Edward Frederick Mutesa was the first president of a newly independent Uganda and the kabaka (king) of the BaGanda people. He was deposed by Apolo Milton Obote in 1966, after which he went into exile in Britain.
Date of birth: 19 November 1924
Date of death: 21 November 1969, London
An Early Life
Edward Frederick William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Mutesa (to give his full name) comes from the BaGanda people, the largest ethnic group in Uganda. Mutesa attended King's College in Budo, one of the region's most prestigious schools. Mutesa succeeded his father (Daudi Cwa II) as kabaka (king) of the East African state of Buganda (the largest of four kingdoms in what is now Uganda) in 1939 but waited until he had reached 18 before having his coronation (1942). He completed his education in Britain at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and underwent military training in the officer training corps -- gaining a commission as captain with the Grenadier Guards.
Opposing the British
Mutesa, known to the western press (and by the ruling elite in Uganda) as King Freddie was initially unpopular among his people -- he was seen as being under the influence of the British resident and a pawn of the British government. Mutesa's prime minister (katikiro) was also unpopular with the people. But in the early 1950s, the British government proposed creating a federation of states in East Africa, uniting Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya.
In 1953, seeing the privileged poison of Buganda within the protectorate of Uganda under threat, Mutesa II openly opposed the British (in the hope of gaining support from an increasingly alienated BaGandan population) -- he demanded the separation of Buganda from the rest of Uganda and a timetable for independence for the kingdom. When he refused to pass on formal British recommendations to his parliament (the Lukiko) in what became known as the Kababa crisis of 1953, Mutesa was arrested and then deported by the British authorities. Deposed as kabaka by the British in 1953, his role was filled by a British appointed regent.
Returning a Hero
Bugandan leaders arranged with British agreement for his return in 1955 as a constitutional monarch. Returning as a national hero Mutesa held particular sway over both the BaGandan people and the Bugandan government. He was particularly influential in the constitutional negotiations ahead of Ugandan independence.
Mutesa boycotted the pre-independence elections in 1960 in protest against the lack of autonomy for Buganda and formed a royalist party, the Kabaka Yekka, which allied with Obote's Ugandan People's Congress (UPC). The coalition won the first national elections in 1962 and Obote took over the post of first minister, becoming prime minister with independence of Uganda on 9 October 1962.
With independence, prime minister Obote hoped to gain the support of the Bugandan people by proposing Mutesa for the non-executive position of president of the forthcoming republic of Uganda. (Mutesa remained constitutional monarch, but had no executive powers form the role.)
Whilst in power Mutesa worked to turn the Bugandan people against the previously 'stateless' northern people of Uganda, again in the hope of gaining an independent kingdom. Obote, however, arranged for two counties to be transferred from Buganda to neighboring Bunyoro -- the coalition between Kabaka Yekka and the UPC collapsed.
Opposition to Obote's Rule
Shortly afterwards a crisis hit Uganda's government with the opposition accusing complicity by the UPC in the smuggling of gold from neighboring Zaire. Obote responded to the accusation by suspending the constitution and assuming almost complete power over the government. Mutesa publicly rejected a proposed constitutional change which would give Obote the executive post of head of state, and ordered all Ugandan troops out of Baganda (which included the country's capital, Kampala). Obote ordered Mutesa's arrest and the kabaka's palace was stormed by the army (led by Colonel Idi Amin). Mutesa fled to Britain and Obote took the opportunity to depose Mutesa as both president and king on 2 March 1966 (abolishing all four kingdoms the following year).
Mutesa fled to Great Britain in 1966, and remained there until his death (by alcohol poisoning) in 1969. After the overthrow of Obote (by Idi Amin on 25 January 1971) Mutesa's body was allowed to return to Uganda where he was given a state funeral.