The Kingdoms of Western Uganda have been in existence for several centuries before the arrival of the Arabs and Europeans. Buganda and Bunyoro date back to the fourteenth century AD. Ankole dates from a century later and Toro came into being as an offshoot of Bunyoro in 1822. The latter had been a powerful empire during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, giving way to Buganda during the nineteenth. The arrival of Arab slave traders and Egyptian Empire builders during the late nineteenth century brought Islam into their midst. In their wake came Roman Catholic priests and Protestant evangelists. As converts multiplied, Uganda fell into factionalism and strife. European traders and arms suppliers helped to fan the flames of war. Eventually Britain intervened; Lord Lugard establishing Protectorates over Buganda in 1894 and Ankole, Bunyoro and Toro two years later. Each kingdom enjoyed a considerable degree of local autonomy, Lugard's famous policy of indirect rule. A further grouping of lesser polities, culminated in the establishment of a fifth kingdom, the Federation of Busoga in 1939. By the 1950s, Britain had started to prepare Uganda for eventual independence. A federal structure was devised, the kingdoms were to continue to enjoy internal autonomy. When Uganda became a republic in 1963, the Kabaka of Buganda and Kyabazinga of Busoga became President and Vice-President, respectively. However, these provisions did not sit well with the ambitions of the first Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr Milton Obote. He removed the Kabaka by force of arms and assumed the Presidency in 1966. One year later, he changed the constitution for the third time, this time abolishing the kingdoms and regional autonomy. Within five years, Obote was himself overthrown by his chief henchman and Army Chief of Staff, Idi Amin. Uganda then entered a new dark-age when the rule of law and decency was extinguished from its midst and human suffering taken to new lengths. Civil war broke out as several factions attempted to overthrow the tyrant. Obote returned to power after Amin fled to Saudi Arabia, but was opposed by several factions. Civil war continued for several years more, until General Musseveni gradually established control in the early 1990s. Coming to power, partly with the help of Royalist forces, he maintained his pledges to them by restoring four of the five kingdoms in 1993. Coming from Ankole, however, he has proved somewhat reluctant to remove the state of abeyance of that kingdom.
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Copyright©Christopher Buyers, July 2001 - July 2008

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