Uganda’s history is different from Tanzania’s

On September 28, Daily Monitor published an interview of Paul Seemogerere, former President of the democratic party. President Museveni has since responded to the interview.

In his response Museveni asked: “Why did some Ugandan elites chose to start another political party in 1954-56 when other Ugandans had already started another political party–the UNC– to demand for Uganda’s independence?” Although I am not a DP member, since this a matter which concerns the history of the country, I would like to answer President Museveni.

Friedrich Engels once said: “So long as a viable nation is fettered by an alien conqueror it necessarily directs all its efforts, all its aspirations and all its energy against the external enemy so long as its internal life is paralysed in this way, it is incapable of fighting for social emancipation.” (Engels, F. 1869 also quoted in Brutents, K.N 1977:168).

In other words independence was just a threshold for other struggles. The struggles that follow the attainment of independence are classified as national-democratic liberation. These are struggles which seek to forge a nation out of the nationalities existing in the country. These struggles also seek to do this in the process of struggling against imperialism, feudalism and ethnic chauvinism and other forms of domination.

Among those struggles was the struggle of the dominated identities. One of those dominated identities happens to be the Catholics. We know that President Museveni has often sought to dismiss the struggles of the Catholics as a dominated identity. We shall go into a brief history of how the Catholics became a dominated identity in Buganda.

To understand how Catholics became a dominated identity in Buganda, we need to go to the late 19th Century when the two major religions, Catholics and Protestants, arrived in the Kingdom of Buganda. The Church Missionary Society whom we now call the Protestants arrived in 1877 and the Society de Notre-Dame d’Afrique the so called White Fathers whom we call Catholics arrived in 1879.

The arrival of these religions coincided with the changes which were taking place in Buganda at the time. Social identification was shifting from clans to something more territorial. As these changes were taking place, there occurred what has been called the religious wars. As a result of these two factors, religions became a means of social identification.

Following the last battle of 1892 when the Catholics were defeated, the Catholics became a dominated identity. They were looked down upon as second class citizens. they could not hold certain positions such as being Kabaka or being Katikkiro.

As independence approached, Catholics, as an identity saw this as an opportunity to redress themselves of these iniquities and so formed themselves into a political party. Independence constituted what Prof Wallernstein has appropriately described in the following words:
“By ethnic (read identity) I mean the sentiment shared by a group of people who define their boundary in cultural terms (a common language, religion, colour, history, style of life, rights in the political arena in order to defend possibilities of their material conditions.

“Whether such a group prefers to call itself a nation, a nationality, or an ethnic group, tribe, a people or any other sundry terms that are used is not very material to the fact that ethnic consciousness is latent everywhere but is only realised when groups feel either threatened with loss of previously acquired privilege or conversely feel opportune moment politically to overcome long-standing denial of privilege.” Such a moment for Catholics as a dominated identity was presented by Independence.

Museveni has always sought to present DP, as merely a party for Catholics. This is so despite the fact that he claims to have once belonged to the DP and yet he is no Catholic. DP, we should emphasise, is not a confessional party as people such as Museveni would like to argue. DP was formed to redress Catholics as a dominated identity.

Further to that Museveni asked the question: “There is, however, something that Mzee Ssemogerere did not raise at all in his interview. Why did some Ugandan elites choose to start another political party in 1954-56 – DP, when other Ugandans had already started another political party – UNC – to demand for Uganda’s Independence? If these elite were genuinely interested in Independence, was it not easier to work together? Or could it be that these Ugandans did not care about Independence? What was it that was in DP that was not in UNC?”

With regards to this question, we should remind Museveni of a statement Karl Marx once made: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.”

On the question about Tanzania, namely: “Why did our brothers and sisters in Tanganyika rally around TANU but our political elite here could not act together? Could this failure be the reason for the turmoil that followed?” We should remind Museveni that the history of Tanzania is very different from that of Uganda. And as Karl Marx said, we couldn’t make our history by choosing to follow the history of Tanzania.
Yoga Adhola is a leading ideologue of UPC.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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