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Anatomy of Museveni and Mengo crisis

By Guweddeko Fred

Uganda has been thrown into a Mengo vs President Museveni rivalry, which elicits questions over the current and future peace between the different ethnic groups within Buganda and in other regions of the country. The crux of the crisis is Mengo opposition to Musevenis political move to create cultural leaders in Buganda Kingdom and Museveni’s resistance against Mengo using culture to achieve a political federalism in Uganda.

Cause of conflict

Mengo demands a federal status from Museveni, sometimes as a legitimate claim from the Odoki and Sempebwa Constitutional Commissions, and sometimes as a fulfillment of the 1981 Agreement of the NRA/M bush war. Museveni says he cant give Federal to Mengo but he complains that they do not want to negotiate it with him.

Mengo opposes Museveni on the balkanisation of Buganda Kingdom through the creation of sub-ethnic districts. Toro Kingdom is the example whereby the formerly single unit is dissected into; Kasese for Bakonjo, Bundibugyo for Bamba, Ntorooko for Batuuku, Kibaale [in Kamwenge] for Bakiga, etc. This balkanisation will replicate the current Buganda crisis in Bunyoro, Busoga, Toro, Teso, Acholi and West Nile sub-regions.

Mengo demands are interchangeably presented as Museveni personal issues, Government of Uganda responsibilities, as NRM Party politics, as Presidential electioneering and NRM/A 1981-5 war commitments. Museveni alternately handles Mengo problems as electoral promises, then as culture, constitutional, legal, financial, security, etc, etc. The presentation, methodology and language have kept shifting upto the current violence.Â

Mengo is infuriated by what it perceives as Museveni’s determination to undermine Buganda’s political influence, to demolish the glory of Buganda Kingdom, and to deny it Federal while openly supporting non-Baganda groups and individuals’ interests against Buganda. Mengo has imparted this fury in the Baganda youths at the core of the riots.

 1981 NRM/A War Agreement

Museveni claims he won the war ‘alone’, made no ‘agreement to restore monarchies’ but rather philanthropically reinstated Buganda Kingdom, Kabaka Mutebi and the Mengo administration. Mengo counterclaims that Baganda received, hosted, united under NRM/A and brought Museveni to power. The current crisis involves Museveni and Mengo claiming to have created the other.Â

At this point, Museveni is invited to remember a Muganda called Mule Muwanga [RIP], who led him to the first meeting with the Buganda UFF group, and another Muganda called Waswa who led him to the seminal meeting. If Museveni does not remember any agreement, the man who brought the exercise books used in the meeting is still alive. Led by Prof. Lule, could UFF have united with Museveni without a formal ‘agreement’? The riots are over the violation of the supposed ‘agreement’.

Kyeyune and the War Agreement

Apparently, the obstacle to publicising the controversial 1981 NRM/A War Agreement is that it may cause execution of one of its principal progenitors, on the Buganda side, called Kyeyune. With his memory of an elephant, Museveni may recall his altercations with Kyeyune during the talks that precipitated uniting to form NRM/A.Â

In 1986 when Kyeyune demanded the implementation of the ‘Agreement’, he was charged with treason, sentenced to death and is now on a death row in Luzira Prison awaiting execution. It is feared that any move to produce the1981 NRM/A War Agreement may cause somebody to sign the execution papers for Kyeyune’s hanging. It is also feared that any other person producing the ‘Agreement’ is likely to suffer Kyeyune’s fate.

Whether, Museveni or Mengo are truthful or deceitful about the1981 NRM/A War Agreement, we may not tell. But if Kyeyune was pardoned, progress could be made on the truth or falsity of the reported 1981 NRM/A War Agreement and possible violations.

Kayira and Museveni

Using the Andrew Kayira case, Museveni always gives his own version of history of the 1981-86 war, the role and importance of the monarchy and Buganda’s federal demands. Kayira participated in the 1979 ‘Twagala Lule’ riots by the Baganda who formed UFF. However, in September 1980 he opted for a national rather than an ethnic political struggle. Therefore it cannot be true when Museveni says he discussed Buganda monarchy and federal positions, in the anti-Obote war, with Kayira who had already rejected an ethnic war. Actually, Kayira opposed Museveni on incorporating the Buganda monarchy and federal cause in the war against Obote.

UFF War Deaths

The absence of Baganda in the top command structures of the NRA at the end of the war and years later has prevented making Buganda an NRM cradle. The absence is because all the UFF military leaders in the top echelons of the NRA died in the war though apparently, none of them died from enemy gunfire. Ordinary Baganda drew in 1983 and still draw in 2009, different conclusions from the absence of their ilk in the army.

The most senior UFF commander who survived the bush war was killed at Kololo in 1986 by unidentified men in military uniform. This destroys the basis of explaining the earlier deaths of other Baganda UFF military leaders in the NRA. The love-hate relationship and misgivings of the Baganda over their absence in NRM/A leadership could be behind the current riots.

