Wednesday, September 9, 2009





President Museveni should apologise for “meddling” in Buganda Kingdom’s affairs, a minister from Mengo said yesterday.

The call came as officials from Mengo accused the central government of inciting the Banyala uprising against Kabaka Ronald Mutebi’s planned visit to Kayunga District.

Acting Information Minister Medard Lubega’s call for an apology from State House came after President Museveni’s adviser on Buganda Kingdom, Mr Robert Ssebunya, asked the Kabaka to apologise for refusing to meet the President, and for making political statements in contravention of the Constitution.

“The Kabaka has no reason for apologising,” Mr Lubega said. “It is the President who should instead apologise to his Majesty and the entire kingdom for unnecessarily meddling into the kingdom issues. They have always tried to limit [the Kabaka’s] movements yet these are just mere visits to his subjects.”

It was the latest salvo in a war that has pitted the Banyala community against Buganda Kingdom, from which the former are seeking autonomy, with the central government looming in the shadows.

In Parliament, Buganda MPs vowed to boycott the House if the central government does not explain its role in the conflict while Mengo, the seat of the Kingdom’s government, laid out an elaborate route that the Kabaka intends to use to Kayunga on Saturday.

Although figures from the 2002 census show that three out of every 10 residents of the district are Baganda, kingdom officials say the Banyala, who made up less than three per cent of the population, are receiving support from the central government in order to weaken the Kabaka.

Mr Ssebunya, speaking to journalists, had sought to navigate out of the rapids in which the matter now finds itself by accusing the Kabaka of making inflammatory comments rather than meet the President to defuse the tensions.

“It was principally wrong for the Kabaka to reject the President’s invitations because it doesn’t contravene any cultural norms,” Mr Ssebunya, a former minister in the Buganda Kingdom, told journalists. “Let him apologise to the President and we see how we can mend this fading relationship.

“It is very clear in the Constitution that the Kabaka and other cultural leaders are not supposed to engage in politics but surprisingly the Kabaka is doing the contrary; he makes political statements which require political answers.”

Mr Ssebunya’s comments drew a sharp response from Mr Lubega who defended the Kabaka’s willingness to resolve the stand-off.
“The Kabaka has always met the President on several occasions and many issues have been discussed but not implemented. What we want is constructive negotiations that will build the Kingdom of Buganda and other kingdoms,” he said by telephone.

The Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II.

The call for a presidential apology will only raise stakes between the kingdom and the central government and came exactly 42 years to the day that former President Milton Obote’s government banned traditional kingdoms.

Although President Museveni’s government restored the kingdoms in 1993, relations have hit new lows on the back of differences over proposed amendments to the Land Act, the expansion of Kampala City’s boundaries, the refusal to consider a federal system of government and the failed return of properties still held by the central government.

President Museveni’s spokesman, Mr Tamale Mirundi, said yesterday that the Head of State is yet to pronounce himself on the Kabaka’s planned visit to Kayunga.
“He hasn’t made a decision to stop the visit; the President’s position will depend on security concerns. He is a man of his own and I cannot predict what he will do,” he said. The spokesman did not say whether the visit required presidential approval before it could take place.

Mr Mirundi, who is a vocal critic of Buganda Kingdom, however said President Museveni supports the rights of ethnic minority groups to pursue cultural autonomy.

“The President is for all Ugandans and he is of the view that everybody should be given equal rights; that is why he has to consider the interests of the Banyala too,” he said. “I have not talked to the President about it but what I know is that he respects the law; he respects culture and that is why he has held meetings with leaders of small cultural groups like the Banyala.

“The Banyala’s rights were trumped upon in the past and we should respect the fact that they are fighting for their cultural recognition.”

A curiously-timed decision by the army to withdraw soldiers deployed to guard traditional leaders, including the Kabaka, has raised the stakes over the monarch’s planned visit to his subjects in Kayunga.

Buganda Kingdom considers the Banyala as constituent subjects of the realm and accuses the central government of inciting the breakaway intentions – as well as those of the Baruuli – as a plan to weaken it.

Mr Ssebunya said yesterday that the central government had no hand in the “regrettable” plans by the Banyala to block the Kabaka’s visit which saw anti-riot police disperse Baganda who were setting up exhibition stalls in Kayunga ahead of the visit.

“This government loves the Kabaka and cannot bar him from touring parts of his kingdom.”

Despite the assurances, Buganda MPs yesterday demanded for an explanation from the government on the police action and the decision to replace the army guards with military police.

At a press briefing at Parliament after a stormy closed-door meeting chaired by Kawempe South MP, Mr Ssebuliba Mutumba, the MPs unanimously condemned the police action and called on the government to respect the rule of law.

“We demand that the government explains in-depth to the nation the security of the Kabaka and his tour to Bugerere not later than [today],” Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo said, reading a written statement. “Short of that we shall stay away from Parliament.”

The MPs called upon the Kabaka to proceed with his tour “without any interference” and noted that it was his constitutional right to do so.

Parliament had earlier directed Internal Affairs Minister and Third Deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja, who was not in the House, to prepare a government response to the queries. Mr Kivejinja had earlier warned the Kabaka against the visit on the grounds that it could spark violence in the area.

Kayunga District headquarters, the venue of the controversial celebrations, remained deserted yesterday as mobile police kept patrolling the area to block any attempt to erect stalls.

On a visit to meet his “subjects” in Galilaaya Sub-county, the leader of the Banyala, Capt. Baker Kimeze warned of violence.
“We shall not sleep in our houses until this war is over,” he said. “We are still mobilising for the Baganda who want to attack us and we shall fight to the last person.”

But the youth representative to the Buganda Lukiiko, Mr Ffeffekka Sserubogo, who also hails from the area, said: “The heavy deployment will not deter us from going to Kayunga. As far as we are concerned the celebrations will still go on.”

Route unveiled

Buganda Kingdom yesterday unveiled the official route to be used by Kabaka Mutebi on his way to Kayunga District to officiate at Buganda Youth Day celebrations in the area.

Lead organiser, Ms Betty Nambooze, said the Kabaka will make stopovers at Kireka, Sseeta, Mukono Town Council, Nama Sub-County, Kalagi-Nakifuma, Nagalama, Ndese-Nandiri and Kabimbiri on his way.

“The Kabaka will make several stopovers to greet his people and a special committee in charge of mobilisation is already in place,” Ms Nambooze said.
The committee has also received 20 lorries and buses to ferry people to Kayunga, according to Nambooze who said a million people were expected to attend the celebrations.

Youths released

Meanwhile, the five Buganda youths who were arrested by the anti- riot police on Monday at Kayunga district were freed yesterday with no charges preferred against them.

The Central Region Police commander, Mr Richard Mivule, said the police had decided to free the youths after realising that they were “misguided and misused”.

Reported by M. Ssenkabirwa, F. Nalubega, R. Mwanje, F. Muzaale, M. Nalugo, Y. Mugerwa and G. Bareebe