William Robinson Clarke

‘The farming student who became a Prime Minister’

1946 - 2020

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Zakayo Hairoroa Kwebiha, a Ugandan, was one of four men all travelling first class on the Empire Windrush on their way back to Africa via England. The others were Yakonia Walukamba, also from Uganda, and Nigerians John Egeolu and Igonibo Oruwari.

They were students and had been in Trinidad training as agriculturists in a programme overseen by the Colonial Office. The idea was that they would return to their home countries and apply what they had learned for the benefit of their people. More often than not, it involved them joining the civil service in their homelands rather than actually getting their hands dirty out in the fields.

This arrangement was not restricted to Africans. There was a small number of British men on board the Windrush who had also been training as agriculturists and intending to work on farms in Africa, where they might have harboured dreams of making their fortunes.

Zakayo Hairoroa Kwebiha was born in Uganda in 1912. The Windrush passenger list gave his address care of the Director of Colonial Scholars, Colonial Office, London W1. However, ‘another part of the British Empire’ was indicated as his ‘intended next permanent residence’. He was, of course, referring to Uganda.

He had travelled to Britain in 1947, living at 15 Collingham Gardens, a hostel for colonial students. He left Bristol later that year destined for Port of Spain and agricultural college. He trained in Trinidad for eight months before making his long journey home on the Windrush.

One might have expected Zakayo to then disappear into obscurity, perhaps managing a farm or finding a job as an agricultural officer in the Ugandan civil service. However, he went into politics and on March 29, 1956, became the prime minister of Bunyoro, a kingdom in western Uganda. It was a post he held for six years.

The 1960s was a heady period for African nations, with many gaining their independence, 17 of them in 1960. On June 15, 1960, Zakayo warned the Ugandan government that his kingdom would soon have to cope with a large influx of refugees from neighbouring Belgian Congo when it became independent later that month following internal tensions. Patrice Lumumba, who had been elected the first prime minister of the new republic, was murdered a few months later.

In October 1961, Zakayo attended the Uganda Constitutional Conference at Lancaster House chaired by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Ian Macleod. It was agreed that Uganda should obtain independence on October 9, 1962. But Zakayo and one other representative walked out in protest at the arrangements. The following month the opposition party submitted a petition expressing no confidence in Zakayo. He resigned in 1962 and quietly continued his life as an agricultural officer.

Flag of Bunyoro

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