Nationalism refers to the rise of consciousness and love for one’s country. In Africa, it was the desire for independence, self determination and common hatred to all evils associated with colonial rule. In East Africa, nationalism was characterised mainly by the rise or formation of political parties (UPC, DP, and CP in Uganda, KANU, KADU in KENYA, and TANU – Tanzania) and the popular demand for independence.


1.    The colonial policies led to the growth of African nationalism in East Africa. Evils of colonialism such as forced labour, over taxation, land alienation, racial discrimination and forced growing of cash crops etc. made the people of East Africa hate the colonial masters.

2.    Western education led to the rise and growth of African nationalism. The few Africans who went to schools like King’s college Budo acquired a common language – English. This made communication very easy between the nationalists of different races.

3.    The Second World War also encouraged African nationalism. This war which started in 1939 and ended in 1945 trained some East Africans on how to use guns exposed them to military weaknesses of the whites and also exposed Africans to ideas of democracy from American soldiers.

4.    The rise of two new super powers in the world promoted African nationalism. USA and USSR started supporting political parties like UPC, TANU and KANU which were struggling for independence.

The formation of the United Nations in 1945 favoured African nationalism. UNO put pressure on Britain to grant independence to Tanganyika, Uganda and finally to Kenya.

6.    The Atlantic charter of 1941 helped nationalism in East Africa. W. Churchill (Britain) and F. Roosevelt (USA) called for the respect of people’s rights to choose a government of their will. This increased the desire for independence in East Africa.

7.    The 1945 Manchester Pan African conference helped African nationalism. Delegates including Nkrumah etc called for states to use all means to fight against colonialism.

8.    The formation of political parties also encouraged nationalism in East Africa. Parties like KANU, KADU (KENYA) TANU (TZ) UPC, DP, CP and KY (Uganda) mobilised the people in demanding for independence.

9.    The Mau Mau uprising of 1952 – 56 in Kenya encouraged nationalism in East Africa. The courage of the Kikuyu and other fighters against the British had attracted more demand for independence even in Tanzania and Uganda.

10.  The rise of able and charismatic leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta , Julius Nyerere, Milton Obote, Abu Mayanja and others, led the masses in popular demonstrations and rallies demanding for independence.

Characteristics of African Nationalism in East Africa
Nationalism in East Africa was characterised by a number of features which included the following:-
1.    The rise of political parties. These included Uganda National Congress (which later gave way to U.P.C), DP (Democratic Party), C.P (Conservative Party) and K.Y ( Kabaka Yekka) – all in Uganda, TANU ( Tanganyika African National Union) in Tanganyika , KADU ( Kenya African Democratic Union) as well as KANU ( Kenya African National Union) in Kenya, among others.

2.    Nationalism in East Africa was led by the few educated Africans such as Julius Nyerere, Milton Obote, Mayanja Nkangi, Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya, and others.

3.    Most of the nationalist activities were centred in towns like Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Kampala and Entebbe.

4.    Violent groups were formed to engage the colonialists by force. The most important of these was Mau Mau in Kenya ( 1952-1956)

5.    There were constant arrests and detentions of nationalistic leaders. Kenyatta was imprisoned in 1953, Obote forced out of Makerere College, Nyerere and many others too were detained several times.

6.    Nationalism in East Africa had some Africans supporting the whites and hence opposed to ideas like granting independence to Buganda.

7.    The cold war conflict remained clear among the East African nationalists. Nyerere for instance adopted the socialist ideology through his popular Ujamaa policy.

8.    The press became a key tool of nationalism in East Africa. News papers like Munno, Ngabo (Uganda) as well as radio stations, and magazines were used in the spread of nationalist ideas.

9.    Negotiations also characterised African nationalism in East Africa. Constitutional reforms were carried out such as the new constitutions in Kenya like the Lennox-Boyd constitution.

10. Trade unions were formed to call for workers’ rights. For example the Young Kikuyu Association in Kenya in 1921.

Contribution of Dr. Julius Nyerere to the Struggle for Tanzania’s Independence

Julius Kambarage Nyerere was born in 1922 at Butiaba near the Lake Victoria shores. His father was a village chief. He attended a Roman Catholic primary school before joining the government. He attended secondary school at Tabora and attained a diploma in Education at Makerere College in Uganda before finally attaining university education in universities outside Africa including Edinburgh University in Scotland.

1.            Nyerere taught in several schools in Tanzania between 1945 and 1952. This spread literacy, which was needed in the struggle for independence.

2.            He joined TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) in 1955 where he seriously campaigned for Tanganyika’s independence.

