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Kabaka Yekka

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Title: Kabaka Yekka  
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Subject: Ugandan general election, 1962, History of Uganda (1962–71), Military history of Uganda, Uganda, Uganda Protectorate
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Kabaka Yekka

Kabaka Yekka
Leader Mutesa II of Buganda
Founded 1961
Succeeded by Conservative Party
Headquarters Kampala
Ideology Monarchism
National affiliation KY-UPC

Kabaka Yekka was a monarchist political party in Uganda. The party's name means 'king only' in the Ganda language, Kabaka being the title of the King in the kingdom of Buganda.

In 1962 Kabaka Yekka allied with Uganda People's Congress and contested the 1962 National Assembly elections — winning 21 seats.

In 1979 Mayanja Nkangi founded the Conservative Party, which is considered to be a transformation of Kabaka Yekka.

In his book, "The Buganda Factor in Uganda Politics," Professor Mutibwa runs down the KY/UPC alliance as an unholy alliance. He presents it as nothing more than an attempt to kill the DP. While the alliance had some anti-DP undertones, we believe it was much more than that. To argue the case that the alliance was much more than simply a vehicle to defeat DP, we shall run through the early history of the formation of the Kabaka Yekka movement.

Our point of departure is the return of the Kabaka of Buganda from deportation in 1955. Two important political processes have their beginnings from this event. One, the rise of a neo-traditionalist force "which effectively controlled politics and administration, and coinciding with this, Buganda's growing isolation from the rest of the country."

The neo-traditionalists have their roots deep in Uganda history. They were one of the forces which fought during the religious wars of late 19th century Buganda. They are the ones who emerged victorious in the battle at Mengo in 1892. With that victory, they became the dominant identity in Buganda.

Resisting the neo-traditionalists right from the time of the religious wars in Buganda are the Catholic forces which eventually organised the Democratic Party to articulate the interets of Catholics as a dominated identity. (The reader should remember the earlier article on the roots of DP in Buganda.)

The second process was the beginning of contradictions between, on the one hand, friends and supporters of Michael Kintu, the Katikiro who desired to conserve the status quo by separating Buganda from national politics. The other side of the coin were the Baganda nationalists and progressives.

These were the elites with education who desired to organise political parties and press for independence for Uganda (including Buganda). They also wanted reforms in Buganda. Among the reforms they wanted was direct elections to the Lukiko as well as removal of the saza chiefs from membership of the Lukiko.

The neo-traditionalist were vigorously opposed to these demands. They used their association with the Kabaka to easily win over the peasants and traders to their side. Using extremely dirty tactics, they portrayed the nationalist as disloyal to the Kabaka. In general the politics of the neo-traditionalists sought to resist the policy of preparing Uganda for independence as one country. All they wanted was to replace the letter and spirit of the 1900 and 1955 agreements.

On the other hand both the Colonial Office as well as the Ugandan nationalists continued preparing Uganda for independence as one country. The elections slated for 1961 was meant to be a big step in that direction.

Seized by fear that the neo-traditionalist would be in a minority among the elected nationalists from all over the country, the Kabaka's government threatened to boycott the elections unless Buganda's special position was guaranteed. To press the point the Lukiko voted to secede from Uganda.

When the Colonial Administration ignored both the threat to boycott the elections as well as the Lukiko vote for Buganda to secede, the Kabaka's government actually called for the boycott. The boycott turned out to be very successful. This is how Obote later described the success of the boycott:

In a suicidal move the Democratic Party went against the boycott. (UPC on the other hand respected it.) While 97% of the registered voters in Buganda kept away from the polls, the remaining 3% enabled the DP to win 20 out of 21 seats from Buganda. When these twenty seats got added to.....which DP got from the rest of the country, the DP had a clear majority of MPs in the house and so formed the government.

