Buganda’s marked prince
If one day can define the life of a man, then Tuesday March 28, 1995 is that day for Besweri Mulondo, who died on April 5, 2016 aged 90 years, writes Kavuma Kaggwa.
Back in 1995, Ugandans were drafting a new constitution through delegates to the Constituent Assembly (CA) sitting in conference centre in Kampala. On March 28, 1995, there was heated debate on federalism; a matter that was cherished by Mulondo’s tribesmen, the Baganda, but was anathema for the majority republicans in the CA.
In an attempt to circumvent the obvious opposition to federalism, Buganda delegates, together with advocates of a switch from President Yoweri Museveni’s Movement politics to multipartyism, had hatched a plan.
According to the plan, non-Baganda delegates would propose federal. This was designed to make it look like a national, rather than Baganda, demand. It was agreed, however, that a prominent Muganda would conclude the federal demand pitches. That Muganda was Besweri Mulondo, then-ssabalangira (chief prince), member of the-parliamentary body (NRC), for Mityana, and First Deputy katikiro (prime minister) and minister for Agriculture in the Buganda kingdom government.
Mulondo, who was 69-years old at the time, was a dapper dresser with a penchant for wearing pure-white suits, flamboyant cravats, and matching white Stetson hats. He was the Leader of the Buganda Delegation in the CA.
Everything went according to plan until it was Mulondo’s turn to speak.
To Buganda’s chagrin, Mulondo said he was opposing the proposal. He argued that although Buganda cherished federalism, its appeal had been blemished by the distrust he, as a Muganda, held for its promoters in the CA. Mulondo used several Luganda proverbs to make his points.
Pointing at its prominent promoters; members of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) party of then-exiled former president Milton Obote; who had abolished monarchs and driven Buganda’s Kabaka Fredrick Muteesa II into exile, Mulondo said “ensibambi edibya muteere” (meaning that bad packaging can destroy the sale-value of even a good product) and that federalism, when proposed by Buganda’s opponents, was like “ssesota mu nsuwa” (a snake in a cooking pot).He rejected it and Buganda lost its fight for federal status within a republican Uganda. Many never forgave Mulondo. He was forced out of his positions in the Kabaka’s government and stripped of the Ssaabalangira title.
Mulondo died a broken man at the International Hospital in Kampala.
He was born on March 12, 1926 at his native Kyankowe Village in Singo County of the Buganda Kingdom.
I knew Besweri Mulondo in the 1960s at the time before Uganda became independent from the British. He was working in the Lint Marketing Board in Kampala, and I was an Information Officer in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. I came to know him more when both of us were in exile in Nairobi in the early 1980s and we used to meet in the pharmacy of the late Dr. Samson Kisekka on Moi Avenue near Development House.
Mulondo used to join our political discussions with the late Dr. B.N Kununka. I remember that Mulondo, in these meeting, liked everyone to know his passion for the Buganda kingdom. He would repeatedly say: “We are fighting to remove Obote but Yoweri Museveni must know that as soon as we win the war, the Buganda Kingdom must be restored.”
When the NRM/NRA forces captured Kampala, Mulondo returned to Uganda with Dr. Kisekka who became Prime Minister and later Vice President.
When the Buganda Kingdom was restored on July 31, 1993, Besweri Mulondo shrewdly worked his way into the circles of the palace at Mengo and he was appointed Sabalangira (Head of the Balagangira Clan). Balangira means the Princes and Princesses of the Buganda Kingdom. This automatically made him to be trusted in the Kabaka’s Palace and at the time of the CA, he was appointed head of the Buganda delegation.
When the Constitutional Commission headed by Justice Benjamin Odoki, published its report, it revealed that 97% of the people in Buganda wanted a federal system of government for Uganda, compared to 67% of people outside Buganda who also wanted it.