Daily Archives: December 27, 2009

Is Buganda’s call for secession feasible?

Is Buganda’s call for secession feasible?
There were riots in different parts of the country after the Kabaka was denied entry to Kayunga
The Buganda Question

BUGANDA’S power and status struggles don’t seem to ever come to an end. Joshua Kato traces the roots of Buganda’s secession talks and asks an important question, who will be Buganda’s ally this time?

Museveni has always said if a jigger is in the foot the best solution is to remove it. Some people in my constituency have suggested that if the Government has failed to adhere to democratic rules, we should fight and overthrow it,” Makindye East MP Haji Hussein Kyanjo argued during the Buganda conference on December 17. The following day The New Vision headline read: “Kyanjo sounding the war drums.”

His predecessor, Yusufu Nsubuga Nsambu, for the many years he represented the constituency, also sounded war drums occasionally. Either the people there want to hear them (war drums) or they want war.

Nsambu has repeatedly sung the song of Buganda’s secession for nearly the whole of his political life. “If they can’t give us all our things, let us separate from Uganda,” he proposed at the height of the central government and Mengo stand-off in September. This was after the Government irked Buganda by blocking the Kabaka from visiting one of his counties in Kayunga District.

In a way, both Kyanjo and Nsambu think Buganda can no longer fit in Uganda, hence the calls for succession. And probably what Kyanjo is saying is that Buganda should fight and become independent in order to be free from the injustices brought on it by the rest of the Ugandans. Or at least, be granted a semi-autonomous status within Uganda to insulate itself from the influences of other cultures and the Government.

Buganda’s crave for a special status couched today as federo, is a hereditary clarion call for being distinct? It is passed on from one generation to another. Previously, not much attention was paid to it but as militant voices pick the campaign, the rest of Uganda gets concerned.

Consequently, Kyanjo’s and Nsambu’s gospel is creating a gulf between Buganda and the rest of Uganda. A Muganda following the political history of Uganda and Buganda points out: “The dislike of by other Ugandans increases whenever the word ‘war’ is used threateningly by Kyanjo.” “They want to chase us away from Buganda is what members of other communities are beginning to think.” Preferring anonymity, he reminds the young radicals like Kyanjo who are newcomers in politics that Baganda have an age-long tradition of being an accommodative tribe.

Sounding a warning to old politicians like Nsambu, who is in the evening of his political life, he points out that the struggle for power should not kill that tradition. But the quest for special status is not new in Buganda. For 113 years, it has been on its agenda. It first appeared in the resistance against the colonialist let by Kabaka Mwanga in 1899. About 54 years later, Kabaka Frederick Muteesa II was exiled over resisting the East African Federation proposed by the colonial government. After independence, the special status accorded to Buganda failed to work leading to clashes between Buganda and Uganda government in 1966. Muteesa lost and found himself in exile where he later died.

Before Independence, the 1900 agreement gave Buganda special status. For example, while the affairs of other regions and colonies were being handled by the Colonial Office in Britain, Buganda’s affairs were in the docket of the Foreign Affairs office.

Buganda was not simply gifted this special status. It was earned by supporting Britain in colonising Uganda, including fighting Bunyoro. But relations with Britain gradually changed when in 1905, Buganda’s affairs were transferred to the Colonial Office.

Buganda, led by the three regents was not happy. And soon the struggle to regain the past relations with Britain and become an autonomous state started dominating the 1920s– 1940s. The protest that included boycotts and strikes culminated in the 1953 crisis, when Kabaka Muteesa II was deported.

According to the Chief Minister of Buganda at the time, Paulo Kavuma, in his book Crisis in Buganda, the deportation of the Kabaka was a culmination of Buganda’s unsuccessful demand for more responsibilities from the British.

The Kabaka returned two years later, after making several concessions, including one that accepted having Buganda delegates in the Legislative Council (LEGCO), which was discussing Uganda’s national independence, rather than having independence discussions unilaterally with the British. A few years later, however, agitation for more power came up again. Several committees were set up to find ways for “Buganda’s Independence under the rule of the Kabaka.”

As the rest of the country fought for independence, Buganda also fought for her own independence. A Buganda delegation went to Britain and finally a neo-federal status was agreed upon for Buganda. On the eve of Independence Day, Buganda was given her own “Independence” by the British. For many Baganda, this was understood as giving them a state that was autonomous from Uganda.

The independence constitution gave Buganda powers that elevated its status making it different from other Kingdoms in the country. Buganda had it own parliament (Lukiiko), indirectly elected MPs to the national parliament, judicial system and ministers. The Kabaka was entitled to a maximum of 300 armed guards. However, Obote, the Baganda’s ally, soon started going back on his promises. He concluded that Buganda had got more than she could chew. He then moved to curb some of these powers.

