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This Day for Africa – Britain refuses Uganda’s request for independence

Uganda is an east African country that had a number of kingdoms as well as political institutions by the 1800’s. The interior was penetrated by Arab slave traders in the 1830’s, soon followed by British explorers and abolitionists.

Catholic and Protestant missionaries had also followed suit by 1879. East Africa soon developed into the British sphere of influence on the African continent. This was solidified by a royal charter, granted to William Mackinnon’s Imperial British East African Company in 1888. In 1890, an agreement was made with Germany in which Britain’s dominance over Kenya and Uganda was confirmed.

The high administrative costs resulted in the end of the charter, however, Uganda still remained under British control. In 1894, the Kingdom of Uganda was placed under a British protectorate.

Unlike neighboring Kenya, Uganda maintained some form of self-determination as it was not placed fully under colonial administration. However, the local economy was dramatically affected. In order to suppress a rebellion in 1879, units of the British Indian Army had been deployed to Uganda at a great expense. To make up for this cost, taxes had to be imposed on the locals. This was done through the Buganda Agreement of 1900, which involved a co-operation between the British and the Baganda to annex the lands and implement forced unpaid labour on smaller tribes, like the Banyoro.

The Banyoro thus had no control over their agricultural activities. In other parts of the country, however, agricultural production was placed in the hands of the locals, especially the Baganda. Cotton became a highly successful crop and its production contributed to the emergence of the Baganda as an elite group.

By the 1920’s however, the Asian population of Uganda was granted greater economic opportunities, which caused great dissatisfaction among the Baganda. By 1949, many nationalist movements had sprung up in numerous British colonies. Uganda was thus being prepared for independence.

Local political parties sprung up and were mostly dominated by the Banganda, many of whom called for a separate Buganda kingdom. Parties to counter the dominance of the Baganda were also created.

By 1961, Baganda separatism as well as Baganda dominance in non-separatist political parties presented a highly volatile political situation. Thus, on 2 December 1961, Britain refused to grant Uganda independence.

By 1962, however, elections were held and Milton Obote became the Prime Minister of an independent Uganda. In 1971, Obote was ousted in a military coup by Idi Amin, who was responsible for gross human rights violations and the general disintegration of the country.

The effects of Amin’s rule are still felt in present-day Uganda.

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