Conservative Imperial Political Elite Establishment in the Decolonisation Process of the British Empire

Conservative Imperial Political Elite Establishment in the Decolonisation Process of the British Empire

Uganda was, by African standards, rich. The people of Uganda were more progressive than in most other colonial territories of British Africa. Commercial life was not dominated entirely by the Asians, as it tended to be in Kenya, and the Ugandans were progressive in developing industry or, with British help, in the cultivation of coffee and cotton. To those more successful members of the community co-operation with the governing authorities seemed to offer more than would revolt, and consequently no strong nationalist movement developed in the fifties, as it did for example in Kenya. A series of constitutional changes in the early fifties provided the Africans of Uganda with increasing opportunities, but they showed a surprising reluctance to take them.

However, once the advance towards independence began in Uganda, it became as rapid as the advance in other parts of British Africa. In the first place, the Africans of Uganda became increasingly resentful of the power of a feudal aristocracy. In the second, tribal rivalries, such as had created difficulties for the constitution-makers in Kenya and Nigeria, showed themselves to be particularly unmanageable in Uganda. The native Ugandans, known as the Buganda, constituted only 17% of the total population, and relations between them and some minor tribes were strained. Tension increased in 1953 when a new constitution provided that only a minority of the African members of the Legislative Council should be elected by the Bugandan assembly. The assembly, fearing that the new body would overwhelm the traditional Buganda leaders, was unwilling to co-operate. This placed their ruler, the Kabaka Edward Mutesa II, in the embarrassing dilemma of either having to oppose his most distinguished subjects or having to disregard the British Government and, as a result, violate the 1900 agreement in which he and his people were bound to co-operate loyally with Britain in return for protection. He ultimately decided to take the latter course and to request that Buganda should be granted independence, notwithstanding the adverse impact such a development would have on the other regions of the protectorate. Consequently, he was deported for two years to Britain by the Governor, Sir Andrew Cohen.

An agreement made in 1957 soon proved valueless. Parties emerged which demanded self-government with increasing insistence, yet were at the same time so unconstructively critical of British proposals (the Hancock Commission had recommended that Buganda should not be permitted to secede, and that the powers of the Kabaka be reduced) that the existing government was all the less inclined to negotiate with them. It was somewhat surprising, therefore, that similar recommendations put forwards in 1961(MacLeod appointed another commission, under Lord Munster – this too recommended that Buganda should not be allowed to secede), should have found general acceptance at a conference in London. Finally, due to some unexpected party manoeuvring in Uganda, the proposals were accepted. Uganda managed to adopt a stable central government which, nonetheless, permitted Buganda and some other regions to preserve a federal relationship with the centre at Kampala. Uganda became independent in October, 1962. Milton Obote, a representative of the Lango people, became Prime Minister, with a coalition government composed of members of his own Uganda People’s Congress and of the Kabaka party, the radicals and the traditionalists. The Kabaka himself was installed as first President when Uganda followed the now customary practice of becoming a republic within the Commonwealth, in October 1963. The process of gradual self-government in the rest of Africa and in other parts of the world took a similar pattern, as was said earlier on, under the Conservatives, until 1963.

1. L. A.MONK, Britain 1945-1970. (London: G. Bell & Sons Ltd., 1976), p. 100.
2. V. ALBERTINI, Decolonization. (London: African Publishing Company, 1982), pp. 193-4.
3. F. WILLIAMS, A Prime Minister Remembers: the War and Post-War Memoirs of the Rt. Hon. Earl Attlee, Based on his Private Papers and on a Series of Recorded Conversations. (London: Heinemann, 1961), p. 218.
4. D. JUDD and P. SLINN, The Evolution of the Modern Commonwealth 1902-80. (London: McMillan, 1982), p. 96.
5. I. MACLEOD, Britain’s Future Policy in Africa. The Telegraph, 12.3.65.
6. F. LONGFORD, Eleven at No. 10. (London: Harrap, 1984), p. 48.
7. ibid
8. S. E. FINER, Comparative Government. (Middlesex: Penguin, 1970), p. 164.
9. M. BELOFF and G. PEELE, The Government of the United Kingdom. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980), p. 154.
10. ibid.
11. A delegate to the 1949 Conservative Conference: Conference Report, p. 53, in D. GOLDSWORTHY, Colonial Issues in British Politics 1945-1961. (London: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 167.
12. L. D. EPSTEIN, British Politics in the Suez Crisis. (London: Pall Mall Press, 1964), p. 20.
13. 1950 Conservative Conference Report, pp. 32-33, in D. GOLDSWORTHY, op. cit., p. 168.
14. ibid.
15. R. RHODES-JAMES (ed.), Churchill Speaks: Winston S. Churchill in Peace and War. Collected Speeches, 1897-1963. (New York: Windward, 1974), p. 713.
16. D. DIMBLEBY and D. REYNOLDS, An Ocean Apart. (London: BBC Books: Hodder and Stoughton, 1988), p. 127.
17. D. DIMBLEBY interview with Elliott Roosevelt. 11.5.1988.
18. W. ROGER-LOUIS, Imperialism at Bay: the United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire. (London: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 226.
19. R. RHODES-JAMES (ed.), op. cit., p. 810.
20. D. DIMBLEBY and D. REYNOLDS, op. cit., p. 146.
21. M. BARRATT-BROWN, After Imperialism. (London: Heinemann, 1963), p. 294.
22. ibid.
23. B. PORTER, The Lion’s Share. (London: Longman, 1984), p. 314.
24. ibid.
25. 1948 Conference Report, p.71, in D. GOLDSWORTHY, op. cit., p. 187.
26. 1949 Conference Report, p. 59, in D. GOLDSWORTHY, op. cit., p. 188.
27. H. MACMILLAN, Pointing the Way, 1959-1961. (London: McMillan, 1972), pp. 475-476
28. D. MACLEAN, British Foreign Policy since Suez, 1956-1968. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967), P. 149.

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