The Anglican Church and its influence on Ugandan politics

What you need to know:

  • Entangled in politics. According to the public records office and Church Missionaries Society archives in Birmingham, England, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Native Anglican Church, commonly known as the Protestants, was enmeshed in the political society in a number of overlapping, and at times contradictory ways. The bishop of Uganda was third in precedence in the colonial state after the governor and the kabaka.
  • Next week: Read about the making of a unitary state in Uganda from 1941-1962

The involvement of Captain Fredrick Lugard in the religious wars of the 1880’s and 1890’s tilted the war in favour of the Protestants.
At the time the two warring camps referred to themselves as the Wa’Ingeleza against the Wa’Fransa.
When the Wa’Ingeleza took the decisive battle which returned Kabaka Mwanga to the throne, they took a central role in the affairs of Buganda Kingdom.
It being the fulcrum of the administration of the country called Uganda, the leaders of the Native Anglican Church (NAC), as it was first known, went on to play a vital role in the affairs of the country.
Save for Idi Amin and Benedicto Kiwanuka, all other presidents Uganda has had have been Anglicans.

The Anglican Church and Buganda monarchy
Shortly after the war, Mwanga was deposed and replaced by his one-year-old son, Daudi Chwa.
Due to his age, Chwa was a titular Kabaka. It was at this point that the Protestants took charge of the affairs of the kingdom through a powerful katikkiro (prime minister), Apollo Kaggwa.
Writing in the Journal of Religion in Africa, Kevin Ward says: “His fellow Protestant chiefs commanded a decisive voice in the state, within the boundaries set by British rule.”
Ward goes on to say about the Catholics: “The Catholics, though had Buddu area which they got in the religious settlement, it was a subordinate one as far as the central levers of power were concerned.”
As the Buganda agreement of 1900 was being discussed, the young king was not involved but instead the powerful katikkiro and his ministers were the ones doing the talking.
Bishop Alfred Robert Tucker and other members of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) played a pivotal role in the negotiation of the agreement.
In 1913, Daudi Chwa came of age and took his rightful seat as king of Buganda. Unfortunately, he remained marginalised by the powerful katikkiro, Sir Apollo Kaggwa, until Kaggwa was forced into retirement in 1926.
“The British colonial officers were keen to modernise the administration of Buganda and to promote a new generation of Protestant mission-educated Baganda,” writes Ward. The approach was a renewal of the Protestant hegemony.
The move was not embraced by all those left out. There was opposition of this kind of Protestant entrenchment from other elite from mission schools and traditionalists. Ward says the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church stood on the side and watched.
According to government and church declassified records from the public records office and Church Missionaries Society archives in Birmingham, England, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, “the Native Anglican Church, commonly known as the Protestants, was enmeshed in the political society in a number of overlapping, and at times contradictory ways. It had a quasi-established position in colonial Uganda. The bishop of Uganda was third in precedence in the colonial state after the governor and the kabaka.”
Writing in the book Three Worlds One Word: Account of a Mission, former bishop of Uganda Leslie Brown says: “There were strong links, social and professional, between Government House at Entebbe and the bishop’s residence at Namirembe.”
During Bishop Tucker’s time as head of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Ward says: “The Church had often seemed the dominant partner in this alliance.”
Bishop Stuart, who came much later, said: “On the side of the Church being identified with the state, Max Warren, general secretary of CMS warned me that my friendship with successive governors might cause trouble in future, but I always felt that when you have Christian or enlightened governors it was the duty of the Church to co-operate with them.”
The warm relationship the church enjoyed with the state turned on its head following the 1953 deportation of Kabaka Edward Muteesa by governor Andrew Cohen.
It was important for the Anglican Church that the kabaka was a Protestant. But it was very difficult for the kabaka to combine his traditional role as ‘father’ and ‘husband’ of all Baganda with being a role-model for Christian marriage.
To the Anglican Church, the deportation of Muteesa was a crisis on two levels, one of which was the church and state relation. The other was about the position of the Anglican Church within Buganda.
Ward says: “The role of the kabaka as member of the Anglican Church, as protector of all religious groups in Buganda, as traditional religious symbol of Kiganda nationalism, were all called in question.”
To many Baganda Anglicans and others, it was believed that the political involvement of the Anglican bishop in affairs of state was taken for granted.
Ward goes on to say: “Brown had had dinner with Cohen a few days before, and in retrospect was struck by the unwonted lack of conviviality, which he put down to Cohen’s reluctance to compromise the bishop by making him party to the plan. Cohen was well aware of the key role of the Anglican Church in containing the crisis.”
In one of Cohen’s correspondences to the colonial office, he wrote: “I think that the Anglican Church will need careful handling, not only at this end but also in England. The bishop of Uganda is not experienced politically and is really by nature a theologian rather than an administrator. Inevitably he is drawn into political discussions by the Baganda, many of whom believe that it is the bishop of Uganda’s function to take part in politics.”

