George Padmore 1941
Source: Left Forum, No. 52, January 1941.
Transcribed: by Christian Hogsbjerg for marxists.org 2007.
“To mark the fiftieth anniversary of Lord Lugard’s arrival in Uganda, Sir Charles Dundas, Governor of Uganda, has sent him (through Lord Lloyd, Secretary of State for the Colonies) a telegram expressing the Protectorate’s appreciation of the notable services which he has rendered to Africa generally, and to Uganda in particular. ‘We greet you and send your our good wishes, remaining ever thankful to one who took such a prominent part in establishing this Protectorate and laying the foundations of the peace, prosperity, and progress which it has enjoyed to this day,’ the telegram concludes.
“Sir Charles Dundas also a telegram from His Highness the Kakaba and people of Buganda, recalling with much appreciation the great service which Lord Lugard rendered them ‘by bringing them within the British Empire, of which they are proud to be a part’, and also his efforts in introducing good administration to their country.” – “The Times” (19/12/1940).
This statement would quite easily mislead the ordinary reader into believing that the people of Uganda had invited “Gauleiter” Lugard to come in and rule them because they considered they were incapable of running things for themselves in a satisfactory and equable manner. This, however, would be very far from the truth, for, as Sir Harry Johnson, the great authority on tropical Africa, testifies: “The Baganda are the Japanese of the Dark Continent, the most naturally civilised, charming. kindly, tactful and courteous of black people” – something more than can said of most European tribes!
The real story of how it is now possible for a resident British “Gauleiter” to exchange anniversary greetings with another British “Gauleiter” of former times in the columns of “The Times” makes extremely interesting reading. The story of the conquest and annexation of Uganda affords a typical example of the role of missionaries in the service of Imperialism. Even Hitler has not been able to improve upon this British technique of conquest.
But before dealing with the main story, let me say a few words about the socio-economic structure of Uganda by way of introducing this African colony to my readers.
Uganda is one of the richest British possessions in East Africa. Cotton is the principal economic crop; it is grown entirely by natives but the ginning and export trade is a monopoly of English and Indian capitalists. The bulk of the output goes to Bombay and Japan.
The country covers an area of 94,204 square miles of fertile upland agricultural and pastoral country, with many beautiful mountains, rivers and lakes, especially the famous Victoria, one of the wonders of the world. The population numbers 3.500,000 Africans, 14,000 Asiatics (most East Indians), Arabs and a few Japanese business men. The Europeans are about 2,000.
The social status of these various ethnic groups is determined by race. Race is the guiding factor; even the official method of running the government is along strictly racial lines. For example, although Indians are allowed to own land, a privilege denied them in Kenya and South Africa, they are nevertheless considered second-rate citizens and are not allowed to ride in the same railway coaches as whites. The same discrimination applies to Africans – they are the third-raters. On the other hand, Japanese, who are considered “Asiatic Aryans,” may travel together with Europeans. Japanese are citizens of a powerful imperialist Power. The Nazis, it can be seen, are not the only white folk who practise the doctrine of “racial superiority.” Major-General Fuller has recently reminded us – the English are “a somewhat happy go-lucky, yet dominant race” (“Herrenvolk”). (“Sunday Pictorial,” 15/12/1940). Now let us get on with the missionary racket.
The British explorers, J. A. Grant and John Speke, members of Richard Burton’s expedition of 1862, followed by H.M. Stanley, were the first white men to penetrate into Uganda. They were surprised to discover the high degree of economic and cultural development, and the highly- efficient political forms of government in Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro, the principal states forming the empire of Uganda. These states arc inhabited by a Bantu-Hamitic people of remarkable intelligence, as testified by John Roscoe, the eminent anthropologist.
Two years after the visit of Stanley to the court of Mutesa, the then Kabaka (King) of Uganda, Protestant missionaries from England began to arrive in the country. They were led by a remarkable Scotchman, Alexander Mackay. Whenever the English wanted to pinch a piece of territory they always gave the dirty job to a Scot – soldier or missionary. Ironic, how much the British Empire owes to the Scots! Reverend Mackay and his religious “storm-troopers” were soon followed by Catholics from France, known as the White Fathers – Blackshirts belonged to a later decade of imperialism! The White Fathers were organised by Cardinal Lavigeri, who had apparently envisaged the creation of “a Christian Kingdom in the centre of Equatorial Africa which would restore the glories of the Temporal Kingdom of the Papacy in the Middle Ages.”
No sooner had these men of God arrived than there began some of the most scandalous episodes in the history of missionary activity in foreign lands.
