Part Four of Robert Asketill’s research into the beginning of the scramble for Africa informs our readers how Islam became the first religion to reach Uganda. Read on.
The most important of the agreements Britain made in 1890 was with Germany. Bismarck may have been feeling his way towards a more general understanding with Britain but he fell from power before the agreement was finally reached. By it, Germany recognised a British protectorate over the dominions of the Sultan of Zanzibar. In return, the Germans got some small concessions in West Africa, the famous Caprivi Strip — a corridor of land connecting German South West Africa with the Zambezi — and the island of Helgoland in the North Sea which had been in British hands since the Napoleonic Wars.
France also recognised the British protectorate over Zanzibar in return for a British recognition of the French position in Madagascar. Portugal acknowledged the British position in Mashonaland and Nyasaland in return for the acceptance of other boundary claims on behalf of Portuguese East Africa.
A little ironically, however, the final decision about a British retention of Uganda had to be made by a Liberal Government, once again headed by William Gladstone. By this time the question had been complicated by religious strife and new strategic considerations. Until the 1860s, the Baganda had been pagans, but traders from Zanzibar brought the Islamic faith with them. The Kabaka (king), Muteesa, was interested and, from 1867, adopted at least some Moslem observances. However, Henry Morton Stanley on his visit in 1875 drew attention to the rival claims of Christianity. Muteesa, perhaps for political reasons, again expressed interest.
In 1877, representatives of the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) arrived. In 1879 the Roman Catholic White Fathers, sent by the ‘Apostle of Africa’, Cardinal Lavigerie, came. Soon there were three rival parties; Muslim, English Protestant and French Catholic. Muteesa died in 1884 and his successor Mwanga did not share his sympathy for Christian missionaries. In 1885-86, European attention was attracted to Uganda, first, by the murder on Mwanga’s orders, of an Anglican bishop, James Hannington; and, secondly, by the massacre of 30 of Mwanga’s pages, Catholic converts who refused to recant.
By the late 1880s, Uganda was in a state of civil war. In 1890 the British East Africa Company sent a man later to be famous as Governor of Nigeria, Captain Lugard, to try to establish the Company’s authority in Buganda. A subsequent British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir William Harcourt, later blamed the Company for rushing into Uganda, instead of building up their sphere slowly from the coast. The Company in turn protested that they had no wish to go to Uganda so soon, but had been pushed into it by the government who wished to make sure that the area would not slip into German hands, despite the preliminary division of 1886. They had reason to worry. Karl Peters himself had been active in the region, signing treaties with chiefs early in 1890. But the Anglo-German agreement concluded later that year meant that the German government never accepted the treaties.
The last part of Robert Asketill’s research into the beginning of the scramble for Africa concludes tomorrow.