Kabaka of Buganda (Withdrawal of Recognition)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 1953.

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Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot 12:00 am, 30th November 1953

It is with great regret that I have to inform the House that Her Majesty's Government have been obliged to withdraw recognition from the Kabaka, the Native Ruler of Buganda, which is a Province of the Uganda Protectorate.

The relations between Her Majesty's Government and Buganda are regulated by an Agreement signed in 1900. This Agreement provides, among other things, that the Kingdom of Buganda shall rank as a Province of the Protectorate and that the Kabaka, Chiefs and people shall co-operate loyally with Her Majesty's Government in the organisation and administration of the Kingdom. The Kabaka has recently repudiated these obligations.

In August this year the Kabaka addressed a letter to the Governor in which he put forward two requests. The first purpose of the letter was to express his opposition to East African Federation; the requests were for transfer of Buganda affairs from the Colonial Office to the Foreign Office and for a time-limit for independence of Buganda within the Commonwealth. Before my reply could be given, these same two requests were presented in a memorandum attached to a resolution opposing federation adopted by the Lukiko or Council of Buganda. The Lukiko is an advisory body to the Kabaka and pays the closest attention to his wishes.

I discussed these requests with the Governor, who came to London for the purpose. I then sent the Kabaka a reply. On the question of federation, I had no difficulty in removing his fears and subject to one small amendment, to which I readily agreed, he expressed himself satisfied with the assurances he was given. In my reply I also explained that it was inappropriate for the affairs of Buganda to be handled by the Foreign Office; I finally explained carefully the reasons why Her Majesty's Government could not contemplate the separation of Buganda from the rest of the Protectorate. These reasons are set out fully in the Governor's statement, which has been issued in Uganda, but in brief they showed that such a step would be against the interests of all the peoples of the Protectorate including the Baganda themselves.

The Kabaka informed the Governor of his intention of publicly opposing Her Majesty's Government on this subject—this despite his obligations under the Agreement and despite the fact that he, jointly with the Governor, in a statement issued in March last had affirmed the need for the future development of the Protectorate as a unitary state and of Buganda as a component part of that State. The Kabaka further declared his intention of refusing to nominate members to represent Buganda on the new Legislative Council to be set up early next year. If Buganda were without representation, this would deal a severe blow at the plans for increasing the number of African members on that Council and would have left Buganda without representation.

From this position the Kabaka has stubbornly refused to move. The Gover- nor used every possible means to persuade him to honour his obligations to Her Majesty's Government and not to default from his statements of last March. He has had five long interviews with him during the last six weeks. The Governor made it perfectly clear that his declared intention to break his solemn obligations and oppose Her Majesty's Government might result in the gravest consequences. In a last attempt to avoid the action which has had to be taken, last Wednesday I myself addressed a personal message to the Kabaka, the text of which I will circulate in the Official Report.

This was given to him at an interview with the Governor on Friday last. It was all to no avail. After giving him three further days for reflection, the Governor again saw him this morning and gave him a last chance to change his mind. He refused to do so. Thereupon the Governor, with my authority, informed him that, in view of his determined opposition to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, recognition would be withdrawn. His continued presence in Uganda would be a threat to public safety—[Hon. Members: "Oh!"]—and accordingly he will not be permitted to reside in Uganda. The Kabaka is now on his way to England by air. He will be free to live where he likes outside Uganda and an appropriate financial settlement will be made for this.

The Governor has declared a state of emergency in Buganda as a precautionary measure. I sincerely hope that this unhappy event will be accepted calmly and with understanding by the people of Uganda and that the Lukiko will in due course elect a new Kabaka who is prepared to co-operate with Her Majesty's Government according to the terms of the Agreement.

The necessity for this step is all the more deplorable since under the enlightened and energetic leadership of the Governor, Sir Andrew Cohen, the Uganda Protectorate has been making great strides in the economic, social, and political fields. Through political reform both in central and local government, through the reorganisation of the cotton and coffee industries and through the expansion of education, much has been and is being done to advance the Africans in these fields. We must ensure that today's events will not endanger the progress or future of the peoples of Uganda.

Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

Does the Secretary of State for the Colonies realise that this is grievous news from a Colony which has shown so much progress and advance? May I ask him some questions?

One has to rely on Press reports, but is he aware that the concern, which lies at the root of the matter and, as the statement indicates, began in August last year, arose from a speech which he is reported to have made in London and which, I understand, was widely publicised in East Africa and Uganda and in which, according to reports, he spoke of a contemplated East African Federation?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that caused a great deal of concern and dismay in Uganda and that, as a consequence, not only the Kabaka but members of the Lukiko and the people of Buganda as well as people elsewhere in Uganda were alarmed for fear that they would be associated with the rest of East Africa against their wishes and will and against the terms of the Agreement? Is he aware that, arising out of that concern, they made these two requests—first, that responsibility for them should be transferred to the Foreign Office, and secondly, that a date should be fixed for their independence as a separate kingdom? Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what were the words that he used which, it is reported, began this affair last August? What were the terms of the reply, and did they contain a categorical assurance from Her Majesty's Government that Buganda and Uganda would not be joined in an East African Federation against the wishes of her people?

As I understand, the Kabaka is on his way to this country. Is it the intention of the Secretary of State to meet him when he arrives in order to make a settlement? Is it not absolutely essential, in the context of the state of affairs in Africa today, that every effort should be made to remove all these fears by stating plainly that we will not enforce any association of people with others against their wishes? It may be said that there is still some hope that this Protectorate, which is making such progress, may be saved from becoming like so many parts of Africa today.