The Protestants, who were bent upon winning over Mutesa to their brand of Christianity in order to pave the way for their imperialist masters, organised their converts into a party called Wa Ingleza (the English). The Catholics, equally determined to gain the country for French imperialism, organised their native converts into Wa Fransa (the French).
A religious war was declared between these two sets of Christians for the body and soul, but more important still, the country of the King. While they were intriguing against another, the Arabs appeared on the scene and joined in the squabble. As Mohammedans, they naturally wanted Mutesa to embrace Islam. The old man was in a fix. On the one hand, he was being offered a choice between two brands of Christianity, and on the other, Islam. What was he to do? A fellow of tremendous common sense, he rejected them all, and died in 1884, still proclaiming his ancestral gods. The death of Mutesa marked the first round in the struggle of the foreigners for the favour of the Royal Court of Uganda.
Mutesa was succeeded by his son, Mwanga, who was just the opposite of his father – weak and stupid. He, however, had one ancestral trait, and that was a deep-seated distrust for the whites whom he instinctively realised were in Uganda for one purpose – to steal his country. This distrust was strengthened by the fact that General Gordon – Chinese Gordon – was then overrunning the Sudan, and had his eyes southwards towards Uganda, while Lugard was busy helping the British East Africa Company push inland from the East African coast.
Apprehensive of invasion, Mwanga closed the eastern frontier of his kingdom and gave orders that no more whites were to enter Uganda. Bishop Hannington, who headed the Protestants, was killed while attempting to cross the frontier. This was a Godsend to the missionaries who utilised this unfortunate incident to demand reprisals. The Christians – Protestants and Catholics – made a united front, and organised their native followers of Wa Ingleza and Wa Fransa to attack the supporters of the King. The Arabs, however, supported Mwanga, who was defeated and fled. The Catholics then tried to double-cross the Protestants. They got hold of Mwanga, made him a disciple of the Pope, and restored him to his throne. The country was then divided into spheres of religious influence. This marked the second stage in the subjugation of Uganda.
The missionaries soon began to quarrel over the spoils. Each party wanted to boss the whole show. The Protestants did not like the idea of the King being a Catholic, and the Catholics did not like the economic control the Protestants were getting on the country. A religious civil war broke out between them. Since the Protestant missionaries were British and the Catholics mostly French, the struggle quickly took on the character of a war between British and French imperialist interests.
At the beginning the Catholics had the better of the fighting. Their followers were armed by an Irish gun-runner, Charles Stokes, who was later caught in the Congo and hanged. When things were getting very bad for the Protestants, they appealed to the British East Africa Company for help. So in 1889, the directors of the Company in London instructed Lord Lugard (then Sir Frederick Lugard), chief of the Company’s “Storm-Troopers,” to proceed to Uganda. Lugard soon routed the Wa Fransas. “In 1890, he induced Mwanga, apparently against his wishes, to sign a treaty recognising the ‘suzerainty’ of the Company and placing his kingdom and vassal states ‘under the sphere of influence and protection’ of the British Company” (Buell, The Native Problem in Africa, Vol. I, page 279).
The Catholics, realising that the Protestants had out-manouvred them, began to foster anti-British propaganda among the natives. They also rendered aid to the German East Africa Company, whose representative, the notorious Dr. Karl Peters, soon appeared on the scene, demanding part of the loot. Since France could not get Uganda, the White Fathers, out of sheer revenge, wanted to see a clash between the Germans and British. This, however, was averted by the Treaty of Heligoland, which gave the island of Heligoland to Germany in return for withdrawing all claims in Uganda. Subsequent revolts among the natives against British occupation were ruthlessly put down by Lugard, who brought the remnants of Emin Pasha’s Sudanese troops into the country. These storm-troopers also revolted in 1897 and were suppressed by British soldiers.
Lugard, having completed the subjugation of the country, the Chartered Company was compensated by the Imperial Government and Uganda was turned over to the Foreign Office, which declared it a Protectorate. Mwanga was arrested and banished, with his family, to the Seychelles islands. His infant son, Daudai Chaw, was converted into a Protestant and put on the throne as a sort of Royal Quisling – rather Leopold. Stripped of all real power, the actual administration was vested in a British “Gauleiter,” called the High Commissioner. The title was later changed to that of Governor and Commander-in-Chief, a position now held by Sir Charles Dundas. Thus the greetings between himself and Lugard.
The conquest of Uganda shows the technique of imperialist penetration into backward areas of the world. First, came the missionaries with the Bible and the Cross; then the traders of the Chartered Company with gin and Lancashire cotton, and finally the State with machine-gun and plumed-helmet Gauleiters.