Anglican Church in Uganda
A decision was taken in 1926 to make Uganda a province and create two dioceses of Uganda and Upper Nile.
The diocese of Uganda, consisting of Buganda and all other territories that had kings as leaders, including parts of west and southern Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire, while the other diocese was Upper Nile Diocese which consisted the rest of the country, mostly north of Karuma.
Unfortunately, there was bad blood between the two dioceses from the very beginning. The 1977 lecture paper, The Secret People by J.V. Taylor to celebrate the centenary of the Church of Uganda, talks of the animosity between the two dioceses: “But it subtly suggested a situation of two nations the elite and the rest and that unspoken thought haunted relationships in state and church for many years.”
“The situation was made worse when the single diocese had to be divided by the decision to make only one new diocese of the Upper Nile, rather than several less polarised up divisions. When eventually the arms were adopted by the newly constituted Province of Uganda in 1961, the unhappy bar wavy was omitted. Unfortunately, it takes more than a gesture of heraldry to heal the wounds of disregard.”
The problem persisted for a while, forcing Bishop Stuart to comment in one of his correspondences to the archbishop of Canterbury, saying: “This is almost a pathological jealousy of Upper Nile in relation to the diocese of Uganda, and its dominant group the Baganda.”
As the Province of the Church of Uganda was facing animosity between the two dioceses, in 1928 another challenge of including the Church of Uganda into the East African Provincial structure arose.
Considering that Buganda Kingdom officials were predominantly Protestants, they were not going to put religion above the interest of the kingdom.
The issue came close to the time when the idea of the closer union had been presented. The move was strongly opposed by, among others, CMS’ Kisosonkole, father of the future wife of Muteesa.
Max Warren, the general secretary of the CMS in London, was to regret that the traditional mediatorial role of the Church had not been called into play on this occasion. Forty-eight Anglican loyalist chiefs, such as katikkiro Paulo Kavuma, tended to exonerate the bishop from complicity in the deportation.

The church and Muteesa’s return from exile
When the colonial office saw that they were losing all grounds on which to hold Muteesa in exile, they decided to set up a constitutional commission.
The Lukiiko (Buganda parliament) had to appoint its delegation to the commission which was meeting at Namirembe at the house of the bishop of Uganda, though he himself was not a member of the commission.
Among the Buganda representatives included majority Anglicans, all laymen, while the Catholics who were the minority, were all clergymen.
The Catholics included Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka, Mgr J. Kasule, and Fr Joachim Masagazi as compared to Latimer Mpagi, Thomas Makumbi, Apollo Kironde, E. M. Mulira, J. G. Ssegendo-Zake, among others, from the Anglican side.
Following the kabaka’s return and the signing of the 1955 agreement, steps were taken to have the legislative changes Cohen had earlier wanted, under which he wanted Uganda to develop as a unitary state on its journey to independence.
Even these reforms had religious undertones. Matiya Mugwanya, a Catholic, stood for the post of the katikkiro, but the Anglican stalwarts in the kingdom administration did all that was possible to deny him the seat.
Ward, in his writing suggests that: “The kabaka’s campaign against Mugwanya may have sprung from the personal animosities which had first surfaced in the weeks immediately after his deportation, but he also wanted to avoid changing the religious configuration of Kiganda politics in any substantial way.”
Writing in the book Benedicto Kiwanuka: The man and His Politics, Albert Bade quotes Muteesa’s speech to the Lukiiko in November 1957, saying: “From what I see, these days I am certain that there is too much contention and rivalry. Therefore, it is clear that the time has not yet come to break away from the existing convention in the appointment of the more senior posts in the administration.”
This was not the last that religion played a role in the political affairs of the country, but even in the 1961 election that was boycotted by Buganda.
The Baganda’s decision influenced the outcome of the election, but the British too were not ready to hand over power to another faith other than a Protestant.
Mill Hill missionary educationist Fr Damien Grimes in his book Uganda: My Mission talks of how the 1962 election which brought Obote into power, annulling Benedicto Kiwanuka’s earlier victory of 1961, as a ploy to keep power among the Protestants.
He says Kabaka Yekka-UPC won in Buganda and in the rest of Uganda because the British fixed the polls to ensure that Obote and his UPC won majority in the new Uganda Parliament.
“British officials privately told missionaries, such as myself, that they had been ordered by London to do that. The British governor, Sir Fredrick Crawford, resigned because he was unwilling to be party to this dishonesty and a new governor, Sir Walter Coutts, was appointed. Obote became prime minister. It was the British who put Obote in power by corrupt means,” Fr Grimes says.

Relationship between the church, state

The warm relationship the church enjoyed with the state turned on its head following the 1953 deportation of Kabaka Edward Muteesa by governor Andrew Cohen.
It was important for the Anglican Church that the kabaka was a Protestant. But it was very difficult for the kabaka to combine his traditional role as ‘father’ and ‘husband’ of all Baganda with being a role-model for Christian marriage. To the Anglican Church, the deportation of Muteesa was a crisis on two levels, one of which was the church and state relation. The other was about the position of the Anglican Church within Buganda.
To many Baganda Anglicans and others, it was believed that the political involvement of the Anglican bishop in affairs of state was taken for granted.

Next week: Read about the making of a unitary state in Uganda from 1941-1962

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