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UGANDA'S EARLIEST CONTACT WITH EUROPE

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UGANDA'S EARLIEST CONTACT WITH EUROPE

Post by sol_drethedon on Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:23 pm

2. Uganda's Earliest contact with Europe.

Uganda's earliest contact with Europe goes back to the 1840's, albeit indirectly through mercantile capital relations with Arab traders. Although this contact was not with European merchants as such, it nevertheless took place during the period in Europe which was coming to an end -- the dominance of mercantile capital over the colonies and other undeveloped parts of the world. this earlier contact, under the sway of feudal merchant capital had led to what Marx described as 'primitive accumulation' of capital which in part enabled the industrial revolution to happen, taking Europe out of its backwards:

"The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and the entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the west indies the turning of Africa into a warren for the hunting of black skins, signaled the rosy dawn of the primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for a theater.(Emphasis added).

The process which began with the Spanish, followed by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English, in that order, relied on brute force in the colonial territories, employing the power of the state 'to hasten in hot house fashion the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode and shorten the transition'. The transformation had virtually been completed by this time, but the old modes and classes are never completely destroyed by the new until a prolonged period of suppression has elapsed. Thus slavery and trade based on plunder and 'unequal exchange' continued in outlying areas until the era of finance capital. By the 1880's the industrial bourgeoisie were already out with new chartered companies representing the state, which Marx described as 'itself an economic power'. These companies were on a rampage of their own, the Imperial British East African Company (IBEAC) was evidence of this new scramble. Their new task was to partition and divide the world finally.

But before the 1880's, as we have noted, Uganda's first contact with Europe was via Arab traders on the east coast, who traded in ivory and 'black -skins' in exchange for beads, clothes and glassware in the period of 1840-70's In 1872, it is recorded that Mutesa had in this way amassed at thousand guns and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition. All this trade although done with the Arabs, was mercantilist, originating from Europe, and although some of the slaves found their way in Arabia the real perpetrators and beneficiaries were the European merchants who supplied the guns, ammunition,clothes, glassware, etc. in exchange for the slaves and ivory. The ivory went to Europe directly. Thus so-called Arab imperialism and Indian merchant capital were the mirror of European capital itself.

Arab slave traders not only traded not only traded in slaves and ivory but also introduced their religion along with them. This development introduced Muslim adherents to considerable political power at the Kabaka's palace. By the 1870s Kabaka Mutesa I was ordering all his subjects to become Moslems. In 1875 and 1881 he proclaimed Buganda an Islamic state. The new Muslim religion introduced new politics and consequences beyond Buganda traditional life, and introduced new conflicts among the ruling class. Following in Islam's footsteps came Christianity. It also claimed adherents at the palace and intensified the rivalry already introduced with the trade.

Although contact with Egypt was made in the north and Acholi was made part of the Equatorial Province in the 1880's, Egyptian rule never materialized. The real forces that were to shape Uganda's future came in from the east through Buganda's 'southern gate'. The first direct contact made with Europe occurred in 1862, when Speke, searching for the source of the Nile, arrived at the Kabaka's palace in Mengo. Later in 1872, Baker came in from the north, not as explorer but as representative of the Khedive of Egypt with the purpose of introducing Egyptian rule over the upper reaches of the Nile. Bunyoro was declared annexed to Egypt by Baker, but the Mahdist revolt in Sudan put an end to it.

In 1875 Stanley reached the Buganda capital and sent his celebrated letter to the Daily Telegraph calling for the Christian Missionaries to be sent to Buganda. This new crusade brought in increased rivalry and confusion, and when Mutesa I died and his kingdom passed on to Mwanga in 1884, this external activity proved too much for the latter to comprehend. Caught up in three opposing forces, each struggling for hegemony and influence over him and his country, Mwanga found himself swayed from one side to another. As one re-interpreter of this period has written:
"It was difficult for him to distinguish with any confidence between the motives of the various explorers, British, Egyptian, French and German -- who were becoming increasingly active in East and central Africa. So when Bishop Hannington entered into Buganda through the 'eastern' gate of Busoga, which was regarded by the rulers of Buganda as their weakest defense point, Mwanga viewed him with great suspicion. After efforts to get him to retreat and enter through the south had failed, he ordered his execution. But this move proved dangerous. Mwanga's fear that Hannington was 'the advance guard to conquer Buganda' was well-founded, but his decision that he may be prevented 'at all costs' from entering the country through the 'back door' proved effective only in the short run.

