By Patrick Matsiko wa Mucoori
Now I know why it is quite easy to become a witchdoctor or soothsayer in Uganda. Situations or trends in Uganda are so predictable that any ordinary mortal can foretell with precision or close accuracy what will happen tomorrow and it indeed happens as projected. If the predictions I made in The Independent edition of August 7-13, 2009 under the article ‘Federo: Museveni Walking in Obote’s 1966 Footsteps’ were to go by, I would be justifiably mistaken for a star soothsayer by Ugandan standards. But, by any stretch of imagination, I am not. In that edition I stated thus: ‘My intuition tells me that if the same situation that prevailed in 1966 before Obote ordered the attack on the Lubiri confronted Museveni today, he would act more ruthlessly than Obote did. Why? If a mere negative campaign against the Land Bill last year provoked him into ordering the arrest of three Buganda officials and detention in unknown places for days, how would he have reacted if; one, the Lukiiko had ordered him to take his government out of Buganda; two, the Kabaka was stocking guns in the Lubiri and had called all able-bodied Baganda to undergo military training, as was the case in 1966.’
After this article, I received a lot of angry mail condemning me as a harbinger of doom, a wishful thinker and a liar because ‘Museveni cannot do such a thing to the Kabaka. But equally I also received support mails from people who associated with my observations.
I am now absolved by the September 7-12 events which led to spontaneous violent riots in the city arising from President Museveni’s order to block the Kabaka from visiting Kayunga, which is part of Buganda Kingdom any way. From my reading of Museveni’s statement to the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus at State House on September 10, his anger stemmed from the fact or belief that the Kabaka, the Mengo administration and the kingdom’s CBS radio had been undermining his government through negative propaganda or sheer arrogance. Museveni’s anger seems to have been amplified by the fact that the Kabaka had declined to receive his telephone calls for two years. He construed such behaviour as unforgivable arrogance (joogo). However the Kabaka was undeterred. The Kabaka insisted he would go ahead with the Kayunga visit, Museveni’s instructions notwithstanding. What followed?
Museveni ordered the military to besiege the Kabaka’s palaces in Lubiri, Kireka and Banda on Friday night of September 11. He had deployed military tanks, battle wagons and vehicles including Armed Personnel Carriers all over Kampala and Kayunga as if Uganda was heading to a war front with a neighbouring state. All this weaponry was to confront an unarmed Kabaka probably whose only armament or weapon was the traditional Ganda bark cloth and a symbolic wooden shield. Ever heard of getting a hammer to kill a fly?
In 1966 Obote was confronting an armed Kabaka with a heavily armed royal guard. In fact the first batch of security personnel who went to the Lubiri to verify information that there were stockpiles of arms, were mauled down by the Kabaka’s royal guard. It was after this incident, that Obote reacted by sending the army to invade the Lubiri. This time in the case of September 11, 2009, Museveni was confronting an unarmed Kabaka. There was no report, leave alone a rumour, that Kabaka had a gun, or even a pistol, in his palace. But Museveni deployed tanks, Mambas, all sorts of weaponry and battle wagons all over Kampala and sent soldiers to surround the Kabaka’s palace.
So what would have happened if the Kabaka had been armed? Or let’s put it this way. What would have happened if the Kabaka had dared leave his palace for Kayunga on that Saturday of September 12? I can predict without fear of contradiction that he would have been violently arrested by the army, and probably charged with treason.
This is not to justify Obote’s action in 1966. But in comparison to Museveni’s response to the Kabaka Mutebi saga, Obote’s reaction becomes mild given the nature and threat of the situations both presidents faced at the respective times.
But let’s look at another important issue. The Kabaka was blocked from going to Kayunga on the pretext that someone claiming to be a Ssabanyala, cultural leader of Banyala, was opposed to the royal visit. I heard President Museveni justifying this on grounds that under the Uganda constitution, any community has a right to have its cultural leader. Yes, that’s absolutely right. But does it mean that when you become a cultural leader of a community living on a king’s territory, you secede from the kingdom? I don’t think so. Such a cultural leader remains subordinate to the king.
There are many non-Baganda communities in Buganda. Given the Kayunga precedent, does this now mean that, for instance, if the Nubians in Bombo, Luwero, elected their cultural leader today or the Bafumbira in Kamwokya installed a ‘Ssabafumbira’, the Kabaka would be required to seek permission from them before visiting as was the Banyala case in Bugerere?
Put it this way, if the Bakiga in Kibaale installed their Rutakirwa (cultural leader) today, would Museveni allow them to refuse Bunyoro’s king Solomon Iguru to visit their area unless he obtains permission from the Rutakirwa?
If the Kayunga incident is to be replicated, Kabaka Mutebi may soon find himself without territory to go to in Buganda except his own homestead. Some people call such a monarch obwakabaka bwomulujja (household king).
Now you can see why it is easy to be a seer or soothsayer in Uganda. You don’t need to have supernatural powers. Just natural intelligence.