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Museveni wants to intimidate the Kabaka

By mubatsi asinja habati

The proposed Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Bill 2010 that seeks to regulate activities of the cultural leaders has sparked a row between Buganda kingdom’s Mengo-based government and the central government. The Buganda Parliamentary Caucus MPs say the Bill should be revised before it is debated in Parliament. The Independent’s Mubatsi Asinja Habati spoke to Latif Ssebagala the vice chairman of the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus about their opposition to the Bill.

What issues is the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus opposing in the Bill?

We do not agree with the way partisan politics is defined in clause 13 of the bill. Article 38(1) of the Constitution of Uganda empowers every Ugandan, including traditional leaders, to participate in the affairs of the government yet this bill bars them from commenting on any government policy. Clause 5 of the Bill, gives government power to recognise someone as a traditional leader. But we know that some traditional leaders in some areas of Uganda are born with these privileges so there is no way they can get their recognition from government. These are simple cultural matters which you cannot legislate.

There is contention on the withdrawal of recognition in Clause 7 of the Bill from a cultural leader. This means the government can wake up and withdraw recognising Ssabasajja Kabaka. We have issues with Clause 8 which pertains to jurisdiction of traditional or cultural leaders, Clause 9, and Clause 15 where traditional leaders have to be cleared by the government before travelling to a foreign government. It has been a normal practice for the leader to get a diplomatic note that he or she is traveling out of the country. Why should you legislate it yet it has been the practice?  Why include it in the Bill unless you have a hidden agenda.

The Bill targets traditional and cultural leaders in the whole country. Why are the politicians from Buganda making it appear to be a Central Government versus Buganda affair?

Communities which are most hurt are the ones that come out strongly against it. For instance, when we had the Domestic Relations Bill it was a Bill written for all Ugandans, but the Muslim community came out and strongly opposed it because they thought there were clauses that contradicted on the practice of their faith. It was withdrawn and harmonised. The Buganda caucus is raising this alarm so that other cultural leaders can see the point.

In fact some cultural leaders say it is okay to be facilitated and they appreciate government’s generosity.

They do not see the danger. As Baganda we cherish our Kabaka. That’s why we say this Bill should be amended. It has many clauses that are in conflict with our cultural norms and the country’s constitution.

The Buganda caucus has 80 members but less than 30 have been attending and largely those from the opposition parties. NRM legislators meet President Yoweri Museveni privately.  Given the numerical strength of NRM in parliament, will Buganda parliamentarians maintain your position on this Bill long enough to get the amendments you desire?

The Buganda caucus has agreed that we stay the bill to allow further consultations. If the Bill is urgently needed it should be handled after elections when we have enough time to debate. Any member of Buganda Caucus who moves away from that position should be treated as a traitor.

During the Land Amendment Bill 2007 the Buganda caucus had a position similar to this one.  The Land Bill was passed anyway. Won’t the same thing happen again?

The Bill has come when members are campaigning. If we see some members who are opposed to the position of the caucus then they will be exposed so that the general public and voters will know those for and against the king of Buganda and decide. Whoever has Buganda issues at heart should come out and be clear. The moment you say one thing when you are in the Buganda Caucus and a different thing when you meet the President, then the voters will decide.

What impact will this Bill have on cultural institutions if passed in its current form?

It will signify that government can abolish these cultural institutions, which we have cherished over the years, at any particular time using the law. It means the government will be protected by the law in a situation where a cultural institution is abolished.

Is the Bill more political than legal?

The Bill does not serve the said purpose of operationalising Article 246. We believe it has a hidden political agenda. That is why the President wants it passed before the elections.

What is this hidden political agenda?

I suspect that the government in this Bill it is trying to harmonise its relationship with Mengo government. Lately the President has been saying the Kabaka is again not receiving his phone calls. I think the president wants to intimidate the Kabaka by showing that he has the powers to abolish the kingdom and have others put in place.

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