Next fight between Kabaka, Museveni?
Did President Yoweri Museveni recently summon Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II to a hurried meeting over the rampant land evictions in Buganda? Possibly he did or possibly he did not. What is known is that a meeting took place between them on April 07.
That is the same day officials of the Buganda Land Board, which is alleged to be behind spiraling land evictions, razed property belonging to renowned musician Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
Now word on the street is that the attack on Bobi Wine’s property which was screened on TV and streamed online by Bobi Wine fans (he has over 400,000 followers on Facebook), led Museveni to summon the Kabaka to discuss that and other issues on land in Buganda. Issues reportedly included the land cases the Kabaka is battling in court, including one by his relatives; the balangira and bambejja (princes and princesses) descended from the late Kabaka Daudi Chwa II and the Kabaka’s move to offer 49 year leases to tenants on his vast land holdings.
Museveni was reportedly not happy about the way BLB was selling land to people without putting into consideration the bibanja settlers and the fees ranging between Shs100,000 and Shs600,000 that the Kabaka’s government was charging bibanja holders who are bonafide occupants under customary tenure. It will be recalled that when Museveni was handing over 80 land titles to Mengo officials, he cautioned them about reports he was getting that they were evicting ‘my people’ from their land. It appears Museveni has now found a slot to take a populist stance on the side of the bibanja peasants against the Kabaka and his chiefs. Sources privy to the meeting at State House confirm some of these issues.
The Independent has also confirmed that the government is in the final stages of reacting to some of them. The Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Betty Amongi told The Independent in an interview that she has prepared a Cabinet Paper to guide the government’s discussion and eventual position on the issues.
Many observers pointed at the stiff body language between Museveni and the Kabaka and the secrecy surrounding what was discussed to speculate on hardening positions. It could have been coincidental, but many observers dwelt on how Museveni was clad in full military attire for the meeting. Museveni, it is said, often reverts to military dress whenever he is in combative mood. After the meeting, a terse written statement to journalists from the President’s residence, State House, in Entebbe said rather simply that “they discussed pertinent issues on development and national interest.”
Later, Museveni’s Facebook page uploaded four pictures of the meeting with the words: “I thank the Kabaka and Katikkiro Mayiga for coming to meet me.” It also did not give any hint or details about the meeting.
When the kingdom prime minister, Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga, who accompanied the Kabaka together with the king’s brother; Prince David Wassajja, was asked by journalists about details of the meeting, he said the two had met for “a casual discussion and a normal cup of tea”. This set off another flurry of speculation on social media what the two were discussing.
President Museveni and the Kabaka are not known to enjoy any cup of tea together. Before the recent meeting, the last time met was eight years back in 2009 after the so-called “Buganda riots” that erupted after Museveni blocked the Kabaka from visiting one of his territories – Bugerere.
Whatever the case, observers say, the rising land evictions and other maneuvers regarding land in Buganda, orchestrated mainly by BLD, represent a major political powder keg that both Museveni and the Kabaka need to keep their eyes on and cool down.
Take the Bobi Wine case. It is eye-catching because it involves popular musician and celebrity and also because the disputed land reportedly belongs to Kabaka’s Treasury (Nkuluze) ,
In the tangled land management maze in the Buganda kingdom, the Nkuluze is supposed to manage Kabaka’s personal land, including land he inherited well as that he bought, outside of land managed by BLB.
A spokesperson for the kingdom said land which is referred to as “Kabaka’s land” in fact comes in three shapes; it includes Kabaka’s private land which is under Nkuluze, another over 1,000 square miles controlled by BLB which include the 350 square miles allotted to the office of the Kabaka in the 1900 agreement, to the offices of Katikkiro, Mother Queen (Namasole), Treasurer (Omuwanika), and it also includes the land where Buganda county and sub county headquarters used to be.
Bobi Wine’s case is also eye-catching because, until now, he has been considered a favourite in the Kabaka’s court at Mengo and coincidentally calls himself Omubanda wa Kabaka (loosely translated to mean “Kabaka’s bad boy”. But as bulldozers razed his property, a crestfallen Bobi Wine was shown complaining of mistreatment by “an institution I feel I have worked hard for”.
A Minister for Information in the Kabaka’s government, Noah Kiyimba, later rubbed salt into the wounds when he told journalists that they had sought discussions over the disputed land with Bobi Wine for over six years; from 2011 to 2017 but he had failed to cooperate.
“It is, therefore, surprising that Bobi Wine is now using the media to put the good name of the Kingdom in disrepute when it is him who occupied the land illegally and forcefully,” Kiyimba said.
Bobi Wine, however, says he bought the land from the same kingdom officials.
“Apart from the main venue of One Love Beach by the lakeside that we had acquired and developed into a beach for more than a decade now in 2010, I bought another piece of land which I paid for fully and developed into a modern parking which we have been using ever since,” Bobi Wine said in a statement.
This case is big because Bobi Wine has over 400,000 followers on Facebook and many of the have since been pouring unprecedented vitriol against the kingdom.