The new forces entering Uganda were irreversible. Hannington indeed was an 'advance guard' for was not Livingstone's mission to 'combat slave trade' in order to establish 'legitimate trade'? The British industrial bourgeoisie had already decided to abolish slave trade in the 1830's. and this was not philanthropy. It was because industrial capitalism required free labor as a precondition for its operation. Colonization in order to establish plantations is what finance capital asked for, and the missionaries were an advanced ideological outfit intended to pave the way for it. We learn directly from Livingstone's memoirs of this intention. In a letter he wrote to Professor Sedgwick of Cambridge in 1858, Livingstone gives us a glimpse of this 'secret', which then had only been told to the Duke of Argyll. He states:

"That you have a clear idea of my objects I may state that they have something more than meets the eye. They are not merely exploratory, for I go with the intention of benefiting both the African and my own countrymen. I take a practical mining geologist from the school of mines to tell us of the mineral resources of the country. Then an economic botanist to give a full report of the vegetable productions, the fibrous, gummy and medicinal substances together with the dyestuffs -- everything which may be useful in commerce. An artist to give the scenery. A naval officer to tell of the capacity of the river communications and a moral agent to lay a Christian foundation for anything that may follow. All this machinery has for its ostensible object the development of African trade and the promotion of civilization but what I tell to none but to none but such as you in whom I have confidence in this, I hope it may develop in an English colony in the healthy islands of Central Africa. (I have told it only to the Duke of Argyle). I believe the highlands are healthy -- the wild vine flourishes there. Europeans with speedy transit to the coast would collect and transit the produce to the sea, and in the course of time, say when my head is low, free labor on the African soil may render slave labor which is notoriously dear labor quite unprofitable. I take my wife with me and one child. We erect an iron house near the Kafue to serve as a depot that we may not appear as vagabonds in the country and may God prosper us. With this short statement you may perceive our ulterior objects. I want you to have an idea of them. (emphasis added)"

Here we have the true intentions of imperialism coming out of the advance guard of finance capital. The logic of industrial capital vis-a-vis merchant capital is clearly put, and the role of Christianity is clearly stated . The fears of Mwanga were indeed well-founded , as later events clearly proved. The 'religious strife' which followed in Buganda was therefore none other than the reflection of the intra-imperialist struggle for Uganda. The Protestant faction in Buganda stood for British interests, hence its name Ba-Ingleza. The Catholic faction was feared by the British to represent hostile interests of the French and German imperialist interests, hence its name Ba-Fransa. France and Germany were pressing in from the west and south. Moreover Carl Peters, representing German imperialist interests, was on the rampage signing treaties of 'eternal friendship' with the African chiefs of the east cost. By 1885 he was in Buganda, and on the advise of the Catholic church, Mwanga signed a treaty giving Buganda over to German 'protection'. This action was regarded by the British as hostile and the Germans were soon bought off with an exchange of territory, in the Anglo-German treaty of 1890.

The intrusion of large amounts of arms into Buganda in this early period proved to be a danger to Buganda ruling class. Mwanga who tried to protect himself by arming the the various factions, created forces for his own destruction. Soon a standing army of several thousand men was a reality confronting him. His effort to set one faction against the other resulted in Uganda's first recorded coup d'etat, in 1888, when all the political factions united to depose him, sending him into exile. The externally motivated 'bourgeoisie revolution' struck the first real blow to traditional authority in Buganda, and paved the way for the creation of a petty bourgeoisie out of traditional society to serve imperialism in Uganda.

Kalema's rise to the throne, supported by the Muslim faction, and his sending of the Christian factions into exile, soon led to entangled struggles that brought British state intervention. Mwanga's struggle back to power with the aid of the Christian factions was shortlived; indeed, Mwanga no longer wielded any power. The Ingleza faction which now fastened its grip on the kingdom was joined by the IBEAC to assist it in keeping the Muslim army at bay. This company had been formed in England in 1888 by a group of empire-builders and handed a 'royal charter', to prepare the ground for the colonisation of East Africa to British financial capital. Originally it operated as the British East African Association, which by 1887 had signed twenty- one treaties with local chiefs. Mackinnon, chairman of the company and builder of the Uganda railway, owned a shipping line and was described as one of the wealthiest men in Britain at the time. One of the aims of the company was to uphold British interests in the area, and in particular to administer Uganda, and Witu on the coast. Its authority to do so came from the foreign office, and any treaties signed by the company were British treaties. Lugard, an elephant hunter, was recruited by the company to administer Uganda. His intervention on its behalf on the side of the Ingleza sent the Muslim faction into exile

Uganda was now clearly a British sphere of influence. Soon a formal declaration of colony over the Ugandan people would be made. Finance capital would move in with the British financial oligarchy as the new rulers, and with it imperialism had come to stay. But the next main task was to consolidate its hold on the country. This was accomplished in two phases, the phase of suzerainty under IBEAC and the phase of protectorate under the foreign office.

In the next article, we shall look at Imperialism and Colonization of Uganda.

COMPILED BY MAKUMBI KAYIIRA SOLOMON
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