When Queen of England exiled Buganda king Muteesa II 

A portrait of Kabaka Edward Muteesa II. He returned to Uganda in 1955 and became Uganda’s first president following Independence on October 9, 1962. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Sir Edward Muteesa II lived in exile until 1955 when he returned after Buganda kingdom had won a legal battle against the government of England.

On November 30, 1953, the Kabaka of Buganda, Sir Edward Muteesa II, was bundled onto a military jet and flown to Britain. 

While Muteesa’s forced exile is widely mentioned by scholars especially in Uganda, most never detail why at the time, the most powerful king in Uganda was arrested, forced to sign a document withdrawing his recognition as the traditional ruler of Buganda and bundled onto the Royal Air Force jet. 

The jet had arrived at Entebbe airport which two days earlier on a mission to fly Kabaka Muteesa to exile should he refuse to recognise the March 10, 1900, Buganda agreement as well as the memorandum on Constitutional Development and Reform in Buganda of March, 1953, made in Kampala. 

In both agreements, it was emphasised that Buganda kingdom would remain and be governed as part of Uganda. 

The kabaka wanted an independent state of Buganda curved out of Uganda, which infuriated the British. 

 Muteesa forced to sign warrant of arrest

When Kabaka Muteesa repeated his earlier statement that he wanted nothing short of Buganda’s secession and independence, the incensed Governor Cohen forced him to sign the warrant of arrest before he was exiled. This followed a three-hour meeting with the Governor at the colonial Government House, now State House. 

Next, the Governor stood up and called in, from the adjacent room, two Royal Air force Commandos. 

The commandos told the Kabaka to stand up and grabbed his hands side by side, hooked and dragged him to the tarmac several meters from the Government House. Amidst protest, Muteesa was bundled onto the waiting military jet whose engine was already running ready to take off. Within minutes, the jet was airborne destined for the England with the king as prisoner. 

Withdraw of recognition of Muteesa as king of Buganda

Meanwhile a document titled: ‘The withdrawal of recognition of Edward Muteesa as the native ruler of Buganda kingdom’, was published, detailing why the Queen of England had decided to arrest and exile Kabaka Muteesa to England. 

On page 7, under the two subjects: ‘Sequence of events leading to the Kabaka’s refusal to cooperate with her Majesty’s government’ and ‘The issue of ‘independence’ and transfer of Buganda affairs to the foreign office’, the report mentions of a meeting Kabaka Muteesa had with the governor. 

It reads: ‘On August 10th the Governor met the Kabaka and discussed with him at length the terms of his letter. The Kabaka made it clear that he was asking for independence for Buganda only and that he was in fact asking for separation of Buganda from the rest of the Protectorate. He also said that he put forward his request because he did not regard the pledge on federation that had just been given as satisfactory. The Governor pointed out that the request for the separation of Buganda was directly contrary to what the Kabaka had publicly agreed as recently as March.  

On August 15, a second long meeting was held at which the three Ministers [Buganda Ministers] were also present. At this meeting it became apparent for the first time that, even if he could be satisfied of federation, the Kabaka would still wish to press for the separation of his country from the rest of Uganda and for a revision of the 1900. Agreement. The Kabaka made it clear that he was anxious for a reply for his letter before December, when the question of his nominating Buganda members to the new Legislative Council would arise.”

Muteesa and the Uganda agreement of 1900

The March 10, 1900 Uganda agreement says that Buganda was an integral part and would remain and be governed as part of Uganda. 

Paragraph 16 of the agreement, stipulates: ‘The Uganda protectorate has been and will continue to be developed as a unitary state. The kingdom of Buganda will continue to go forward under the government of His Highness the Kabaka and play its part, in accordance with clause 3 of the agreement, as a province and a component part of the protectorate’, King Muteesa found himself in a precarious state when he unheeded to the Uganda Agreement of 1900; and the British could not allow Buganda secede from Uganda. 

Muteesa’s last letter

On arrival at State House, Entebbe, on the morning of November 30, 1953, unsuspecting King Muteesa handed over a telegram to Governor Cohen insisting that he was unmoved whatsoever. 

In part it reads:  “I and my Ministers have the honour to refer our interview with you at Government House, Entebbe yesterday morning, when a document marked ‘secret’ was presented to us what was a demand for my signature. You very kindly agreed to give us some time for the due consideration of the document. 

After such consideration, it appears impossible that I can put my signature to any such document without a full consideration with my Great Lukiko. Were I to affix my signature to the document in question I should be nullifying my whole position with my people as their Kabaka and acting contrary to the democratic principles which are supposed to motivate Her Majesty’s government. Your excellency, I am sending you a telegram to the Secretary of State through your excellency setting out the position, which please forward with all expedition.” 

On page 12 of the document, ‘The withdrawal of recognition of Edward Muteesa as the native ruler of Buganda kingdom’, it is reported: “The Governor was therefore obliged to sign a formal document notifying the Kabaka that Her Majesty’s Government had withdrawn recognition from him under 6 of the [March 10, 1900 Buganda] agreement and that he was no longer recognised as Native Ruler of the Province of Buganda. 

He also signed a Proclamation bringing into force in Buganda the provisions of the Emergency Powers Order-In-Power, 1939, and signed the necessary regulations under that order. Under these regulations he made an order for the deportation of the Kabaka who was then escorted to Entebbe airfield, whence he was brought to the United Kingdom by R.A.F aircraft” amidst resistance and plea, Muteesa was dragged from the Government House and rushed to the jet at Entebbe airport and in minutes, the plane was airborne on the way to England. 

Kabaka Muteesa lived in exile until 1955 when he returned after Buganda Kingdom had won a legal battle against the government of England. 

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