3.            He addressed the U.N.O’s (United Nations Organisation) trusteeship council in New York, where he expressed Tanganyika’s wish for independence.

4.            He organised TANU to elect a representative to the Legislative council (LEGCO).

5.            Nyerere became Tanganyika’s first prime minister in 1961 when Tanzania gained her independence.

6.            He encouraged the unity between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964. This resulted in the establishment of the republic of Tanzania.

7.            He Emphasised Swahili language to be the common language Tanzanians were to use. This united them in the demand for independence.

8.            Nyerere advocated peaceful means in the struggle for Tanzania’s independence. This saved Tanzania the destruction that happened to states that used violence to achieve independence.

9.            Nyerere as president of Tanganyika African Association, transformed (IAA) into TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) in 1954.

10.         Nyerere called for adult voting rights in Tanganyika other than the earlier restriction to only those who were earning 75 pounds per year or those who were literate.

11.         Nyerere assured the Asians, whites and other foreigners in Tanganyika that they had a future in Tanganyika. This won some foreigners’ sympathy towards the independence movement.

12.         He brought TANU close to the UN Trusteeship Council. It is this move which was later to put pressure on Britain to decolonise Tanganyika.

13.         Nyerere stood down after being elected to the Legico (Legislative Council) complaining of lack of progress in the move to Tanganyika’s independence.

Reasons for Tanganyika’s early independence
1.    The formation of political clubs/ associations such as Tanganyika African 
Association (TAA), Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), Kenya African
Union (KANU), KADU, UPC, DP and many others.

2.    The spirit of unity that came as a result of the existence of an all embracing
     political party- TANU.

3.    The personality of the colonial governors favoured Tanzania’s early independence. Governor Richard Turnbull for example encouraged preparations for Tanzania’s independence.

4.    The United Nations, supervised preparations for independence in Tanganyika
     through its Trusteeship Council.

5.    Racial or tribal differences were greatly limited in Tanganyika unlike in both
Uganda and Kenya. This gave Tanganyikans a united stand in the call for

6.  Political activities were not restricted much by the authority in Tanganyika as they were in Kenya and Uganda. Party activities for instance had been left free.

7.  Tanganyika’s adoption of Kiswahili as a common language promoted unity in the call for independence.

8.      The able leadership of men like Julius Nyerere, who mobilised all Tanganyikans
         without discriminating basing on race.


Between 1945 and 1949, several protests and uprisings were organised especially in Uganda’s towns like Kampala. These were mainly in opposition to the monopoly of Asians in the cash crop trade, land alienation among other grievances.

Such actions resulted into formation of earlier political associations such as:-

a)    Bataka party (1946)
b)   Abaganda  Abakopi and Uganda African Farmers’ Union (1947)
c)    Buganda African Motors Driver Union(BANU)

Although all these parties were silenced one by one by the colonialists, and their leaders arrested, the message of resistance and desire for independence had been expressed already.

The Kabaka crisis of 1953 -55

Following the British introduction of the idea of the East African Federation, Kabaka  Mutesa II decided to mobilise the Baganda to reject the Federation. He also went ahead to demand for the independence of Buganda alone.

This prompted the British colonial governor Andrew Cohen to deport him into Britain on the 30th of Nov 1953.

Causes of the crisis

1.         The idea of the East African federation led to the crisis. The Baganda feared that they might lose their land in the federation as the case in Kenya.

2.         Mutesa I‘s failure to cooperate with the colonial administrators encouraged the crisis. According to the 1900 agreement, the Kabaka was expected to work (cooperate) with the colonial administration in areas of tax collection, law and order etc.

3.         Mutesa’s demand for Buganda’s independence also led to the crisis.

4.         Kabaka Mutesa’s desire to adjust some terms of the Buganda agreement led to the crisis. The Kabaka hated the clauses that limited his authority in Buganda.

5.         The rising sense of superiority among the Baganda encouraged the crisis under Mutesa I. Buganda was increasingly proud of herself that she decided to reduce cooperation with the colonialist.

6.         Withdraw of support to the Kabaka by the Lukiiko also encouraged the crisis.

7.         The transfer by the colonial governor of the nomination of Buganda’s representatives to the Legico (Legislative council). This decision to give powers to the Lukiiko to nominate representatives to the legico provoked Mutesa II very much.

8.         The religious conflicts within Buganda also increased the tension. The Catholics conflicted with the Protestants and Christians combined against Muslims. This caused the colonial administration to take sides.

