In today’s series on the life of Godfrey Binaisa, Fred Guweddeko explains the attorney general’s love for political and ideological battles and how he exploited the division in UPC.
Through 1963, it was to the alternative UPC group, rather than to Binaisa, that KY defectors to UPC were registering. Binaisa allied with his external enemies of DP Buganda and KY to wage a political war on his adversaries within UPC Buganda. Binaisa allowed opposition DP and KY to address rallies in Buganda but used the Police to prevent his fellow UPC group from operating.
Binaisa was not missing in action in the other major political battles that marked the close of 1963 and beginning of 1964. In the battle between the supporters and opponents of the Obote proposal that Uganda should move to a One-Party, Binaisa joined Ibingira and other UPC together with DP and the KY Movement to mount an opposition campaign.
In another battle between the UPC groups of advocates of Uganda moving to Socialism led by John Kakonge and supporters of Capitalism led by Nekyon Adoko, again Binaisa was one of the key figures. In this battle Binaisa fought on the side of Capitalism. Using his Attorney General office, Binaisa blocked Socialists and endorsed Capitalist politicians to extra income earning ‘Board of Director’ appointments.
Socialism vs Capitalism
Binaisa was not an observer when the Socialism vs Capitalism battle precipitated into the election struggle for the post of UPC Secretary General between John Kakonge and Grace Ibingira. The Binaisa group of UPC Buganda contributed to the final votes both Kakonge and Ibingira received more than 50% of what should have been the number on the official role.
Binaisa further then championed the internal war between the ruling KY Movement and the opposition UPC within the Buganda Lukiiko. The issue was over UPC members of the Buganda Lukiiko not only being prevented from debating but even beaten within the chambers for dressing in Party uniform.
Binaisa urged UPC members of the Buganda Lukiiko to wear Party uniform in Session. Binaisa promised punishment of Buganda Lukiiko members assaulting UPC members within or outside of Chambers. Binaisa took the proactive political action against Mengo by opening an inquiry into the use of public funds from central government to purchase KY uniforms.
While Binaisa was busy fighting Buganda Government over misuse of public funds, surprisingly Obote was defending the same Buganda Government over accusations by DP of misuse of public funds.
Obote showed greater political astuteness than Binaisa by defending scandalous Mengo payments to Christine Keeler, an expensive female escort in London, for services rendered to a top Kingdom dignitary.
Not easily broken
On 15/2/1964, Binaisa was hospitalised after a political fracas at the American Embassy. Binaisa, Abu Mayanja and Kasule had each separately led UPC-Buganda, KY and DP youths to peacefully submit protest letters over the USA bombing of villages in West Nile.
The youths from the three parties overlooked the USA issue and started fighting each other. Police fired tear gas and a canister exploded close to Binaisa causing the injury that led to hospitalisation.
A sick Binaisa left hospital and proceeded to Court to argue that the assault and arrest of DP leader Ben Kiwanuka while addressing a political rally at Katwe was legal. Ben Kiwanuka had been acquitted in a criminal trial and was merely seeking damages but Binaisa even though sick, could not allow that little concession to the opposition.
Binaisa as Attorney General was the epicenter of Bunyoro, Buganda and UPC political pressure at the beginning of July 1964. The burning issue was over the London Conference constitutional clause on the Lost Counties, which stated that after the elapse of two years [Oct 1962 to Oct1964], government will be free to consider holding a referendum.
Binaisa as Attorney General was the technical person to advise on whether to proceed with the referendum or keep it in abeyance. Binaisa had intimated to Buganda at the London Conference and later in March 1963 when Buganda started oil exploration moves that the referendum could be [indefinitely] deferred.
Mutesa was aware that the details of voting in the referendum depended on the UPC government and had prepared for the option by increasing Baganda population in the Lost Counties.
The assurances of Binaisa made Mutesa relax his efforts to resettle more ex-servicemen in the Lost Counties in preparation for the referendum.
Binaisa was torn between Buganda which opposed the referendum, Bunyoro which demanded it and UPC where some key members supported and while others opposed.
The UPC prevailed and a Bill for holding the referendum in the Lost Counties was gazette in August 1964. To make it worse for Binaisa in Buganda, the Bill he published prevented the new Baganda settlers from voting.
This increased the pariah figure of Binaisa in Buganda while not making him any popular in Bunyoro and UPC circles. It seemed, or it was convenient to make it so, that Binaisa was deliberately colluding in the loss of the Counties to Bunyoro.
Binaisa was unlucky because the UPC Buganda region delegates conference was held in the same period when he was undeniably the most unpopular politician in the Kingdom. The anti-Binaisa group wanted him to step down from Chairman of UPC Buganda because he was not a political asset.
Paulo Muwanga who was favoured to reclaim the Chairmanship of UPC Buganda from Binaisa declined to stand and urged for a strategy to strengthen the party rather than jump for posts. Binaisa, Bidandi Sali and Kintu Musoke presented the various UPC Buganda problems to Obote.
Prominent among the requests was Obote to convince Binaisa to step down. Obote instead supported Binaisa to continue partly because the alternative choice was I K Musazi. Obote attended and told the UPC Buganda Delegates conference that the problem was not Binaisa but the UPC/KY alliance.
Eventually, the unpopular Binaisa was returned Chairmanship of UPC Buganda with I K Musazi.
Binaisa inaugural speech blamed Mengo for preventing UPC central Government from delivering services to the people of Buganda. Bidandi Sali supported Binaisa by affirming that the ‘Common Man’ in Buganda was not benefitting from the UPC/KY alliance. Another member moved that UPC/KY alliance be dissolved. Binaisa the Chairman declared that this motion required no more discussion and no voting.
Binaisa presented the UPC Buganda proposal to end the UPC/KY alliance and it was endorsed. The UPC/KY coalition Government came to an end with Ministers Ssempa, Mayanja Nkangi, etc, sacked immediately.
The various commitments Binaisa made to Buganda on holding or deferring the referendum and how to conduct in the event were filed to High Court.
Binaisa argued that if every person in the Counties voted as demanded by Buganda there would be chaos.
The Buganda High Court Injunction Appeal against staging the referendum was defeated in a ruling on at the end of October by Binaisa who represented Government. [The Chief Justice of Uganda had been recruited from Ghana by Ibingira and Binaisa]
Binaisa was not among the politicians to run out of action.
In the last weeks and even at the last hour as preparations were underway for the referendum, Binaisa was still engaging with the Mengo leadership of Katikiro Kintu.
To avoid the anarchy that would result in Buganda boycotting the referendum, Binaisa led Mengo to believe that the results could be tilted and announced in its favor.
Binaisa in his tricky method played a key role in ensuring that the referendum was peaceful. Thus Binaisa made Mengo invest heavily in the peaceful monitoring of the balloting and counting the votes instead of making trouble of which it was capable.
Buganda was interested in the oil exploration prospects in the Counties where one had a permanent seep and the other a seasonal one. This ambition and Binaisa behind the scenes promise of victory kept the peace during the campaign and voting.
Had Binaisa not used skills, which were not exactly ethical, the May 1966 clash between Buganda and the UPC Government would have occurred in October 1964.
This is because Adoko Nekyon had convinced Cabinet to arrest President and Kabaka Mutesa for shooting a person in the Counties. Obote was also ready for confrontation.
To be continued tomorrow...