Federo is a unique British concept Created to suit its Ugandan colonial venture, through conferring to a local clique apparent power to enforce law and order and facilitating colonial exploitation.
The colonial state in return gave gifts in the form of parcels of land measured in square miles to the clique. This system enabled the colonialists to control the Territory with minimum man power and administrative costs.
The concept was reduced into a write up, notoriously known as ‘Uganda Agreement’ later “Uganda” adjusted to ‘Buganda’. The document transformed a three county chieftainship known as Buganda Kingdom into a Province of twenty counties.
The various ethnic groups of varying cultures and languages added to the three counties to form the “Province of the Kingdom of Buganda”, lost their identities in this new formation and adopted Kiganda names and culture.
This blending of power and gifts resulted into a formidable coalition between the Baganda chiefs and the British colonial administrators.
The colonialists treated the Province of the Kingdom of Buganda as a special case and was seen by the rest of the Protectorate as a state within the state of Uganda.
The federo clique did not regard Buganda as any other province of Uganda on an equal footing with the rest of the protectorate.
This became a problem even to the colonialists because as Uganda moved towards independence, the federalists evolved an arrogant intransigent stance, that Buganda go it alone as an independent country in complete disregard of the interests of the other Provinces.
Indeed in December 1960 Buganda declared her independence. The Governor’s rebuke forced the federo clique to their knees and with profound apologies abandoned their “independence”.
They however worked out a package which had to be agreed to, if they were to go with the rest of Uganda to independence. The package was roughly referred to as ‘Buganda’s things’ or ‘Ebyaffe’.
These ‘things’ included the securing of the Kabaka’s position in an independent Uganda; a full federal status for Buganda and the retention of the ‘lost counties’. They formed their own political party to secure these “ebyaffe”.
The party formed was Kabaka Yekka (KY-‘Kill Yourself’-as nicknamed by the opponents of the Mengo federo clique).
The federo Mengo Establishment clique, using KY as the negotiating tool demanded the position of President of Uganda and commander- in- chief of the armed forces, the portfolio of Finance plus separate police and Judiciary for Buganda.
Milton Obote agreed to all Mengo’s demands, believing that Kabaka Muteesa, the Mengo establishment supremo, shall simply be the titular head of state.
He hoped that the dignity of that office bestowed upon the Kabaka would gratify Baganda and make them more amenable to the idea of co-operating with the rest of Ugandans.
It was a vain hope. Kabaka Muteesa II could not understand the concept of a limited presidency. Consequently he started manoeuvres which he hoped would overthrow Milton Obote.
The British Government declined the Muteesa group’s request for troops. M/s Gail and Roberts also declined to supply the group with guns. However through other means President Muteesa and group managed to smuggle guns and ammunition into the country.
On the political side President Muteesa’s clique caused Parliament to pass a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Obote, throwing the country into political darkness and utter confusion. There was a leadership vacuum-the country became leaderless.
The passing of the vote would have constitutionally entitled President Muteesa to appoint an acting Prime Minister.
The plan was however leaked to Milton Obote who acted swiftly by arresting all the top conspirators except President Muteesa who was left alone and isolated at Entebbe State House.
Inevitably President/Kabaka Muteesa next move was to return to his federo base at Mengo, where the Lukiiko passed a resolution for Buganda’s secession from Uganda, non-recognition of the Obote regime and evicting the central Government from Buganda soil.
The passing of the resolution was followed by the beating of war drums which begun in many parts of Buganda. Roads were broken or damaged, chaos and anarchy were let loose. Lawlessness was the order of the day.
At Mengo palace, fighting erupted between Muteesa’s group and a unit of the Uganda army which had been deployed to investigate information on arms stock pile.
The unit was out gunned.
Reinforcements were dispatched, surrounded the palace, and took it over. The Kabaka escaped undetected.
That was the end of federo. The eclipse of federo, is an episode symbolising the tragedy of Buganda which is possessed of highly educated and enlightened people and the best economy in the country, yet failed to get leaders with the foresight that was required at this crucial time in our country’s history.
The 14th January 2020 general elections have shown that no political party can win the Presidency of Uganda with only Buganda support.
Imperatively therefore Baganda have to abandon the naivety with which they approach their relationship with the rest of Uganda, and together fight the common enemy of poverty, ignorance and disease.
The author is a Senior Partner, Kampala Associated Advocates
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