The charter was the shutter and shatterer of AM Obote’s political career. Throughout the (first) cold war, there was a fierce struggle between NATO and Warsaw Treaty block over who would control Africa, particularly the strategic southern cone where there many liberation wars raging, in addition to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.
The stand-off between the rival blocks played out along what was called the ‘Blue Belt’ (BB) and the ‘Red Corridor’ (RC). The RC was a chain of pro-Soviet countries running in a north-Southerly direction from Cairo with the intention of linking with the Cape, thus: Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, then linking to the countries that were then struggling for liberation..Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique…the frontline against apartheid South Africa. That corridor was perceived by the west to be a pipeline for transmitting soviet military aid to the frontline states, then eventually to the antiapartheid movements that would subsequently take South Africa out of the control of the West….making the Cape sea-lane of communication unavailable for oil tankers coming from the gulf.
The BB was NATO’s attempt to interrupt the RC by slicing it in the waist from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, from Kenya, through Uganda to Zaire. Uganda’s geostrategic location placed us at the confluence of those two trails of East-West struggle. He who controlled Uganda controlled Africa. Recall that in 1967 Mw. Nyerere made the Arusha Declaration turning Tanzania into a socialist (hence supposedly pro-East state), then in 1968 Mr K Kaunda made the Mulungushi Declaration also turning Zambia into a prosocialist state (‘Humanism’). That made the West shiver. Before they could recover from that, then later in 1968 comes the Nakivubo Declaration, Uganda’s move to the left. So, three declarations to consolidate the RC.
Then enter 1969, with Gen G Mimeiri overthrowing Ismail al-Azhari, and immediately making a kind of “Khartoum Declaration”. Like the other three in the RC who made declarations to nationalise banks and industries, Nimeiri did all that nad set Sudan onto the path of socialist reforms. In all this, as we have seen, Uganda was the centrepiece and the ultimate prize that each of the global powers was salivating for. J Mobutu was blue already, thanks to the earlier death of P. Lumumba who would have probably made a “Kinshasa declaration”. J Kenyatta was the West’s son-in-law, and Mombasa was already available for the United States Central Command Forces (formerly Rapid Deployment Force). So Uganda had to get out of the RC, and AM Obote had either to take back his words of the “Nakivubo Declaration” or go.
This reminds me of these words: “Mr Obote seems to have been misled or misinformed that the Baganda will accept a commoner to rule this country when the British go. The truth is Buganda will use all its available forces to see that the Kabaka becomes head of state of Uganda or Buganda secession when independence is attained” (Paul Tebandeke, Uganda Argus, Saturday, 20 August, 1960; page 2) So, the Common Man’s Charter was the commoner’s shatter. Nevertheless, it was big algebra at play.