When the Uganda government received and confirmed the information of Kabaka Mutesa’s death in exile, they jumped up with warm hands, asking the British government to hand over the body for burial as ‘required’.
The Obote government was expecting to taunt the Baganda one more time, by burying the Kabaka like a commoner contrary to several interests of the Baganda loyalists, who wished their ‘last’ king buried with honors at the royal tombs in Kasubi, with all cultural rites.
On the same day the Kabaka died, his elder brother George Mawanda and another Muganda politician Jolly Joe Kiwanuka dashed to British High Commission to seek help in repatriating Kabaka’s body. Jolly Joe Kiwanuka is the grandfather to NRM/Museveni lawyer Kiryowa Kiwanuka, he was a vocal legislator in Buganda, a UPC stalwart and would later be killed harshly by Idi Amin Dada.
The Uganda government was relishing the chance to ‘reunite’ with a dead Mutesa, and even offered to repatriate the body with all expenses, take care of all funeral arrangements, but did not have a mention of burying the King the way his people wanted.
Back in London, Kabaka’s closest friends and family took the government’s intentions with suspicion. They did not trust the British either, whom they accused of jumping in with so much concern now that the Kabaka had died, yet stayed in corner arms folded while he wallowed in brokenness and stinging exile cold coupled with deliberate ill-treatment from Obote’s government.
These formed an advisory body around the Nabagereka, Damalie Kisosonkole, and pushed for burying the Kabaka in London. Their advice was followed by the Baganda royals in Uganda who sat at Nakulabye at the home of a one Nalinya Ndagire (Mutesa’s sister) and decided that it was neither safe nor would it turn out any better, if Mutesa’s body was to be delivered in the waiting hands of Obote and his government, no matter the promises at hand.
A resolution to have Jolly Joe Kiwanuka travel to London and return with the Kabaka’s will (ddaame) which he would hand over to the last acting premier Mayanja Nkangi was reached. Nkangi had been prime minister to Mutesa by the time of the 1966 crisis.
Nknagi and the Nabagereka had literal and real powers to make or break these decisions in different ways: Nkangi, for instance, being the last Premier was the last Buganda symbol standing and he was a sign of continuity of the Kingdom in the direct absence of Mutesa. The Nabagereka, on the other hand, was the only one with the power to move the body of her deceased husband. They both would become a source of negotiation to both Uganda and British governments.
According to Prof A. B Kasozi in the book Bitter Bread of Exile: There was a telegram from the Kampala British Commission insinuating a negotiation between the Uganda government and the Nabagereka in the background of adamancy from Nkangi and Mutesa’s close friend and will authenticator, Andrew Mpanga.
Obote’s government continued to frustrate the process of burial in London, briefing its counterpart government to repatriate the body as soon as possible. They further made a telephone order through Minister Sam Odaka asking the British foreign office to use their powers and influence to persuade the Nabagereka into burying her husband back home.
The British government was also keen not to upset Obote yet at the same time wanted to at least do ‘something’ good for the Kabaka following deserting him while in exile. So, while they had the means to persuade the Nabagereka, they would not be able to get past Nkangi without seeming to side with Buganda, which would infuriate Obote. Hence, they chose to opt-out.
The squabbles involving Buganda, Obote and British government took a whole week, while Mutesa’s body lay embalmed in Britain, and it would stay that way longer as the first funeral program would happen on December 3- funeral service at Guards Chapel in Wellington.
But first, the government issued a tough statement …………. Read the next series
The writer is a private contributor to the Nile Post