By Robert Asketill
We now come to the decision of creating the Uganda Protectorate. Sir Gerald Portal left for the coast after only 10 weeks in Buganda. Before departing, he appointed Captain Macdonald Acting Commissioner and issued precise instructions to guide him in the employment of his troops. They were never to be used for police work, or in small parties unaccompanied by an English officer, but were intended ‘primarily for the protection of the persons of the Acting Commissioner and his staff and especially with the property of Her Majesty’s Government, and for the repulsion of invasion of Uganda by any foreign enemy’.
Macdonald took a serious view of the Muslim threat. Selim was ordered to Port Alice on the Entebbe peninsula, where Portal had set up his headquarters, to prevent him from intriguing with the Muslim leaders at Mengo. It was planned to raise a reserve force of 250 men from the un-enlisted Sudanese, but Selim’s attitude prevented recruits from coming forward. By the middle of June Macdonald considered the position critical, for Selim had warned him that he would regard war with the Muslims as a hostile act. Captain Macdonald therefore decided that the time had come for strong action, because if Selim’s troops mutinied he had only eight Sudanese from Egypt and 50 Swahilis (about half of whom were incapacitated by jiggers’^ on whom to rely.
The Sudanese officers were summoned, and Macdonald ordered them to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen, They refused, though still protesting their loyalty. Macdonald then sent for the armed Swahilis stationed at Port Alice. Their arrival raised the number of Swahilis at Kampala to 120. Covered by the rifles of these men and by two maxim guns manned by British officers, the Sudanese company was paraded and disarmed. Without delay Macdonald set out for Port Alice with a force of five Europeans, about forty Swahilis and 2,000 Baganda. Again the Sudanese troops were disarmed without difficulty. Selim Bey was arrested in his quarters, tried for mutinous conduct and treason and sentenced to degradation and deportation. He had for some time been a sick man, and died suddenly of heart disease at Naivasha on route to the coast.
Doubt has been expressed whether Selim’s conduct merited so harsh a sentence. There is reason to suppose that his message to Macdonald suffered in translation, and his actions never extended to open rebellion. There must have been a strong want of tact,’ wrote Lugard, “to convert a loyalty so sincere into hostility, when Selim was even then a dying man.’ Portal, who had waited for news on his way to the coast, approved of Macdonald’s actions, though he considered his attitude towards the Sudanese unnecessarily alarmist.
The civil war duly broke out, but was of short duration. Deprived of Sudanese help, the Muslims were defeated at Rubaga Hill and driven into their own province. In July the pursuing Baganda army reached Fort de Winton. Owen attempted to arrange terms but without success, and on 18th July the Muslims were caught and defeated in a final battle.
It was the last of the politico-religious wars.