New series. In a four-part series, we bring you Sir William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope’s journey, from rising to Kyabazinga and vice president of Uganda to his eventual fall out with prime minister Milton Obote, his journey to exile and time in jail.
Late in the 19th Century, two sets of strangers arrived in Busoga, each seeking to establish headquarters and spheres of influence.
One group had guns. This comprised of the colonial administrators and their armed guards and guides. The other had Bibles and hymn books. This group was constituted of missionaries and their predominantly Baganda interpreters.
At the time of their arrival, Busoga, unlike other parts of Uganda that lay claim to kingdom status, was not under centralised rule.
It was made up of 11 hereditary chiefdoms namely, Bugabula, Bulamogi, Kigulu, Luuka, Bukono, Busiki, Bugweri, Bukooli, Bunya, Bunyole and Butembe, each with their own chiefs.
In his book, Uganda: The Crisis of Confidence, the Second Deputy Prime Minister and minister for East African Affairs, Mr Kirunda Kivejinja, who described the situation in Busoga at the time as a “classic failure to bring the entire Busoga under one rule”, says most of these had been set up by princes who had migrated from Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom during the reign of Omukama Nyamutukura.
“Unification was not possible (for) the entire internal force or by those who claimed to belong to the martial tribes. There is no evidence that a powerful external force attempted to annex Busoga. Each prince acquired and settled in his principality. As cousins and brothers, they adopted a policy of live and let live amidst some bitter internal struggles,” Kivejinja writes.
The British colonialists found this arrangement difficult to deal with. How were they going to deal with 11 different people? They sought to centralise the administration of the region.
Consequently, then colonial governor Grant established in 1894 the Busoga Lukiiko (parliament) at Bukaleba to help him administer what we now know as Busoga, as a single entity.
Grant presided over the Lukiiko which was composed of mostly paramount chiefs until a Muganda, Semei Kakungulu, was assigned those responsibilities and assumed the title of president of the Busoga Lukiiko.
When Kakungulu was removed, the Busoga Lukiiko, which had on account of an outbreak of sleeping sickness in Bunya and a mutiny by Sudanese soldiers, been moved from Bukaleba to Iganga and later Bugembe, opted to introduce some form of self-rule that provided for rotational leadership for all the 11 chiefs.
Each of the 11 chiefs would leave his palace and move to Bugembe in order to rule for his three months period.
Fatigue, however, soon set in and the chiefs opted to elect one of them to rule. They elected the late Ezekiel Tenywa Wako, father to Henry Wako Muloki to become president of the Busoga Lukiiko.
ET Wako was elected in 1919 and presided over Busoga in that capacity until 1919 when the Basoga, tired of what they perceived as a colonial title, sought an indigenous title for their leader.
In 1939, the people of Busoga came up with the title “Isebantu Kyabazinga”, a title that Wako immediately assumed and served for another 10 years.
However, the changes did not come with matching infrastructural developments, especially in the area of accommodation.
This did not go down well with many a Musoga. Matters were not helped by the fact that the colonial administrators and some of the officers below them were residing in huge bungalows with sprawling compounds overlooking Lake Victoria and the River Nile.
Earlier in 1929, the Uganda Railway had arrived in Jinja. A residence for the station master had been constructed on a small hill in Bugembe, about three miles from the railway station and a stone’s throw away from the then Busoga Lukiiko premises.
Under pressure to find suitable accommodation for the Kyabazinga, the station master’s house was transformed into the Kyabazinga’s official residence. Kyabazinga Wako occupied it until 1949 when he retired due to old age.
The Busoga Lukiiko then resolved that the Isebantu Kyabazinga would from then on be elected from among five Babito (Baise Ngobi) hereditary rulers traditionally believed to have migrated from Bunyoro.
That made the seat the preserve of princes from the lineages of Gabula of Bugabula, Zibondo of Bulamogi, Ngobi of Kigulu, Tabingwa of Luuka and Nkono of Bukono. During elections that followed, Prince William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope was elected the Kyabazinga of Busoga.
