Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Local Critiques of Global Development: Patriotism in Late Colonial Buganda

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Local Critiques of Global Development: Patriotism in Late Colonial Buganda

Article excerpt

Interviewed by an incredulous anthropologist in 1955, an elderly Paulo Lukongwa insisted that more than half a century of colonial development policies had brought almost nothing to his country. Writing was new and wonderful, he admitted, and he gave European colonizers credit for cars and bicycles that made travel faster. But otherwise, nothing was new. Martin Southwold, the young anthropologist, suggested that clocks were new, and Lukongwa pointed out that they'd had roosters to wake them up. Surely the gramophone was progress, Southwold asserted, and Lukongwa responded that when they had wanted music, they called people to play-and what was more, those people had danced. No gramophone-or radio-did that. Reaching, Southwold noted that the radio also brought news. Once, Lukongwa asserted, they had all had spirits living in their houses that passed on local gossip. Thus people then had plenty of news. In his fieldnotes, Southwold reported that he was merely able to respond with an "umph" as Lukongwa completed his explanation that "God ... has given us all the things we need; and he gave the Europeans cleverness so that they could make things for themselves.... But you Europeans disobeyed him and came here to Africa to take away our land. You are ... robbers! Look at that Governor [Andrew Cohen], what a bad man he is, always trying to take away the people's land."1

Sir Andrew Cohen, who Lukongwa so bluntly condemned, was a development governor par excellence, with a vision for the transformation of Uganda that went well beyond writing and bicycles. Arriving in 1952 to be governor of Uganda, he pushed for local political development through a new system of election that would integrate the kingdom of Buganda into the Protectorate of Uganda, providing a Legislative Council that would be able to lead the Protectorate forward, rather than clinging to the region's complex history of treaties, kingdoms, and locally powerful individuals and families. With civil service reforms, he also sought to expand the country's corps of technical experts and develop the country economically, providing scientific help to cash crop farmers in cotton and coffee, and a modem system of land surveying, public health, veterinary services, and more.

Lukongwa's vision of good governance, though, like that of many of his Bag anda peers, was local. Buganda mattered. Successful policy and programs would strengthen its clans and kingdom. Cohen's ideas were much larger in scale. He sought to expand the political sphere, foster economic growth, integrate Buganda with Uganda, Uganda with East Africa, and East Africa with the world. The immediate clash between these ideas of how to foster the region's future led Cohen to deport Buganda's kabaka [king] in 1953, triggering a dramatic crisis that shook the region's politics, and triggered a deluge of explanations, spying, lobbying, lawsuits, and anthropology, that recorded a rich archive on development and power that documented not simply perspectives of European experts or project managers, but local, intensely political, observers who spoke for themselves and their people not simply as subjects, but as citizens.2

Late colonial Buganda therefore offers a historian an unusual opportunity to think about how indigenous actors critiqued modem views of development not through essential culture, generic conservatism or romantic egalitarianism, but out of an understanding that the overarching centralization, professionalization and progressivism behind modem development policies attacked local actors' ability to control and shape their own economic and political futures. Ganda critics of development policy did not define democracy through elections or economic reforms on a cold war scale of left or right. Instead, they can best be understood as patriots who understood that for local men and women to be politically effective, power had to remain connected to the land, and within a literal arm's reach of the people. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.