A closer analysis could reveal that DP probably had no choice but to take this suicidal move. It could not join the boycott because it was

By mid 1961 it was very clear that whatever the neo-traditionalists were doing was not bearing expected fruits. The boycott had not produced the intended result; in stead DP had squeaked into power. The motion to secede had been ignored by the British. Buganda seemed to be at the end of its wits.


It was in these circumstances that Sepiriya Ksawuzi Masembe-Kabali began to seek new avenues by which Buganda and the neo-traditionalists could achieve their objectives. Masembae-Kabali was a true pedigree of neo-traditionalism and had a stake in then the existing structure of Ganda society. He was the son of a former Omuwanika of Buganda and four generation of his family had served the royal court. He was wealthy by the standards of those days.

In the early part of 1961 he drafted a program for what he viewed as a Conservative party. The party was to be open to all who were fighting for the Kabakaship and it was to unite all Baganda in a common cause. Those who had taken part in the elections against the boycott and whom he called rebels were to be excluded from the party. The professional politicians who were really the nationalist were also not welcome.

In the words of the program, the party had two central objectives:

2) see that political changes do not destroy the good customs and traditions, do not destroy the kingdom, the clans and our way of life, all of which are valuable for our society.

4)The party will not allow anybody to be above the Kabaka.

It is important to point out that Masembe-Kabali was not alone in trying to launch a Ganda party in 1961. Other politicians like Jolley Joe Kiwanuka and E.M.K Mulira were also trying to form new parties or new coalitions out of the old factions. Their objective was "to arouse and unify the Baganda to protect the kingdoms position within Uganda." One of these moves was the attempt at forming a Federal party led by Mulira and financed by Masembe-Kabali.

Initially Masembe-Kabali tried to base his efforts at establishing the Conservative party on alliances between the then existing small political parties but soon realised this could not work. The professional politicians were dogged by two disadvantages. Not only was their loyalty to the Kabaka in question------but they all wanted to be leaders rather than followers. Masembe-Kabali soon realised that the various political groupings he was working with were incapable of uniting or winning the support of Buganda.

It was at this point that Antoni Tamale, advised Masembe-Kabali to change course. He was to by-pass the professional politicians and seek to unite all Baganda irrespective of their social class. To do this he first turned to his own social class i.e. men who were land owners and from prominent families.

'Kakamega Club

The obvious place to find such people was the Kakamege Club. The Kakamega club was a social club which had evolved out of friendship which had begun when the young Kabaka was a student at Kings College, Budo in the 1940s. "The club was exclusive; it was expensive, almost entirely Anglican, and the large majority of its thirty members came from notable families. The Kabaka was patron and principal host, his friends gathering around him for all night drinking parties, outdoor sport, musical evenings and other amusements."

The members of the club were all Kabaka's men by conviction and through long personal acquaintance. It was just the right thing for Masembe-Kabali to turn to the club members when it came to "helping our friend." In an interview Masembe-Kabali told Professor Hancock who wrote the finest history of Kabaka Yeka ever that when he (Masemabe-Kabali) in mid May suggested the idea of a public demonstration to the Kabaka, the Kabaka agreed and advised him to "consult our friends in Kakamega." Eventually five members of the Kakamega Club joined Masembe-Kabali to form the Kabaka Yekka.

In broad terms, first the founders were all non-Catholics. This is what leads many to think that all Kabaka Yekka stood for was a resistance to the Democratic party. While there was resistance of DP arising from the interests of the neo-traditioanlists to which DP was a threat, the object of the Kabaka Yekka was to unite the Baganda, half of whom were Catholics. It was to get the Baganda to struggle to defend the special position of Buganda in Uganda affairs.

In the second place, much as the founders were united in their devotion to the throne and Buganda, and chose the name Kabaka Yekka for their movement, some still held on to their political objectives for social and economic reforms. Some of these people had been agitating for social and economic reform from as early as the 1940. For people like that Kabaka Yekka simply represented another means to advance their struggle against the chiefly hierarchy. It was a mark of great achievement on the part of Kabaka Yekka to bind interest such as these to those of the members of the Kakamega Club.

