Patriotic Citizens: Arguments from Buganda, 1940–56

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 12:00 PM
Michigan Room A (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Carol Summers, University of Richmond
Citizenship is generally discussed in relation to sovereign states. Africa in the post-World War II era, though, failed to follow such models. This paper will explore how badly the language of citizenship and activism put forward by Baganda activists fit with more conventional images of sovereign, bounded states and nations.

In East Africa, the size and scope of states and the degree of sovereignty that “independence” would offer people in Africa was far from obvious. British planners sought big multiracial regional aggregates and advocated an East African Union, or at least a greater Uganda, to facilitate decolonization and allow local people to become citizens of a new political association offering rights and resources for development within a newly expanded state.  Baganda, though, understood Union as aliens claiming their land, interfering with their wealth and entrepreneurship, attacking their independence, and rejecting their historical distinctiveness. Activists therefore advocated initiatives proposing a patriotic citizenship in Buganda. Their loyalty was not simply to clans or king, but to an identity with modern substance and symbols that included a parliament, courts, police, and other bureaucratic institutions, along with elections, a flag, and a national anthem. This activism culminated in 1953 when Buganda’s parliament proposed secession from Uganda.

            The rhetoric and actions of Buganda’s activists, documented in petitions, intelligence reports, anthropological studies and manifestos offer an opportunity to explore how post-WWII activists understood citizenship’s meanings and chose membership in a kingdom over affiliation with an empire, region, or bounded political state offering development and welfare initiatives. And they offer a glimpse of how, at least in Buganda, activists wanted not just a state and generic social and political rights, but specific, culturally and historically rooted citizenships grounded in a particular parochial Buganda, and indigenous rights and obligations.

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