Luwalo was a type of "traditional," unpaid forced labor used during the colonial period in the Uganda Protectorate until the mid-1940s. After the passage of the International Labour Organization's Forced Labor Convention in 1930, the British Colonial Office put pressure on the various colonial administrations to phase out forced labor. In Uganda the administration eventually abolished luwalo. With the looming prospect of abolition, the administration was forced to assess the monetary value of luwalo to better determine the scale of a new tax that would replace the labor. This paper examines this episode of forced labor abolition in the Uganda Protectorate to highlight two points regarding the use of unpaid traditional forced labor during the colonial era in Africa. First of all, although luwalo was construed as an artifact of tradition that was in some ways outside the market, the administration's own appraisal of luwalo showed that the unpaid labor actually served as an important revenue generation stream for the various local administrations within Uganda Protectorate, contributing tremendously to their base revenues. Secondly, despite the ideological and administrative effect of the Forced Labour Convention, the abolition of luwalo in Uganda shows that forced labor was not so much abolished as converted into an extractive tax. Even before abolition, the administration was, essentially, converting luwalo into a tax through the progressive extension of commutation payments paid by African males in order to avoid the work. With abolition, the administration simply made real what was already apparent by shifting the burden of the financial loss of luwalo onto the backs of Africans through a new Native Administration Tax. This virtual abolition of luwalo was a reflection of its economic importance.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 54-84
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.