The other thing which bound them was a strong belief that Buganda was a separate entity, distinctive above all because of its throne and institutions, the cornerstone of the Ganda identity". Ever since the return of the Kabaka in 1955, these sentiments had got even more focused on the Kabaka as the symbol and guardian of the Ganda interest. For the founders of Kabaka Yekka if the Kabaka were superseded in the kingdom, then Buganda would cease to exist. Sam Kalule, from Wandegeya, who had been involved in the Uganda National Movement, summarized this very well in the second Kabaka Yekka letter he wrote in August 1961: ".......without him (meaning the Kabaka) there is no Muganda."

These positions would only have been tenable if Buganda were a separate country from Uganda. However the founders of KY did not press for secession; in stead they demanded that the Kabaka and the Lukiko should be supreme in those things which mattered to the Baganda. If this was granted, Buganda could take part in Uganda.

This point had been succinctly made by Antoni Tamale in the first KY letter: "There is no doubt that Buganda is the heart of Uganda. Buganda is the engine of Uganda. Therefore after the engine has-been set up, Buganda kingdom should not be afraid to unite with other parts of united self-governing Uganda."

According Professor Ian Hancock: "the founder's stand presupposed Buganda's superior and central position in Uganda. It was an insular rather than a secessionist position, although the step from one to the other was both short and logical."

In summary all these people of disparate interests were brought together by a desire to protect their identity as Baganda. This is why to argue that KY was simply to defeat DP totally misses the point. KY was both the instrument of the neo-traditionalist against DP but mainly a movement of Baganda to protect the special position Buganda had occupied in Uganda affairs from long before colonisation. They were doing what the Buganda national anthem calls on the Baganda to do i.e. to protect the glory of Buganda that started a long time ago.

What constituted the basis of propaganda for Kabaka Yekka were ideas which emerged from the founders meeting in Masambe-Kabali's house in May, the demonstration in June and the pamphlets issued in July and August. In any case the founders did not need to invent an ideology—the material was already in existence, the ideas had been aired before, notably by the All Buganda Party which had been formed way back in 1954.

What the founders did which was new was to codify these ideas, to give focus and name to a number of sentiments, and simplify Buganda's proposition to one demand: "That the Kabaka shall never be preceded by anybody else on the entire soil of Buganda. KABAKA YEKKA." This had been well-spelt out in the first Kabaka Yekka letter edited by Masembe-Kabali and published in July and August 1961.

This message was certainly appealing to the population; however, the masses were not willing to commit themselves until Mengo had signaled its endorsement. And Mengo was unlikely to do so until it was sure there was an irresistible movement. This was the case of which one would come first the hen or the eggs.

As all this was happening, the Buganda Ministers had their own dilemma. They were under pressure from the Lukiko to reclaim their ebyaffe (our things). At the same time the Governor was pressing Buganda to attend the Constitutional Conference. The Governor's pressure took the form of threats to withhold financial grants at a time of worsening budgetary situation in Buganda.

The breakthrough was provided by the outcome of secret negotiations between leading members of the Lukiko and representatives of the Uganda Peoples' Congress which took place during the months of July and August. At these negotiations UPC offered to support Buganda's demand for federal relationship in return for Buganda's attendance at the Constitutional Conference.

UPC also pledged to support Mengo's demand that Buganda's representatives to the National Assembly would be indirectly elected by the Lukiko acting as an electoral college.

It was at this point that Mengo fully turned to Kabaka Yekka. On 10 November 1961 the Kabaka's ministers agreed to join Kabaka Yekka. Overnight Kabaka Yekka became a very powerful mass movement and an election machine. And when the elections came on 22 February 1962 it trounced DP at the polls. Kabaka Yekka candidates got 90% of the votes and secured 65 of the 68 seats in the Lukiko.

