On November 22 1969, Uganda’s first president, and Kabaka of Buganda, Edward Mutesa II, alone in a small flat in Bermondsey, London, slowly ‘melted’ away to death, in the background of betrayal from within his circles, harsh life in exile and savage treatment from Milton Obote’s undying heart of revenge.
Mutesa, was discovered dead by his bodyguard Capt Jehoash Katende who by norm would have to leave/or return to the house by kneeling and greeting the Kabaka aloud. On this specific day, he returned from work and knelt to greet the Kabaka, but his pleasantries got lost within the walls of the small condominium he shared with the royal.
Alas, there was neither answer nor attempt for the same. Katende approached his King to ascertain if all was well, he was gone. Mutesa’s 63 kilograms of body weight and 5.6 feet of height lay there staring at him, lifeless.
Mutesa and Katende had spent three years and six months in exile, living on crumbs from the former’s friends, completely neglected by Britain which was once Mutesa’s ally, and seriously loathed by Obote’s government back home.
It is alleged that Mutesa’s terrible condition of impecuniousness in exile, stinging betrayal from colleagues, endless threats from Obote’s government, and absolute disregard by Britain drove him into the bottle, instantly turning him into a perpetual drunkard.
Indeed, it is not far fetched when theorists allege that Mutesa (who by the way died hours after celebrating his birthday) was poisoned through alcohol by a Muganda girl sent by Obote’s government to man-mark him.
Dr Arthur Gordon Davies, a surgeon who conducted the post-mortem on behalf of the British government also concluded thus; “I find that the deceased died on the 21st day of November 1969 at 28 Orchard House, Rotherhithe, from acute alcohol poisoning.”
There were all reasons for Mutesa’s life to turn out the way it did, for a man who used to live in a palace with a litany of empty bungalows, and unlimited stipend. Here he was, with nothing a nobody.
In an interview before his death, Mutesa told the BBC; “It is really difficult indeed, I am on public assistance, that is complicated enough. Although I have friends who help me a great deal and without those friends, I didn’t think I would be able to keep my head above the water.”
These words could only be qualified by the Kabaka’s daughter Dorothy Nassolo, who was in school in London at the time.
‘It was very sad for me to see my father in Bermondsey flats, it was a bit depressing. He coped and used to make light of things to make it look temporary.”
In the book ‘the bitter bread of exile’ by prof Kasozi, the author blames psychological pressure for Mutesa’s death.
‘It slowly turned into depression, which might have increased his desire for the bottle. If this was the case, then the increased amount of alcohol in his blood is understandable.’
However, Kabaka Mutesa’s friends claim he never touched the bottle, and died of completely different causes.
Did the Kabaka die of alcohol poisoning or self-inflicted alcoholism? Our next article looks at Mutesa’s angle of death, from those who were close to him.
The writer is a private contributor to Nile Post