The Buganda Agreement of 1900 solidified the power of the largely Protestant ‘Bakungu’ client-chiefs, led by and intelligent muganda ethnographer, Sir Apollo Kagwa. London sent only a few officials to administer the country, relying primarily on the ‘Bakungu’ chiefs. For decades they were preferred because of their political skills, their Christianity, their friendly relations with the British, their ability to collect taxes, and the proximity of Entebbe (the Ugandan capital at the time) to the Buganda capital. By the 1920s the British administrators were more confident and had less need for military or administrative support. Colonial officials taxed cash crops produced by the peasants. There was popular discontent among the Baganda rank-and-file, which weakened the position of their leaders. In 1912 Sir Apollo Kagwa moved to solidify ‘Bakungu’ power by proposing a second ‘Lukiko’ for Buganda with himself as president and the ‘Bakungu’ as a sort of hereditary aristocracy. British officials vetoed the idea when they discovered widespread popular opposition. Instead, British officials began some reforms and attempted to make the ‘Lukiko’ a genuine representative assembly.
Although momentous change occurred during the colonial era in Uganda, some characteristics of late-nineteenth-century African society survived to reemerge at the time of independence. The status of Protectorate had significantly different consequences for Uganda than had the region been made a colony like neighboring Kenya, insofar as Uganda retained a degree of self-government that would have otherwise been limited under a full colonial administration.
Colonial rule, however, affected local economic systems dramatically, in part because the first concern of the British was financial. Quelling the 1897 mutiny had been costly. Units of the British Indian Army had been transported to Uganda at a considerable expense. The new commissioner of Uganda in 1900, Sir Harry H. Johnston, had orders to establish an efficient administration and to levy taxes as quickly as possible. Johnston lured the chiefs in Uganda with offers of jobs in the colonial administration in return for their collaboration.
The chiefs, were more interested in preserving Uganda especially Buganda Kingdom as a self-governing entity, continuing the royal line of Kabakas, and securing private land tenure for themselves and their supporters. Hard bargaining ensued, but the chiefs ended up with everything they wanted, including one-half of all the land in Buganda. The half left to the British as “Crown Land” was later found to be largely swamp and scrub.
Johnston’s Buganda Agreement of 1900 imposed a tax on huts and guns, designated the chiefs as tax collectors, and testified to the continued alliance of British and Buganda Kingdom`s interests. The British signed much less generous treaties with the other kingdoms (Toro in 1900, Ankole in 1901, and Bunyoro in 1933) without the provision of large-scale private land tenure. The smaller chiefdoms of Busoga were ignored.