Kampala - History

Archeology tells us that prehistoric man walked the earth in what is now Uganda, and many sites have been excavated that show habitation over the centuries. One of the more recent excavations is at Kiboro near Lake Albert, where there are traces of village life going back a thousand years.

Recorded history has a much shorter tradition, and a documentary evidence of Uganda's past goes only 150 years. However, oral traditions are also important to us, and from these we learn stories of several hundred years ago. The 19th century was a period of great change and great strife in Uganda. Many of the most famous sites are associated to this period.

The origins of the Kampala city go back to 1891 the when Kabaka of Buganda had his court on Rubaga and Mengo hills. In 1869 two significant events contributed to the history of Uganda. The first was the opening of the Suez Canal which linked Africa to Europe and hence facilitated trade routes via the East African coast, rather than the more traditional way into Uganda from the north and west. The second was the appointment of Sir Samuel Baker as the first Governor of Equatoria. Both were initiated by Ismael Pasha, the Khedive of` Egypt, who was eagerly trying to establish a great Muslim state from Alexandria to Lake Victoria; the length of the Nile. Sir Samuel Baker returned briefly to Uganda in 1869 and 871 while governor of the Equatorial Province of Egypt. The cessation of the trade in slaves and the expansion of the Empire to the Great Lakes was the dual mandate from the Khedive who was anxious to please allies in Europe. Baker based himself in Gondonkoro (close to present day Juba), in Southern Sudan, because the Nile south of that point dispersed into marshland and he could not guarantee supplies and protection. This period in Uganda's history is marked by the ascension to the throne of Bunyoro by Kabalega. He succeeded his father Kamurasi, and was to become a constant thorn in the flesh of the British and Egyptian imperialists as well as his Bagandan brothers to the south).

General Gordon followed Baker as Governor of Equatoria (1873-79). He travelled the area extensively and was responsible for commissioning the 'complete exploration of the sources of the Nile' Gordon tried to establish a series of linking forts along the west bank of the Nile from Khartoum to Rippon Falls. His failure to do so was the result of Kabelega's constant refusal to prostrate his kingdom before the Egyptians and later the British. Gordon had used a 108 tonne steamer called the Khedive to transport men and supplies into Uganda. He got as far as Lake Albert and was blocked by Murchison and Karuma Falls. He managed to send a predatory force of 160 men to set up a garrison in Mengo, Mutesa's capital of Buganda, they were captured and only narrowly rescued from the Baganda only when he gave up and returned to Egypt rather dispirited.

The final period of Egyptian domination of Equatoria was under the governorship of Emin Pasha (or Dr. Edvard Schneitzer) between 1879 and 1889. Emin Pasha was a sensitive and intelligent man. He was energetic and enthusiastic and traveled throughout the province. He recorded valuable notes on the Banyoro and their customs, and for a time was on equitable terms with Kabalega. Equatoria was finally abandoned by Egypt in 1889 when communications were severed by the infamous Mahdist revolt, and Emin Pasha, left stranded in Uganda, was rescued rather reluctantly by Stanley. At around this period in history, a 'scramble' for African territories was initiated by a sudden realisation of their importance.

Uganda was no exception. Stanley's rescue of Emin was in fact a thinly disguised attempt by Leopold II of Belgium to gain control of the Upper Nile Region. Conversely, Stanley was determined to secure Emin's loyalty for the British. Simultaneously, a German expedition led by Dr. Carl Peters was also on its way to rescue Emin Pasha. Emin had a firm following in Uganda and both the Germans and the British were anxious to secure his services. Ironically, Emin decided to join the German effort in East Africa after Stanley delivered him safely to the coast. Two personalities emerged from the scramble for the colony between Germany and Britain. The man chosen to lead the British effort was Frederick Dealtry Lugard, while the Germans placed their faith in Dr.Carl Peters. In 1890, a treaty was signed between Mwanga, the successor to Mutesa, and the Germans. Politics in Europe changed the situation only months later and Lugard forced a rather confused Mwanga into another treaty, granting protection to Buganda in return for jurisdictional rights for the Imperial British East Africa Company, Lugard's employers. The territorial rights in Uganda had been swapped with the Germans for Heligoland.

The town that grew up achieved municipal status in 1950 and became a city' in 1962. Today, as you stand on the hills, the City' provides magnificent evergreen trees, gently disrupted by red-tiled villas, green iron~roofed bungalows, as well as taller modern city profiles that give way to attractive views of the surrounding country side and nearby Lake Victoria. 5km north-west of Kampala on the Hoima road, is the traditional royal burial place of the late Kabakas Mutesa I, Muwanga, Daudi Chwa and Mutesa II. This historical site was once the place of Buganda Kingdom. Muzibuazaala-Mpanga is a magnificent round thatched building 14 metres in diameter.

The constitutional crisis in 1966 unearthed Major General Idi Amin, who was now at the head of an army Obote could not do without. Effectively, the military were the policy implementing body for a civilian administration. This situation prevailed until the 25th January 1971 when Amin ousted Obote, while Obote was at a conference in Singapore, and took over as Head of State and the military implemented their own policies.

Uganda has been created by the union of many peoples. Ancient people with their own traditional lands, their own customs and a way of life inherited from their ancestors. They now live together as one people.


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