Mwanga

Mwanga (ca. 1866-1901) was a monarch of Buganda and the last independent ruler of that important East African kingdom.

When the great kabaka, or monarch, of Buganda, Mutesa I, died in 1884, his state was a major force in the Lake Victoria region. During his seminal reign, contacts with the worlds of Europe and the East African coast had introduced new forces into Ganda society which would complicate the rule of his son Mwanga Mwanga became kabaka in October 1884 with the general support of his people, but it was soon apparent that he lacked the talents to master the difficult problems confronting his administration. Internal political life in Buganda was troubled by conflict between factions grouped around Protestant, Roman Catholic, Moslem, and African traditional leaders. Externally, East Africa was just facing the beginning of its partition by Britain and Germany.

Mwanga, faced with these difficult conditions, soon weakened his position by removing from office the older chiefs who had served his father. He also began persecuting Christian and Moslem Ganda, but this was done in sporadic fashion, and Mwanga eventually gave the young men of these factions increasing influence within his administration. Under such leaders as Henry Nyonyintono and Apolo Kaggwa, they emerged as a major power block, and Mwanga reacted to their position too late. He prepared a surprise action at a time when he had few supporters left among his people because of the harshness and indecision of his rule. The result was a joining of the Christian and Moslem elite to depose their powerless ruler in 1888, replacing him with his elder brother, Kiwewa. The uneasy alliance between Christians and Moslems soon collapsed, however, and a Moslems coup gave them control of the state with a new kabaka, Kalema (Mwanga's younger brother).

Mwanga had been allowed to flee the country, living in hardship until the Christian refugees accepted him again as their leader. Their forces ousted Kalema and the Moslems in a series of conflicts lasting to February 1890. Mwanga was restored as kabaka, but his position was much curtailed since the new Christian ruling group strengthened its position within Ganda politics.

Meantime Britain had been given control over Buganda in 1890; the first officers arrived at the end of the year to administer the country by means of a private chartered company. The Protestant Ganda supported the company, under its representative Frederick Lugard, while the Catholic Ganda were generally mistrustful of their British rulers. After a period of intense intrigue, in which Mwanga played a serious role, the Protestants and Lugard broke the Catholic strength in a battle on January 1892.

Mwanga, who had joined the Catholics, once more fled his country. He was allowed to return, with even more reduced authority, a situation he endured until a public humiliation led him to revolt against the British in 1897. Securing little Ganda support, Mwanga was defeated and deposed for his infant son, Daudi Chwa. Mwanga escaped capture until 1899; then he was sent into exile and died in 1901.

Further Reading on Mwanga

Mwanga's life may best be followed in Roland Oliver and Gervase Mathew, eds., History of East Africa, vol. 1 (1963).

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