ROOTS OF THE 1966 CRISIS:Initial troubles centred on the financial position of Buganda


I see some people giving their own historical reading of the genesis of the 1966 fiasco in Uganda but Let me try to give the facts as I was made to understand them in my P4 civics classes. Initial troubles centred on the financial position of Buganda, leading to protracted wrangles between Entebbe and Mmengo over the interpretation of Article 1 of schedule 9 of the 1962 constitution (See pp. 173-4 1962 Constitution at compatriotto, http://www.scribd.com/doc/20262240/Uganda-Constitution-1962). The Central government sought to deduct from its grants to Mmengo additional revenue accruing to Buganda from graduated tax on non-Africans, rents received from public land, leases to urban authorities etc.

Earlier on, the Relationship Commission (Munster Commission) had laid out the means through which the central government would maintain firm financial discipline over local authorities but curiously, Mmengo did not think that those stipulations applied to Buganda insisting that its relationship with the centre was special and different from that of other local authorities. This (mistaken) view was largely informed by the leverage Buganda had over the UPC government, having eased it into power through the UPC-KY alliance. In spite of that, though, AM Obote is remembered to have insisted that, “we refuse to sign a blank cheque to the Buganda Government”.

For all its feeling of being special, Buganda was however not assisted by the never-ending financial misdemeanours by the Michael Kintu ministry (Kintu was the Katiikiro until he was deposed in 1964 after Buganda lost in the referendum over the “lost counties”). While Buganda had £1 million in its coffers by the end of 1958, this had dwindled to a mere £465,000 in 1960. In 1963, it was in the red by £226,863.

In 1965, the Planning Commission of the Buganda Government warned that the Kabaka’s government was on the brink of bankruptcy and that the ministers whose nepotism had reached new limits were the worst offenders. The report also sent out danger signs on the state of morale of the Buganda civil service which it warned, had reached a very low ebb. Another report of a committee led by a Makerere academic, DP Ghai warned that the feeble control by the central government on public expenditure in the kingdom had resulted in a perilous financial situation at Mmengo.

In 1965, Buganda finances were already in a considerable overdraft but even then, Mmengo went ahead to craft a budget that right from conception, suffered a deficit of £430,000, all this on top of a sum of £200,000 loaned internally to key officials at Mmengo for personal use.

Through all this, the services that had been transferred to the Buganda government as a federal authority were being heavily subsidised by the central government. Even in the face of that reality and evidence of financial indiscipline, Mmengo wanted the payer of the piper not to have anything to do with calling the tune: the Kabaka Government insisted that in spite of Central government subsidies, Mmengo was entitled to spend according to its own policies and legislation. Entebbe on the other had insisted that it was not obliged to subsidise schemes over which it had no control, particularly in light of reports of serious financial impropriety on the part of the Kabaka Government.

All this tussling was happening against the backdrop of the pending resolution of the thorny question of the “lost counties” (Buyaga and Bugangaizi) of Bunyoro; which the 1961 Constitutional Conference, attended by Buganda, was supposed to be resolved by a referendum to be held by the central government on a convenient date not earlier than two years after independence, i.e., after 8th October 1964.Thus the stage was set for a serious political stalemate between Entebbe and Mmengo

It should be recalled that, at this point, the Mmengo establishment had deluded itself into thinking that the referendum on the “lost counties” would never take place and if at all it took place, it would be in Mmengo’s favour. The common view at Mmnego was: the counties were “a god-given our inheritence”:the only way that Buganda would lose those counties would be if a flood or “mukoka” washed them away and carried them to Bunyoro.

Such was the mood of morbid delusion and grievous self-deception at Mmengo that the dawning of the truth was fraught with the possibilities of instability. That instability lay waiting. To shore up the delusion, money had to be spent or rather squandered on what was called the “Ndaiga Scheme”, approved by the Lukiiko and initiated in mid-1963 with the aim of promoting economic development in the “lost counties, improving the road system, but most importantly, resettling Baganda ex-service personnel and their families, along the patterns of Israeli Kibbutzim.

It did not take long for it to become evident that Ndaiga was becoming a bottomless pit. By january 1964, questions were being raised on whether the Minister in charge of Ndaiga (also holding the portifolio of Health and Works) had received Lukiiko approval to spend public money on the scheme. Lukiiko committee that investigated the scheme discovered that,

£120,000 was spent without authorisation
£45,000 could not be accounted for, and supposedly cashed as a cheque made out in Dr Muwazi’s name, in a London bank)
£12,000 had been wasted on the purchase of junk machinery (not tanks or helicopters)
£4,000 had been spent on road surveys which had in fact been already undertaken by Uganda government
An undisclosed (but reportedly obscene) amount had been spent on entertainment.

More was to follow later in 1964 when the fear of losing the referendum led to the of an excess of £30,000, of which, £10,000 was spent on “gifts”. A lot was spent on campaigners deployed by individual Mmengo ministers. Many of those campaigners (like those of Masembe-Kabali) filed fictitious weekly reports on stories of success and squeezed large amounts of money from Mmengo. A few hours before the referendum, £2,500 was released by the Omuwanika (treasurer) “which in that time could only have been spent on converting the thirsty or congratulating the converted”, as one observer noted.

For all that great, if clumsy financial effort, Mmengo lost the referendum massively. The rude awakening that was to give further momentum towards the crisis that was reach its climax in May 1966.

Lance Corporal (Rtd) Patrick Otto

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