1877 - Political Unrest in Buganda Continues – 1877

Political Unrest in Buganda Continues – 1877

While Buganda Kingdom continued to blossom in trade, Bunyoro Kingdom (an immediate neighbor to Buganda Kingdom) found itself threatened from the north by Egyptian-sponsored agents who sought ivory and slaves but who, unlike the Arab traders from Zanzibar, were also promoting foreign conquest. In 1869, Khedive Ismail Pasha of Egypt, seeking to annex the territories north of the borders of Lake Victoria and east of Lake Albert and “south of Gondokoro,” sent a British explorer called Samuel Baker, on a military expedition to the frontiers of Bunyoro, with the object of suppressing the slave-trade there and opening the way to commerce and civilization. The Khedive appointed Baker Governor-General of the new territory named Equatorial.

The people of Bunyoro Kingdom (called the Banyoro) resisted Baker, and he had to fight a desperate battle to secure his retreat. Baker regarded the resistance as an act of treachery, and he denounced the Banyoro in his book (Ismailia – A Narrative of The Expedition To Central Africa For The Suppression Of Slave Trade, Organised By Ismail, Khedive Of Egypt (1874)) which was widely read in Britain at the time. Later British Empire builders arrived in Uganda with a predisposition against Bunyoro Kingdom, which eventually would cost the kingdom half its territory until the “lost counties” were restored to Bunyoro after independence.

Farther north the Acholi Chiefdom responded more favorably to the Egyptian demand for ivory. They were already famous hunters and quickly acquired guns in return for tusks. The guns permitted the people of Acholi to retain their independence but altered the balance of power within the Acholi territory, which for the first time experienced unequal distribution of wealth based on their control of firearms.

Meanwhile, Buganda Kingdom was receiving not only traded goods and guns but a stream of foreign visitors as well. The explorer John Hanning Speke passed through Buganda in 1862 and claimed to have discovered the source of the river Nile. Both Speke and Henry Morton Stanley (based on their 1875 stay in Uganda) wrote books that praised the people of Buganda Kingdom (called the Baganda) for their organizational skills and willingness to modernize. Stanley went further and attempted to convert the King of Buganda Kingdom – Kabaka (King) Muteesa I to Christianity. After finding Kabaka Mutesa I apparently receptive, Stanley wrote to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in London and persuaded it to send missionaries to Buganda Kingdom in 1877.

Internally, by 1874, despite Buganda Kingdom`s booming trade at the time, its political and social threats were increasing in number and coming closer by the day. The King was getting more and more concerned about them. He knew that he badly needed to avert these threats before they get into his territory but he was also cognizant of the fact that in order to do so, he urgently needed new and more powerful strategic alliances. The Arab Muslims had already grossly disrespected the King and the King believed that they were partly to blame for disorganizing his leadership and weakening his rule. Kabaka (King) Muteesa I therefore believed that he could not easily trust them and so he was forced to look beyond Africa`s shoreline for strong alliances that could protect him as King and keep Buganda Kingdom`s power and influence dominant and strong within the region.

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