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

Answering the questions of the right hon. Member one by one, he is misinformed as to the words I used. I said: Nor should we exclude from our minds the evolution, as time goes on, of still larger measures of unification, and possibly still larger measures of federation of the whole East African territories. I was asked to elucidate the words: nor should we exclude from our minds the evolution. I have given the Kabaka, the Lukiko and others the most categorical assurances on the lines suggested by the right hon. Member. The Kabaka has on more than one occasion expressed his complete satisfaction with the assurances I gave him—and so have his Ministers—upon the subject of federation. There is no dispute at all between Her Majesty's Government and the Kabaka or the Ministers upon the subject of federation.

The principal matter between us is whether Buganda should be an independent State—that is, independent of Uganda—within the Commonwealth. That Her Majesty's Government regard as a threat to the well-being of all the people. The House will remember that Kampala and Entebbe are part of the State of Uganda and it would be impossible to look forward to a prosperous State of Uganda if Buganda were separated. I shall be prepared to see the Kabaka if he wishes.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

I understand that one message which the right hon. Gentleman has sent is to be published in the Official Report. May I ask that the whole of the papers in this matter be laid before us? In particular, I ask that we should have a report of the statement the right hon. Gentleman is reported to have made. Does he realise that such a statement was bound to arouse anxiety in Africa today? Will the right hon. Gentleman publish that statement together with the statement in which he has given categorical assurances to the Kabaka? May I ask that the original statement and correspondence with the Kabaka, including the assurances on this point, be published? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it desirable that we should have an early opportunity after he has seen the Kabaka to debate this very important matter?

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

If the right hon. Member feels that publication of a White Paper on these matters would be of assistance to the House, of course I should be very ready to have one prepared as quickly as possible. Perhaps that would be a course which would meet the wishes of the right hon. Member.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

Yes. May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will make a statement—this week I hope, or early next week—after he has seen the Kabaka? I would prefer to see whether there is a chance of preventing what may be a serious crisis in Uganda; but after the right hon. Gentleman has seen the Kabaka and made a further report, will the Leader of the House arrange for us to debate the matter?

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

I must make it quite clear that the Kabaka has already been given a very great number of opportunities of withdrawing from the attitude he has taken up.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crook-shank):

This is all rather hypothetical at this stage, and I could not promise a debate on this information. I am sure the right hon. Member will agree, because he said that he wanted to see the White Paper and the result of further talks.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

Did I gather from the reply of the Secretary of State that he will invite the Kabaka to meet him as soon as he arrives here?

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

No. I said I would see the Kabaka if he wished to see me. I must make it quite clear that this decision is final. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] It is my duty to say that, and if it were not so there would certainly be bloodshed and trouble in Uganda. The Kabaka has been given repeated opportunities of withdrawing from the attitude he has taken up.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

In these circumstances and in order to take what might be the last chance of avoiding a very serious situation in a Colony with so many prospects for the future, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he will take steps, rather than stand on ceremony at this time, to see that the Secretary of State invites this young ruler—he is about 30—with a view to finding out whether at this eleventh hour a settlement can be arranged?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

This matter has been for several weeks past under frequent discussion among us. We have looked at it from every point of view and the decision which was read by the Secretary of State represents the considered view of the Government.

Photo of Mr Thomas Reid Mr Thomas Reid , Swindon

Will the Secretary of State publish a White Paper—a candid and very full White Paper—on this subject, because the matter is one of great constitutional importance to the Dominions as well as to this country? I should not think that one-half of 1 per cent. of the people of this country know the difference between Uganda and Buganda. In order to give the House full knowledge and to give hon. Members a chance of studying the facts, will the right hon. Gentleman publish a White Paper?

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

Yes, Sir, I understood that it would meet the wishes of the House if the Government published a White Paper, and I will arrange for that to be done.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

Has the right hon. Gentleman made his normal dispositions? Have troops been warned for Uganda, and if so, what troops?

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

There are sufficient troops in Uganda to deal with any likely disturbance.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House of the considerations which led him to decide that the presence of the Kabaka in his home territory would be a threat to peace, because that does appear to be very drastic action?

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

The advice I have had from the Governor and from those responsible for these matters is that if the Kabaka—recognition having been withdrawn from him—were to remain in the territory, there would be the very gravest danger of bloodshed.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

Erskine May says that two Motions for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 may not be moved on the same day. May I therefore take it that if, tomorrow, I wish to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 on the case of the deportation and the deposition of the Kabaka of Buganda it will be regarded as the first occasion on which that Motion could be moved?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I think that that is a fair inference to draw from the Rule which prohibits more than one such Motion being offered on the same day.

Following is the personal message from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to H.H. The Kabaka of Buganda: I have received with the very gravest concern the Governor's report that Your Highness in spite of repeated warnings still intends to act in contravention of your obligations under the 1900 Agreement. Her Majesty's Government attaches the greatest importance to the scrupulous observance of the terms of this Agreement solemnly subscribed by both our Governments.I am the more at a loss to understand Your Highness's attitude because both the Governor and I myself made it clear in deed and word that we are determined to promote the progress and wellbeing of Your Highness's people. We are however equally convinced—and I am sure that Your Highness on reflection can come to no other conclusion—that this progress cannot be achieved unless Buganda continues to go forward as an integral part of the Uganda Protectorate. The separation of Buganda from the rest of the Protectorate, would I am certain strike a blow at the true interests of the people of Buganda.I look forward to a constructive period of development during which the African peoples will play a steadily increasing part in the Government and Administration of the Protectorate. The progress of Uganda and her peoples towards self government within the Commonwealth depends upon our united efforts.In all sincerity and friendship I call upon Your Highness not to endanger the realisation of this great purpose to which we are committed as trustees for all the peoples of Uganda including Your Highness's subjects.