The results were not much of a surprise. Kabaka Yekka had a lot going for it. It had the support of the Chiefs which meant the Kabaka. It was helped by an electoral arrangement which permitted an official from the Kabaka's government to draw the electoral boundaries to favour Kabaka Yekka.

Ben Kiwanuka

Kabaka Yekka also simplified issues into a choice between Ben (Benedicto Kiwanuka) and the Kabaka. "In posing the choice this way, Kabaka Yekka was presented as the defender of the faith, the party which was for Buganda and the throne. The democratic Party had no counter to this sort of propaganda." Notwithstanding that, Kiwanuka tried to counter. He ananounced an increase in prices paid to the coffee farmers, he promised to democratise Buganda, he denounced reactionaries and tribalists, his followers even swore loyalty to the Kabaka. "The difficulty was that the chiefs and campaigners were able to insist that to oppose Kabaka Yekka was to oppose the Kabaka. It was an argument which did not require elaboration and this was just as well. Kabaka Yekka had nothing else to say and nothing else could preserve its unity."

Kabaka Yekka also had this devastataing campaign against DP which came out of a pamphlet, "Kabaka Atta Nabbe". The pamphlet claimed that the DP wanted to give authority to the Prime Minister acting under a head of State who would be appointed by the Queen of England. Arguing that the Kabaka had struggled for many years to regain his independence, the English want to hand over authority to Ben Kiwanuka whom the booklet called a scarecrow.

Much as this assertion alone was adequate to incense the Baganda, the author went on to pose the question: "What sort of Muganda are you who allows Benedicto Kiwanuka or any other person to sit over the Kabaka of Buganda?" The meaning of this rhetorical question was devastating to DP. "It was a question which reminded a Catholic (Muganda) that he was first of all a Muganda; that the election was about identity and not policy." The DP had no issue with equivalent power to evoke, and so long before the elections were held the results were a foregone conclusion. The KY won 69 out of 72 seats and proceeded to elect the 21 representatives from Buganda to the National Assembly. In April, after national elections in which UPC won 37 as against DPs 22 seats, the alliance between UPC and KY formed the government led by Obote as Prime Minister.

Writing in "The Journal of African History" Volume 11 number 3 (1970) page 420, Professor Ian Hancock has observed that Kabaka Yekka's victory in the Lukiko elections was really a victory for the no-traditionalists. The victory further entrenched the power of the existing political and administrative leadership led by Michael Kintu. He goes on: "Kabaka Yekka had aroused patriotism in defence of neo-traditionalist cause, patriots who assumed that Buganda was a separate nation, neo-traditionalists who saw in separate nationhood a barrier against social change. So in this case Kabaka Yekka became a movement against the world, and it was this rejection of the world seen to be non-Ganda and anti-traditionalist, which increased Buganda's isolation from Uganda and invited intervention from the central government. This stand was not a new one. But in 1961 and early 1962 Kabaka Yekka helped to clarify and consolidate it."


  • African Elections Database - Uganda

(1)Hancock, I.R. "The Buganda Crisis, 1964," African Affairs, Volume 69 Number 279

(2)Hancock, I.R, "Patriotism and Neo-Traditionalism in Buganda: the KY movement, 1961-62," Journal of African History Volume 11 No. 3 1970.

(3)Hancock, I.R, "The Kakamega Club of Buganda," Journal of Modern African studies, Volume 12 number 1 (March 1974) pages 131-135.

(4)Mutesa, E. "The Desecration of My Kingdom," London, Constable 1967.

(5)Mutibwa,Phares "Uganda since independence : a story of unfulfilled hopes," London : Hurst, c1992 and Fountain Publishers, Kampala, Uganda

(6)Santhymurthy, T.V., "The Political Development of Uganda: 1900-1986,"Aldershot, Hants, England: Gowers Publishing Company, 1986.

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