9.         The new political parties such as Uganda National congress (1952) violently opposed the East Africa Federation idea. This further promoted the government to exile the king.

Effects of the 1953 Kabaka crisis

1              It created a sense of unity among the Baganda as they combined efforts to demand for the return and restoration of Kabaka Mutesa II.

2              It led to the signing of the Namirembe agreement. This cleared way for the return of the Kabaka, but reduced the king’s powers more.

3               Demonstrations were carried out in Buganda areas like Nankulabye. Men vowed never to shave until their king was back.

4               The colonial government appointed more Africans to the colonial administration.

5              It encouraged the growth of nationalism in the whole of Uganda. The crisis had showed Ugandans the determination of colonialists to stay on hence more demands for independence.

6              It led the formation of new political parties which began by demanding for the return of the Kabaka and finally for independence.

7              The crisis and the Namirembe agreement affected the position of the Kabaka. His reduced powers as we approached independence, laid ground for his eventual over throw in the 1966 crisis by Obote .M.

8              The idea of the East African Federation was completely ruled out after the crisis.

9              It increased the popularity of the Kabaka especially among the Baganda as well as other areas of Uganda.

Political parties in Uganda after 1950

A number of political parties were formed and the old ones revised after 1950. These were to lead the way towards Uganda’s independence by 1962. Such parties included:

a)    Uganda National Congress (UNC) 1952.
b)   Democratic party(DP)1954
c)    The Progress Party (PP) 1955
d)   United Congress Party(UCP) 1957
e)    Uganda National Movement (UNM) 1959
f)     Uganda People’s Union (UPU) 1958
g)   Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) 1960
h)   The Kabaka Yekka (KY) 1962.
Most of these parties had similar characteristics which included:-

1.         They were formed a long ethnic lines e.g. Kabaka Yekka for Baganda.
2.         They were based on religion i.e. Protestants or Catholics e.g. DP was for Catholics while Uganda National congress was for Protestants.
3.         They emphasised issues affecting individual groups rather than national interests.
4.         There were lots of defections from one party to another.
5.         The political activities of the 1950’s were mainly dominated by the Baganda who boasted of most of the few elites that Uganda had at the time.

6.         Most of the members were progressive coffee, cotton, tobacco farmers and traders.

The Role of political parties in the struggle for Uganda’s independence

1.              Parties trained leaders who helped to mobilise the masses in the demand for independence.

2.              They sensitised and educated Ugandans on the politics in the country. This aroused political awareness in Uganda.

3.              They called for independence of Uganda raising Marine support to the independence movement.

4.              They organised peaceful demonstrations against colonial policies like taxation, cash crop growing (forced) etc.

5.              Parties sent representatives in the pre- independence negotiations and last minute constitutional preparations.

6.              They mobilized funds to finance political activities including campaigns for the pre- independence elections.

7.              Party slogans and songs became a key symbol of attraction for large gatherings. This made flow of information about the struggle very easy.

8.              They recruited the youths into active party service thus training a generation that was to lead Uganda for example, Mayanja Nkangi , Ignatius Musaazi

9.              Violent action organised by the various parties pressurised the colonialists to grant Uganda independence. Boycotts, attacks on foreigners and torching (burning) houses all speeded up the process to decolonise Uganda.

Factors which facilitated the attainment of independence in Uganda

Many factors worked in favour of the rise and growth of nationalism in Uganda. It’s these factors that eventually led to the early independence of Uganda by 1962. They included the following:

1.     The impact of the Second World War (1939-1945) led to Uganda’s independence. Ex – soldiers came back with military skills and militant ideas leading to violent action like burning of white owned houses.

2.      The rise of the Labour party into power in Britain in 1945 also favoured Ugandan’s struggle for independence. This led to the appointment of some Ugandans on the Legico.

3.     The Manchester Conference of 1945 helped nationalism in Uganda. Its call for use of all means including force to fight for independence led to use of strikes in demanding for independence.

4.     Western education (especially through missionary schools) trained leaders for the independence movement. E.g. Musaazi, M. Obote , Abu Mayanja

5.     The roads, railway line and other forms of infrastructure provided by the colonial administration helped the struggle. Nationalists like Obote used these to traverse the whole of Uganda for support.

6.     The formation of political parties led to independence. Parties like KY, UPC, DP UNC mobilised the masses in the demand for independence.

7.     The continued exploitation by Asians and whites of Uganda’s resources like copper in Kilembe provoked anger among Ugandans.

8.     The development of urban centres such as Jinja, Kampala favoured nationalism in Uganda. These became breeding grounds for political activities like rallies and demonstrations.

