Uganda Region Becomes a British Protectorate: 1894
In the mid-1880s, the Kingdom of Buganda was divided between four religious factions -Adherents of Uganda’s Native Religions, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims – each vying for political control. In 1888, King Mwanga II was ousted in a coup led by the Muslim faction, who installed Prince Kalema as King. The following year, a Protestant and Catholic coalition formed to remove King Kalema and returned King Mwanga II back to power. This coalition secured an alliance with the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC), and succeeded in ousting Kalema and reinstating King Mwanga in 1890.
In 1888, control of the emerging British “sphere of interest” in East Africa was assigned by royal charter to William Mackinnon’s Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEACO), an arrangement strengthened in 1890 by an Anglo-German agreement confirming British dominance over Kenya and Uganda.
The IBEAC sent Frederick Lugard to Uganda in 1890 as its chief representative and to help maintain the peace between the competing factions. In 1891, King Mwanga concluded a treaty with Lugard whereby King Mwanga would place his land and tributary states under the protection of the IBEAC.
In 1892, having subdued the Muslim faction, the Protestants and Catholics resumed their struggle for supremacy which led to civil war. That same year, the British government extended their support for the IBEAC to remain in Uganda until 1893. Despite strong opposition to getting involved in Uganda, the government felt that withdrawal of British influence would lead to war and the threat of a fellow European power Germany encroaching on Britain’s sphere of influence in East Africa.
On 31 March 1893, the IBEAC formally ended its involvement in Uganda. Missionaries, led by Alfred Tucker, lobbied the British government to take over the administration of Uganda in place of the IBEAC, arguing that British withdrawal would lead to a continuance of the civil war between the different religious factions. Shortly after, Sir Gerald Portal, a representative of the British government on the ground in Uganda, proposed a plan of double chieftainships – whereby every chieftainship would have one Protestant and one Catholic chief. On 19 April 1893, the British government and the chiefs of Uganda signed a treaty giving effect to this plan. The high cost of occupying the territory caused the company to withdraw in 1893, and its administrative functions were taken over by a British commissioner. On 18 June 1894, the British government declared that Buganda Kingdom and other close chiefdoms in Uganda would come under British protection as a Protectorate.
Thereafter, in the 1890s, 32,000 laborers from British India were recruited to East Africa under indentured labour contracts to construct the Uganda Railway. Most of the surviving Indians returned home, but 6,724 decided to remain in East Africa after the line’s completion. Subsequently, some became traders and took control of cotton ginning and sartorial retail. From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic in the southern part of Uganda, along the north shores of Lake Victoria, killed more than 250,000 people.