Letters from Sonja: Meeting Kabaka Mutesa II
The palace of Mutesa II as it was before May 1966, when it was destroyed.

Letters from Sonja: Meeting Kabaka Mutesa II

Sonja and Hubert are introduced to H.R.H. Mutesa II, Kabaka of Buganda.

By Sonja Winklmaier
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First published: June 19, 2005

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Kampala February 20th (?), 1956:

“Hubert is out of hospital again and feels very much better.

On Saturday morning we were invited by the Kabaka to an official audience in his palace together with Dr. and Mrs. Grieger. Dr. Grieger is a judge and a high official of the Bundes-Finanz- Ministerium (German Ministry of Finance). Dr. and Mrs. Grieger at the moment are on a visit to Uganda.

The Kabaka has very fine features. He looks very young. The conversation was of a high standard, very intelligent. The Kabaka knows a lot about German history, not only the recent one, but far, far back. H.R.H. is a very modern king.

H.R.H. Mutesa II, Kabaka of Buganda from the Uganda Independence Souvenir Programme, printed by the Government Printers, Entebbe.

During the audience the Kabaka’s Secretary entered the room and brought a message to the Kabaka on a silver plate. He bowed in front of the Kabaka and when he retreated, he walked backwards.

I will never forget this first meeting with His Royal Highness, the Kabaka. On this occasion I was wearing the necklace and bracelet, Hubert bought me in Port Said. When I shook hands with the Kabaka, the bracelet made quite a loud clicking noise. I felt so embarrassed! The Kabaka must have noticed that. He gave me a very kind smile. When we said good-bye, the Kabaka said, we will see each other soon again.

The Bulange where we attended the Kabaka's Birthday-Party on November 19th, 1961 when it was very new.

I also remember very well, that the Griegers liked the name “Nakasongola” so much, that they decided should they ever have a daughter, to call her that name.

“This “soon” was the evening of the same day. We were asked to a private film-show together with the larger family of the Kabaka. We also showed our film about the lions, giraffes and “our zoo” in Nairobi. (I am talking about the animals we took care of for the Denisens, which were a Cheetah, a wild cat, a porcupine, a young baboon and a black- face monkey plus our Alsatian “Phylax“ and a Dachshund mixture “Waldi“, who was given to me by an Asian clerk at the post-office in Nairobi, where we had our post office box.)

There were quite a number of people. Prince Lincoln, of course, was there and we met for instance Prince Badru Kakungulu and Princess Mary.

The film was shown in a large salon. The members of the Royal Family were seated on gild armchairs. We, as well as Paul, his brother Dr. Kibukamusoke (later Professor Kibukamusoke) and their girlfriends were sitting on gild sofas. The fabric of the upholstery was in a bluish tone. I also noticed a grand piano and several large elephant tusks. All the other guests, all Baganda, were sitting or kneeling on the very nice large carpet, on the floor. When they were moving, they did this on their knees or in a very much-bowed manner.

These were our first meetings with a real king!

The road from the Bulange to the Lubiri- Hopefully these trees did grow and are still there.

February 27th, 1956 -

We did have some quite hot days. In spite of this I do like Kampala better every day. The sun that would do you good sometimes has to be shut out here. Better hot than the terrible cold in Germany. Why do I actually need shoes here? I am barefoot the whole day! And yet, it is the same sun that is shining in Germany.

Slowly I am thinking that my being sick has nothing to do with our traveling a long way to Kampala or with the climate.

Yesterday afternoon Hubert was sleeping until 8 o’clock. When we were just getting up from dinner, very important visitors were coming, just like that. We did not have any idea. Prince Lincoln was knocking at the door and explained to us to our astonishment: “His Highness is here and would be delighted if you would allow him to wish you a good evening. Of course we were delighted and only changed our clothes quickly. And there was His Highness, King Mutesa II, Kabaka of Buganda, together with 3 “bodyguards” and a little girl. (Funny that I remember quite well, what His Highness was wearing. It was a brown and beige checkered sports-jacket with leather patches on the elbows. He did look very smart.) We had a charming conversation. The gentlemen enjoyed some Whisky and the little girl was eating some of the pineapple cake I had baked with great delight. She liked playing with my Teddy and our other “Steiff” animals and when Hubert gave “Mrs. Hedgehog” to her as a present, she was so pleased. “Typical woman” she at once admired my wedding ring (which is a very simple gold band) and of course she wanted to wear my bracelet (not the clicking one) for 5 minutes. We made ourselves understood in a splendid way. She told me the most wonderful stories in Luganda (I don’t understand a single word of this language) and she - I am sure - did not understand much of my English. And yet, she was so affectionate within a few moments.

You would have enjoyed this!

With H.H. we talked about almost everything from “ Friedrich der Große”, about new inventions up to the latest music hits. The Kabaka also told us about him being sent into Exile to Britain by the then Governor of Uganda, Sir Andrew Cohen. He was asked to come to Government House. When he arrived there, he was directly put on a waiting plane. He was completely taken by surprise and could not even take a toothbrush with him.

When they left, the Kabaka was very pleased when I gave him a record of “Lili Marlen” sung by Lale Andersen. Unfortunately we only had a very much-used record, not too good anymore.

This evening was a lovely event for us.

For our neighbors, however, this evening might have consequences. When the Kabaka arrived, he was very angry and told us straight away what had just happened to him. The Kabaka arrived incognito in a rather old Peugeot. In the darkness they missed the driveway to the building, in which our flat was. Instead they turned into the driveway of our neighbors. The neighbor came out of his house and when he saw Africans, he at once called them everything, but nothing nice, without knowing who they were. He had no idea that the king of the country, in which he is a guest only (Uganda is not an English colony but a protectorate), was sitting in the car. It can happen to everyone to drive into the wrong driveway by mistake, even to some Africans!”

In the days to come we saw the Kabaka many, many times either for private film shows or at private and official parties or receptions at the king’s palace.

March 3rd, 1956 -

Next weekend Hubert has to fly to Nairobi on business. Unfortunately I cannot come with him. I would like to meet old acquaintances. Here I only know bachelors. We are the only German couple here and apart from Rubaga Mission we don’t know of any German females in Uganda.

March 12th, 1956 -

I feel terrible again. In the meantime I am really skinny. Hopefully the worst is over. Yes, you will become grandparents. You will have to wait until about the middle of September however. We are very happy! Hopefully everything goes well. Could you please send me a book about handling babies? I must draw my wisdom from some source. I am “chemical clean” and don’t know anything. I have not got anybody here who I can ask.

Related Link: Bulange

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By Sonja Winklmaier
more from author >>
First published: June 19, 2005
Sonja Winklmaier moved to Uganda in the 1950s to follow her husband, Hubert Winklmaier, as the German Volkswagen Factory sent him to work with their agent, Cooper Motor Corporation.

Go to: Letters from Sonja