiiko must be submitted to Her Majesty’s government for approval and no prince shall be recognised as Kabaka of Buganda whose election has not received the approval of Her Majesty’s government,” The constitution clarifies.

The constitution goes on to emphasise that before any prince is recognised by Her Majesty’s government as Kabaka, “he shall enter into a solemn undertaking in accordance with the provisions of the constitution set out in the First Schedule to this agreement; and so long as he observes the terms of the said solemn undertaking, Her Majesty’s government agrees to recognise him as ruler of Buganda.”

The oath
Perhaps the bitter pill for Muteesa to swallow was the solemn undertaking.
“I do hereby undertake that I will be loyal to Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II, whose protection Buganda enjoys, her heirs and successor and will well and truly govern Buganda according to law and will abide by the terms of the agreements made with Her Majesty and the Constitution of Buganda,” he said as he held the Bible during the swearing-in ceremony.

He added: “I will uphold the peace, order and good government of the Uganda Protectorate and will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the said agreements, the constitution of Buganda, the laws and customs of Buganda and laws of the Uganda Protectorate without fear of favour, affection or ill-will.”Article 3 of the 1955 Buganda constitution reads: “The Kabaka shall succeed as heretofore to the throne of Buganda by descent and election of the great Lukiiko. The name of the person chosen by the great Lukiiko must be submitted to Her Majesty’s government for approval, and no person shall be recognised as Kabaka of Buganda whose election has not received the approval of Her Majesty’s government.”

STATUS
Since its establishment nearly 1,000 years ago by its first king Kintu, Buganda Kingdom had always been an absolute monarchy. All power was centred on the Kabaka. Therefore, the king would do whatever he wanted as and when he wished.
While Muteesa had opposed the Kabaka being a subordinate to the Queen of England and had also objected to the 1900 Agreement which placed Buganda Kingdom under the Kingdom of England, the Buganda Agreement of 1955 was only a replica of the 1900 Agreement which Muteesa had to sign before assuming office.


editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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