A tale of Nadiope vs rats
William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope had been born to Prince Yosiya Nadiope and Susan, a daughter of the colonial collaborator and one time prime minister of Buganda, Sir Apollo Kaggwa.
Bent on bringing Busoga under one sovereign, the British took him in as they had done with Kabaka Edward Muteesa II of Buganda. He was sent to school in Britain and studied, among other things, the ways of the royals and aristocrats. He was brought back and enthroned in his father’s chieftaincy once he had come of age in 1949.
However, Nadiope, who was to later in 1963 be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, was not the kind to play by the script written by the British. Some of the causes of what appeared to be defiance on his part were, however, more of their doing than his.
In the 1930s, Busoga was beset with an invasion of rats and an attendant influx of fleas. The situation sparked off fears of a possible outbreak of a plague.
The British responded by introducing a system that required natives to kill rats, cut off their tails and take them to a centralised point.
The chosen place was Mawoito village in present day Butembe County. The area was to later be named Kakira, a local word for small tail. The practice led to untold suffering in Busoga.
Patrick Miyingo, a former employee of both Radio Uganda and the Busoga government under Nadiope, and was to later become one of Nadiope’s confidants, says the practice was a humiliation to the people of Busoga.
“People would walk from as far as Kamuli or Buyende to bring tails to Jinja to show that they were killing rats. The journeys would sometimes take two or three days. They would carry with them food for eating. At times pus from the decomposing tails would find its way into the food. It was miserable,” Miyingo says.
In the book Uganda: The Crisis of Confidence, Kirunda Kivejinja says sometimes the worst would happen.
“People toiled with all (sorts of) hardships and some never returned home on their way to carry the tails of the rats to the Bomas of the Muzungu,” he wrote.
As a result, Nadiope stood up against the British, which forced them to put an end to the deplorable directive.
He had also fought against the forced contribution of labour in cotton farms owned by colonialists and also ordered mob action against suspected thieves.
All these culminated into his being exiled to Bunyoro before he was drafted into the King’s African Rifles to fight in World War II.
Rats force Kyabazinga to flee palace
By the time Nadiope took over as Kyabazinga, the Anglican Church had not yet fully established proper headquarters in the territory.
For close to 50 years after the arrival in Busoga of members of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), the Anglican Church had been operating out of Iwawu village, on the Iganga highway. Many people still refer to the place as CMS. Here, the missionaries had built a Church and opened up a number of schools.
Buckley High School, one of the institutions that CMS opened to provide girl child education, still stands.
Nadiope was re-elected in 1954 for a second term, but a few months into that term, he abandoned the official residence of the Kyabazinga, saying he had been bitten by a rat.
The alleged rat attack occurred at a time of intense rivalry between Bugabula and Bulamogi chiefdoms. Bulamogi was the home of his predecessor ET Wako, and a new rival, Henry Wako Muloki. Little wonder then that Nadiope pointed an accusing finger at Bulamogi.
“We were still very young, but we were told that he abandoned the palace because he had been bitten by a rat. He believed that his rivals from Bulamogi had sent the rat to bite him,” Miyingo recounts.
Never did he return to the palace. Nadiope operated out of his private residence in Kamuli until the construction of another private palace in Budumbuli Parish in Bugembe was complete.
He later convinced the Busoga Lukiiko to donate the land to the Church, paving way for the transfer of the Church’s home from Iganga to Bugembe and the subsequent construction of Christ’s Cathedral, the seat of Busoga Diocese.
The Christian hymn, “Light shining out of darkness” kicks off with the line, “God moves in a mysterious way,” which describes the unfathomable ways in which God operates. It would appear that He, in this case, chose to operate through a rat in order to deliver a home for the Church.
Next Sunday we look at why Prime Minister Milton Obote stormed Nadiope’s home one night in January 1966.