9.     Asian countries like India which had already got independence (1947) helped Uganda too. Some Ugandan nationalists like Abu Mayanja, Bidandi Ssali etc studied in India or attended conferences there.

10.  The 1952 revolution in Egypt also influenced nationalism in Uganda. Nasser , the new president of Egypt assisted Ugandans like Ignatius Musaazi of UNC (Uganda National Congress)

11.  The United Nations organisation also put pressure on the British to decolonise Uganda.
12.  The British policy of favouring Buganda more than the rest of Uganda made the rest of the Ugandans to unite against the Baganda first and finally the colonialists too.

13.  Ghana’s early independence in 1957 also inspired strong demand for independence in Uganda too.

Major obstacles in the struggle for Uganda’s independence
The struggle for Uganda’s independence and generally the growth of African nationalism in Uganda was delayed/ disturbed by a number of factors.

1.            The high levels of illiteracy in Uganda affected the struggle. The few educated people Uganda had by 1945- 50 were mainly centred around Buganda only. This left the rest of the regions off the struggle for so many years.

2.            Lack of a common language in Uganda also disturbed the struggle for independence. Luganda, Acholi and other languages were used by different groups to push for their tribal interests. This promoted the divide and rule policy of the colonialists

3.            Trade Union activities were limited in Uganda. The restrictions by colonialists had discouraged formation of trade unions which would have helped in the demand for independence.

4.            The limitations on the press delayed the struggle. The few news papers such as “Uganda Eyogera” were in Luganda hence only read by Baganda. This isolated the other Ugandans from ideas in the paper.

5.            Some of the elites were puppets of the British colonial government and hence could not join political parties like UNC, UPC etc.

6.            The delay to establish contacts between nationalists in Uganda and outside Africa also delayed the struggle. Very few Ugandans had travelled to democratic states like USA to borrow the spirit of freedom and hence few would challenge colonialism as an abuse of human rights.

7.            The delay in the formation of political parties too delayed independence. Active party politics did not come until after 1950.

8.            Religious divisions between Protestants and Catholics also affected the struggle. Parties never combined efforts because of the differences in religion.

9.            The common hatred towards the Baganda by nationalists from other parties prevented a united stand against colonialism. The fact that the British had used Baganda chiefs like Semei Kakungulu to spread colonial rule in the East made Baganda a target by others.

10.         The secessionist attempts by Buganda delayed the struggle. With much of the infrastructure, the attempt to break off from the rest of Uganda was unacceptable by other nationalists hence preventing a common front against colonial rule.

11.         There were also ideological differences even within the different political parties. Where the DP leaders had capitalist sentiments, UNC and UPC were pro- socialist. They thus never combined efforts against the British because of such differences.

Learners’ Activities

Activity One

A quotation from Mwalimu J K Nyerere
"Having come into contact with a civilisation which has over-emphasised the freedom of the individual, we are in fact faced with one of the big problems of Africa in the modern world. Our problem is just this: how to get the benefits of European society -- benefits that have been brought about by an organisation based upon the individual -- and yet retain African's own structure of society in which the individual is a member of a kind of fellowship."
Julius Kambarage Nyerere as quoted in the New York Times Magazine on 27 March 1960.
                     i.        Organise the learners in groups of 5 – 8 and ask them to read the above quotation by Mwalimu J K Nyerere in groups.
                   ii.        Let them discuss the quotation and list down the outstanding values and principles that Nyerere stood for and promoted as revealed in this quotation.
                 iii.        Of what importance are these values and principles from the quotation to the people of East Africa?
                  iv.        How would they be applied if the people of East Africa were to live a successful life?

Activity Two
Organise a class discussion on the causes of crisis in Uganda. In the discussion, the following should be emphasised;
i)             Let the learners define or describe a crisis from their own experience or perspective.
ii)           Let them give the different familiar examples of crises in Uganda.
iii)         Ask them to suggest ways to address any of the crises Uganda is facing today.

Revision Questions

1.     a) Explain the factors which  contributed to the growth of nationalism in Kenya
         between 1939 and 1952.

b) What problems did the Kenyan nationalists face?

2.     a) Why was Tanganyika African National union formed?

b) Explain the contribution of TANU to the history of Tanganyika.

3.     a) What problems did political parties in E. Africa face before independence?

b) Describe the achievements of either Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) or Kenya African National Union (KANU) by 1965.

4.     a) Explain the causes of conflicts between the kikuyu and the British between 1952 and 1956.
b) In what ways did this conflict affect the people of Kenya?