Kayunga rioters

The core of the Kayunga rioters are the impoverished young Baganda strongly believing that their misery under Museveni and NRM will only be cured through Mengo, Kabaka Mutebi and the physical resources of the kingdom including areas like Kayunga supposedly being sliced off by the NRM. They are thus attacking any presumed beneficiary of the NRM regime. They have attacked the rich, regardless of whether they are fellow Baganda, assumed Banyankore or the foreigners enjoying the privileges of ‘investors’.

These riots are occasioned by the clique around President Museveni who enjoy military protection and do not recognise the risk Uganda faces from Buganda as they are blinded by greed for office, privileges and money. They sing “yes Sir” instead of advising Museveni that suppressing Baganda with guns rather than attending to their poverty needs and Federal demands, means that this violent crisis is merely postponed to a future date, new method and venue.

Those people dismissing these rioters because of President Museveni assurance that he has won many wars and will win this one, and protect the life of Ugandans should ask about how many lives have perished as Museveni ‘wins’ the war against LRA. War is not a pleasant thing to brag about.

Baganda solidarity

Though the differences in economic class, political, religious and other groupings are strong among Baganda, it is still easy as the ad hoc riots showed, for Baganda to realise a critical mass of unity for action. The absence of any of the Baganda leaders from any sector directly condemning Buganda for the 2009 September 7-12 riots is proof that the presumed disunity of the Baganda is false.

Ahmed Seguya Case

Ahmed Seguya was a Muganda FRONASA guerilla reportedly trained by Museveni in Mozambique in 1972-3 and commander of Museveni’s security in 1979. As a Senior 4 student at Kololo SSS, Seguya had worked with Museveni from 1970 when he participated in the NUSU national President elections where the Rugunda-Museveni UPC faction defeated the Obote-backed Massete Kuuya faction. However, when the issue of fighting for Buganda arose, Seguya deserted Museveni and joined UFF. During the talks to unite as NRM/A Seguya was in Kyaggwe preparing the UFF force that was to fight in the Eastern Kampala axis. Under NRM/A-UFF deal, Seguya became the NRA Army Commander.

Seguya’s switching from Museveni to UFF is evidence that Buganda unity for common good as in the current crisis can be real.

Abusing Museveni and NRM

According to Museveni, the 2009 Buganda riots are an extension of the abuses at himself and the NRM from certain FM radio stations, ‘Bimeeza’ and Baganda journalists. This contradicts his popular sound bite saying that it’s okay for politicians like him to be abused. It also contradicts his December 21, 1998 speech to the NRM Caucus, saying that he is immune to insults because of the training he got from Obote. These riots were indeed an extension of FM stations and ‘Bimeeza’ wars, where President Museveni participates directly and through his media cadres like, Tamale Mirundi.

For the FM stations and ‘Bimeeza’ to ignite street riots means that Museveni and NRM have failed to act on the issues debated at these fora. Thus, the FM stations and ‘Bimeeza’ debates have been transferred from the air waves to the streets, and the methodology changed from talking to violence. Responsibility for this falls equally on all the parties to such debates be  Mengo, NRM, Museveni, FDC, Besigye, Bidandi Ssali, DP, the rioters, etc, etc

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Publicising Killings

wAccording to President Museveni, the Buganda riots were caused by FM stations and journalists publicising the killings, arson and other violence. Subsequently, these stations and journalists have been closed or banned.  By end of 1986 there was a UPC news policy banning publication of figures of killings in political conflicts. In April 1987, Museveni changed this policy and by ‘Executive Order’, opened the publication of killings in political conflicts. Museveni’s order is in the Speech to the NRC on Tuesday, April 7, 1987: “Some say it is wrong to announce casualties and the dead in conflicts by moribund elements… I find it nonsensical to think that it is alright to publish car accident [deaths] and not about armed conflict where great issues are at stake.”

By condemning FM stations and journalists publicising the killings in the ‘Buganda riots’, Museveni was biting his own tongue. Because it is his own order and logic that opened killings to the press for publication.

1966 Vs 2009 Buganda Crises

In the May 21-23rd 1966 Baganda riots, Obote first deployed the police, which were overwhelmed. Then he sent the army on May 24, 1966. In September 10-12, 2009 Baganda riots, President Museveni released the army immediately. The only difference between Museveni and Obote in respect to the Buganda riots is in the release of the army. Short of this, it is only the spelling of their names, which distinguishes Museveni from Obote in their stand, attitude and policy on Buganda, and their response to Buganda unrest. For the Baganda, they feel as wronged by Museveni as they were by Obote.

Buganda Riots Aftermath

According to Museveni, “some elements in Mengo got foreign funding to further their aims of fighting NRM”. Museveni vows to defeat Mengo and winning wars is the greatest achievement in his CV as a leader. However, one may ask whether he won the DR Congo wars against Kabira and Kagame, has defeated the Somalia militants or cerebrated an anniversary of Joseph Kony’s defeat. It maybe deceptive to accept Museveni’s prowess in war when riots are threatening to tear the country apart.

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Guweddeko Fred is a researcher at Makerere University.

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