But even with the enviable status, the Baganda felt that they had got byoya bya nswa (hot air), especially as far as powers of the king were concerned. For example, although the King of Buganda, Muteesa, was the President of this country, he had less authority than Milton Obote, the Prime Minister of Uganda.

The impasse resulted into the infamous 1966 crisis, whose echoes are still stinging the country’s ears up to today. The 1966 crisis reached boiling point after elements of the Buganda Lukiiko ordered the then Obote government to “leave their soil”. Obote responded with an attack on the Lubiri, sending Muteesa to exile.


Buganda has been a pot of water, simmering away. The riots over the stopping of the Kabaka from visiting Kayunga in September were just the peak of more than two years of simmering conflict between the central government and Mengo.
A year earlier, the Kabaka had been stopped from visiting Buruuli. In 2008, three Baganda officials were arrested and charged with sedition.

Tukooye okujoogebwa mu nsi yaffe,” (We are tired of being humiliated in our country) said Omutaka Nakirembeka, a fiery Buganda official, in the wake of the September riots. The opposition took the standoff as an opportunity to drive a wedge between the Government and Buganda. Some Buganda officials and subjects who also have links in the opposition want to benefit from the fight between the two.
These officials, mainly dominated by Democratic Party (DP) and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) including seasoned politicians like Joyce Ssebugwaawo, Ssebowa Kagulire, Betty Nambooze, Erias Lukwago, Husein Kyanjo, Betty Kamya and others have amalgamated well with free talking Medard Lubega and Daudi Mpanga to propel the opposition as the only remaining ‘saviour’ of the kingdom.

In 1962 when Kabaka Yekka, a Buganda-leaning party, wanted to stop DP from taking power, it they allied with UPC. Later the alliance broke and Baganda vowed to teach UPC a lesson. The chance came in 1980 elections and subsequent war in Luweero.

The anger of 1966 was still fresh in people’s minds. Most Baganda turned around to support DP, which they hated in 1962, in a bid to defeat Obote. DP was the most popular party in Buganda. However, the elections were rigged and their only hope of defeating Obote faded.

When President Yoweri Museveni went to the bush, he tapped into the anti-Obote sentiments and mobilised the Baganda to take out the UPC government.
Fighters like Haji Abdul Nadduli insist an agreement was signed to grant Buganda federo. But Museveni maintains no such agreement was signed.

However, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi visited Museveni in 1985, but this was long after the NRA had established themselves as a big army.

At the end of the war, Mutebi abandoned exile and returned to be crowned as Kabaka in 1993. From then on the Government embarked on correcting past mistakes by returning confiscated properties by the Obote government. The restitution of traditional rulers was not without opposition, but Museveni managed to persuade the National Resistance Council and the army’s high command.

Among the key things returned is the Lubiri of Mengo, and the area around it, other palaces in Banda, Kireka and Bamunanika, the Kabaka’s 350 square miles of land. Buganda also got back the buildings that formerly housed Masaka Technical Institute in which Mutesa II Royal University is now housed.

Some of the former Saza and gombolola headquarters that were once occupied by the local governments have also been returned.

During the making of the 1995 Constitution, the federal question was one of the most contentious. It was however defeated, largely because Buganda delegates did not mobilise well enough. A loose status, called charter was, however, put in the Constitution. And a provision for decentralisation of power from the centre to the districts was included.

This was seen as the beginning of the journey to a federal arrangement. It was further improved with the regional tier where districts agree to form a regional government. Some Baganda embraced this.

During talks between the central government and Buganda between 2002 and 2005, Katikkiro Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere and several other officials signed the regional tier agreement. However, it was later deemed as “unacceptable” and trashed. On second thoughts the Baganda rejected the provision of an elected Katikiro. But they are in agreement with all the others.

The Government has now moved on implement the regional tier system, but Buganda still insists it is not right because “it is oppressive” to them.

Who will back Buganda?

When Buganda attempted to secede on December 31, 1960, it discovered that it lacked the political, economic and military muscle to do so. That has not changed.

Fighting for secession is a dream, but one that is capable of causing trouble in Uganda. In his previously secession proposals three years ago Hussein Kyanjo, suggested the central Government vacates Buganda. Kampala, Uganda’s capital, is located in Buganda. It has grown on national taxes contributed by all Ugandans.

Therefore, it is difficult for the central government to vacate Kampala. Instead Buganda should be proud that it hosts the seat of the Government. But according to Kyanjo: “Whoever has contributed to Buganda’s development can be compensated.”

What he does not say is how the compensation can be done and where the money to compensate them will come from.

His other proposal to rid Kampala of government is war. Historically, however, Baganda has never fought alone. They always seek support of allies against their enemies.

In the late 1890s, they had the British. In the fight towards independence, they formed Kabaka Yekka against Ben Kiwanuka and had Obote’s support.

Against Obote, they had Museveni in the 1980s. The question is who will be their partner in the war to secede?

Published on: Saturday, 26th December, 2009