Little is known about Harry Foster Dean a freed African American slave and a Pan-Africanist who made a trip to Uganda via Kenya.
In March, 1903, Dean traveled through Kavirondo in what is now known as Nyanza to see the “boy” King of Uganda or Buganda.
Dean started his trip to Uganda at Mombasa, travelling on a narrow gauge railroad built by the British. He travelled by train to Winam Gulf- Kisumu, on the east side of Lake Victoria Nyanza, where he stayed for some days.
According to Dean the only problem he experienced was the temperature that kept on alternating from hot to cold as the altitude increased.
The temperature in Mombasa was 102° Fahrenheit, but outside Nairobi it was near freezing as the train climbed above sea level. Nevertheless, Dean said the landscape was beautiful.
In his own words Kavirondo was picturesque. He saw , native homes that had cone shaped grass roofs. British and Indian officials were housed in homes built in the Indo-European style. The houses used by British government officials, he said were called Nyumbas.
After his brief stay at Kisumu- Kavirondo Bay, Dean transferred to a ship called Winifred on Lake Victoria for a voyage to Entebbe.At Entebbe, he met an old friend, Mwana Amisi, a young Swahili Buganda chief who served as his guide to Mengo, where he was to meet the King of Buganda.
It was more than a day’s travel to Mengo on what Dean called a well-traveled road with cane fences on either side of the road and fences hiding flower gardens. Before meeting King Daudi Chwa II, Mwani Amisi’s cook, made Dean a dinner of matoke (banana pudding), nkoko (broiled chicken), baked lumonhes, (sweet potatoes), and sliced nyanyas (tomatoes).
After supper, a native three-piece orchestra entertained Dean, but he did not find the music to his liking because of what he said was its elemental crudities of harmony and rude execution.
The next morning he was invited to meet King Daudi Chwa who was only 9. At the meeting Dean wrote that the King’s court included a large number of attendants and what might be called a cabinet of ministers. Present at the meeting was the prime minister, Katikiro Apolo Kaggwa, who Dean described as the “ablest native in central Africa.”
Apolo Kaggwa was influential enough to attend the coronation of King Edward VII. He also controlled much of the land the Bugandans had after a 1900 treaty with the British, which he helped negotiate.
Apolo spoke English, making communication with Dean possible. Another regent was a Catholic priest, Stanislas Mugwanga, and the third regent was Zakaria Kisingiri. Also present was the treasurer. The court of attendants was divided between Christians and Muslims wearing different clothing to identify the difference.
Dean wrote that he met informally with Katakara Apolo Kaggwa and the treasurer privately, talking about America, Europe, and Africans who had “strayed away” from their native land or had been stolen into slavery.
Odhiambo Levin Opiyo is a Researcher and Historian write from Nairobi Republic of Kenya .