The British Empire Library

Administrators in East Africa: Six Case Studies

by B. L. Jacobs

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
This is a collection of case-studies of Colonial administration as practised in Uganda; assembled by Mr. Jacobs shortly after Uganda's independence; printed by the Government printer in 1965; "published by authority" and then banned.

On his retirement from the Institute of Development Studies the author revisited the Government printer's store at Entebbe and bought up the piles of undistributed copies, all of them stamped with the authentic termite imprimatur. Unlike most case-studies subsequently constructed for the teaching of public administration to Africa's new bureaucratic cadres, these consist not of imaginary scenarios and fictitious signatories but are reproductions of confidential memoranda and minutes, personal letters and actual names taken literally from the Ministry files.

Because the case-studies were designed as teaching aids for the training of senior administrative grade civil servants of the new Uganda Public Service up on the hill at Makerere, each exercise is accompanied by "Notes for Study Director" and "Lessons of the Study", along with linkages and comments by the compiler. In the best tradition of tactical teaching, no book answer is put forward, though staff solutions can be read between the lines.

Here then, is not so much a picture as a photograph of how the Uganda administration carried out its business on the eve of independence revealing why and in what way named Government officials dealt with such problems as the refugees from Rwanda, selecting a site for Independence Stadium; a strike at the School of Building and Civil Engineering; "The Case of 300 scholarships" ; and an anguished classic of colonial administration everywhere in the run-up to independence, with the substitution of an elected ministerial system of government for a Colonial Secretariat pyramid - the integration of the Department of Education into the Ministry of Education.

Reading these documents 20-25 years after the event, it is not hard for one to understand why an inevitably sensitive and frequently unsure of itself new government should have withdrawn the book even before publication. Talk of academic freedom could be safely ignored, especially when the author was not a professional academic but a mere middle-ranking DC with a flair for teaching public administration.

As one who first heard about the preliminaries of "Jake's Thing" in Entebbe in 1961, and was actually allowed in 1969 to look at but not touch a forbidden copy. I am delighted to have a copy of my own at last, twenty years on.

This is a highly unusual acquisition for any library specialising in colonial history, just as much as in public administration. Indeed, I believe the book now to be of far greater importance to the study of imperial history in situ than as an example of the case-study method of teaching public administration.

"Jake's Thing" is emphatically an item of major - in all probability unique - documentation for the story of colonial administration at work on the very eve of the transfer of power.

British Empire Book
B. L. Jacobs
Government of Uganda


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