Mr President, I have dedicated a great deal of my time and research on the ongoing bickering between your Government and the Buganda Government. I have poured oceans of ink, in these very pages, about the Buganda Question.
I have talked to whoever matters at Mengo, except the Kabaka. I have found one apparent fact which we shall never run away from — no amount of intimidation or negotiation (in its recent form) or a combination of both will bring the standoff between Central Government of Uganda and Buganda to a conclusive end.
When I say “central government of Uganda” I am not particularly referring to NRM or President Museveni. No.
As I wrote before, this is not a disagreement between President Museveni’s Government and the Baganda.
This is a historical problem. Even if a Muganda took over the presidency and his Government behaves the way President Museveni’s Government is doing, he/she will be resisted in equal measure.
The subsequent text appeared in these pages before, but I find it as relevant now or even more relevant today than it was when last published.
I call upon you, Mr President and all fellow Ugandans to read this piece again, this time round with a pinch of salt.
“Every serious problem which we encountered in Uganda had its roots in the Buganda Problem,” quotes the Lord Munster Report of 1962. Forty-seven years later, this statement sounds as pertinent.
The writing is on the wall that Buganda has once again come back to haunt Uganda. It does not require one to be a political pundit to tell that NRM will not be same again, not only in Buganda but also in the whole Uganda.
The unresolved “Buganda Problem” which the leaders at Mengo prefer to call the ‘Buganda Question’ is written all over the political future of NRM and by extension of Uganda.
Mr. President, I don’t think I qualify to give you a lecture on what the Buganda Question is all about and how complex it is.
But I think I qualify to at least remind you about it, more so because you seem to have misconstrued the numerable contributions your Government has made to Buganda in the last 23 years as a solution to the Buganda Question.
The Buganda Question has never been the restoration of Kabaka or restitution of some of Buganda’s expropriated assets (ebyaffe) or giving jobs to a few Baganda professors. No.
In any case the Lord Munster Report of 1962, cited above, was written at a time when all these so-called achievements of NRM government for Buganda were extraneous, because Obote had not yet arrived on the scene.
So what is the real unresolved ‘Buganda Question’? What is that question that will never cease to haunt Uganda until it gets resolved?
The Baganda want to enjoy their right to self-determination, by virtue of which they should be able to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their destiny. This is the popular ‘federo’ everyone in Buganda is singing.
This is what is threatening NRM’s tenure in Uganda’s politics. This is what is likely to accomplish what politicians have failed to achieve — getting Museveni out of power.
The Baganda know that ‘federo’ is achievable and feasible. The British attempted to resolve the Buganda Question in the London Constitutional Conference of 1961.
Indeed the 1962 Uganda Constitution had entrenched Buganda’s status as a federal state of Uganda, and Baganda tasted the fruits of ‘federo’ until Kawenkene Obote violently abrogated the Constitution in 1966.
This action made the then iconic Obote very unpopular not only in Buganda but the whole of southern Uganda, and five years later he had to go where he had sent Sir Edward Muteesa II — in exile.
Mr President I know you know this story pretty well. What shocks me is your failure to appreciate the reality that seems palpable — you cannot rule Uganda if you are in the bad books of Buganda.
You have tried to play your cards smartly for the last 22 years, juggling the Buganda plates using a combination of co-option and coercion.
You co-opted a good number of the Baganda elite by incorporating them into NRM with the use of jobs and State patronage.
You also co-opted the Baganda peasants by providing them with public goods such as; UPE and USE, peace and security, electricity, healthcare, water etc. No region has benefited from NRM more than the Buganda region.
Not even the Ankole. Now you are drafting the land bill to further co-opt the landless Baganda peasants.
Those you have failed to co-opt, such as the current young breed at Mengo, you have often used coercive means to silence them.
Mr President, these young dogmatic leaders at Mengo decided to adopt a radical strategy to get the ‘Buganda Question’ resolved after realising that the negotiation (Enteesaganya), which for two decades has been the main strategy, has not only failed to deliver the results but also been abused.
To the ‘new’ leaders at Mengo, no negotiations can ever be meaningful when one party thinks of, and actually positions, itself as more equal than the other. To them inviting the Kabaka and/or his officials to State House for ‘negotiations’ is simply unacceptable.
This is the reason the new breed at Mengo decided to go radical. Does it surprise you Mr President when you see that actually it is only Katikkiro Walusimbi — a member of the old breed embedded in the new breed — who is still pushing for enteeseganya?
Walusimbi is now the unofficially most unpopular leader at Mengo. His only crime is failure to embrace the confrontational strategy as opposed to enteeseganya.
This, however, is not my point. My point is that the reason Mengo has become radical in its approach to getting the Buganda Question resolved is a multifaceted one.
Firstly, Mengo has come to realise that NRM is a failing government and it has wisely sought to jump off this sinking ship called NRM and by extension Uganda.
You may recall in 2007 Hon. Hussein Kyanjo started the debate for Buganda secession.
He made his points rather blatantly asserting that the Baganda were feeling alienated, that they were being denied ‘juicy’ jobs in government, that they were being threatened by military generals of NRM, that they were continuously getting economically deprived and culturally oppressed.
I remember also talking to former Katikkiro Dan Muliika, the only member of the old breed at Mengo who shares a radical stance with the new breed, and he said, “Museveni’s government has weakened our (Buganda’s) economy with its negative policies.
Our people are in abject poverty. And there is a systematic plan to exterminate the Baganda. This is real genocide.”
Muliika added, “Museveni’s government has tried all means to deny Buganda its historical sovereignty and economic status. He is a very dishonest man whose love for politics of intrigue and deceit is as evident as his continued grip on power.”
So, from now on, I see a Buganda that is evocative of the Muteesa II Buganda. The reign of Sir Edward Muteesa II (1939-1969) — the thirty-fifth king of Buganda — was characterised by protracted struggles to regain Buganda’s historical position. What I don’t know is whether his son will also end where he ended.
I talked to one of Mengo’s key strategists and he said “In the last 22 years of NRM rule, Buganda has actually lost more than it did lose in the earlier 20 years.
Unlike in the 20 years prior to NRM when Buganda knew pretty well who its enemies were and was fighting them, in the last 22 years Buganda thought it had a friend in NRM and, therefore, never bothered to fight, but to talk.
“So the ‘friend’ took advantage of Buganda’s unawareness of their frosty relationship and weakened it further. The ‘friend’ employed the most educated children of Buganda and thus provided them with a five-course meal.
And as it is always culturally expected among the Baganda not to talk while eating, these educated children of Buganda, who ought to fight and liberate their kingdom, went into deathly quiet episodes of banquet.
He also added, “While Obote took away Buganda’s independence and pride in 1966 rather candidly by attacking Ssekabaka Mutesa II’s palace sending him into exile; Museveni is undermining Kabaka Mutebi’s rule by creating chiefdoms where they never existed, such as the Banyala in Bugerere and Baluri in Nakasongola.”
So, according to the new breed at Mengo the NRM era has been the worst years for Buganda. They have been years when NRM pulled the wool over the eyes of the Baganda.
It made them continue singing “ekitiibwa kya Buganda kyava da” with such relish without realising that they would do better if they replaced the last suffix with kyafa da!
This is the very reason I strongly believe that this is the moment you, Mr President, and all fellow Ugandans must come off the fence, where we have been seated the last two decades, and find a lasting solution to the Buganda Question. Confrontation is by all measures no answer to this ‘easier said than done’ question.
By Ramathan Ggoobi