By Robert Asketill
There could be little hope of lasting peace in Bunyoro while the Arab trade in arms and ammunition continued. Regulations forbidding the importation of arms into Uganda except through a bonded warehouse were not passed until 1896, and at this time such goods were constantly being brought up from the coast through German territory. In July Colvile therefore sent Captain G. G. Cunningham (Derbyshire R.) with 57 Sudanese to establish a post in Ankole. Ntale, the ruler of Ankole, fled at his approach, but a treaty was made with his representative and, after a visit to Fort George, Cunningham returned into Buddu and built a fort at Sango near the mouth of the River Kagera.
Later in the year Kabarega was reported at Machudi, and Thruston was again ordered to attack. He left Hoima on 3rd November with 237 Sudanese on a forced march of seventy-eight miles. This time surprise was achieved, for although Kabarega was warned, he underestimated the Sudanese capacity for marching. Thruston entered the town after dark.
When the alarm was raised, pandemonium ensued and a passage had to be forced through crowds of terrified people and animals. Kabarega’s lodging was reached just too late: the king had leapt from his bed and fled with a blanket over his shoulders. The royal insignia, a sceptre of brass and iron and a copper spear, were captured, together with a quantity of cloth and ivory and many cattle. As the troops marched back to Hoima, driving the captured stock through a succession of swamps, they were frequently ambushed in the tall elephant grass, which the Banyoro bent over and twisted into barricades covered by fire from unseen marksmen. In one of these ambushes Thruston was slightly wounded in the breast and had a narrow escape from death.
A protectorate was formally declared over Buganda in June 1894. The news reached Colvile in August, with an expression of the Government’s appreciation of the way he had conducted his operations. But a word of warning was sounded. The despatch impressed upon Colvile that campaigns in Bunyoro or anywhere else outside the boundaries laid down for the new Protectorate must be limited to measures ‘indispensable to secure the safety and defence of Uganda’, and that efforts should be made to secure the friendship of Kabarega and to prevent him from allying himself with the adherents of the Mahdi. This view was reiterated again later, when governmental satisfaction at the operations carried out by Thruston and Gibb was coupled with a reminder that such measures could only be countenanced when the ‘defence and security of the Protectorate’ were at stake.
Hastening to Mengo, Colvile raised the Union Flag with as much military ceremony as could be mustered, while his Sudanese instrumentalists gave their own peculiar rendering of ‘God Save the Queen’. At the end of the year, delirious from a sudden attack of fever, Colvile was invalided home. F. J. Jackson succeeded him as Acting Commissioner pending the arrival of the new Commissioner, Ernest Berkeley, who did not leave the coast for Uganda until June, 1895.
Thruston handed over his command in Bunyoro to Captain Cunningham, who brought reinforcements to raise the garrison of Hoima to three companies. By that time four Europeans and some 400 Sudanese were scattered in garrisons at half a dozen points throughout Bunyoro. Unfortunately the sites of some of these posts proved unhealthy, for suitability was largely a matter of trial and error. The Sudanese always suspected witchcraft and seemed unable to understand that men previously strong and well could sicken and die within a few days from natural causes. It was not unusual for native company commanders to arrest a man on the accusation of his fellows and bring him up for trial on a formal charge of witchcraft, a difficulty with which most military officers posted to Uganda in those days had to contend.