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It’s no longer Mengo, it’s now NRM versus Buganda- Bidandi

By Patrick Matsiko wa Mucoori

Following the September 7-12 riots that rocked the city and its suburbs after the police stopped the Kabaka from visiting Kayunga, The Independent sought views from prominent Baganda and other senior citizens on what this violence means for the NRM-Buganda relations and how best the matter should have been handled. Below are views from Bidandi Ssali, a Muganda, former NRM minister and now the president of the People’s Progressive Party, as told to Matsiko Wa Mucoori.

There seems to be an escalation of bad blood between President Yoweri Museveni and Mengo in recent years. Why?

These are the fruits of leadership that has lost direction, whose main focus is to retain power at whatever cost. You should not take this conflict between Mengo and the central government as an isolated incident. Go to Tororo and see what is happening between the Iteso and the Jopadhola. Go to Bunyoro and see what is happening between the Banyoro and Bakiga. See what is happening in the Muslim community between the two factions, plus other communities in our society. Look at the Kyabazinga fight in Busoga. The factions look up to Museveni for a solution. The NRM is under an illusion that each of these factions running to Museveni for a solution implies support for him.

Why should Museveni or the NRM create factions?

In a peaceful and calm Uganda, Museveni has lost support. If there was a free and fair election, no where would Museveni win in Uganda. And the NRM regime has realised this. For that reason they are sacrificing peace and stability in this country and subjecting our people to perpetual hatred [against each other].

Why is there the Banyala-Kabaka/Buganda conflict?

It’s being instigated. The Banyala are being manipulated. The Banyala have lived together peacefully. There have been differences before, but these squabbles have always been settled on the table.

Why should the government instigate the conflict?

It’s in pursuance of the divide-and-rule thinking that they have lost support in Buganda. The result is what we are seeing in the country now. The country is reaping blood because of the plans the NRM has been brooding. Some of us have questioned before but because we don’t believe in the might of the gun, the sponsors have always said let them try. This is going to lead to more chaos.

Where will this Mengo-Museveni fallout lead to?

I don’t want to say something that may escalate the situation. But the gun will not solve this problem. We have seen it before and all the country has reaped is blood and more blood. Museveni should prioritise politics and dialogue. He says the Kabaka has not been answering his telephone calls. I don’t think that if there is a genuine effort to talk, the Kabaka can refuse to talk to the president. But any way, must it only be by telephone, not other means?

What’s your reading of the impact this current Mengo-Museveni fallout will have on the NRM support in Buganda in 2011 elections?

The situation has now changed. It’s no longer between Mengo and Museveni. It’s now between Baganda and the leadership of this country. Unfortunately it’s now spiraling into ethnicity. What I appreciate now is that people outside Buganda have been sympathetic to Buganda in this situation. This gives a lot of promise in believing that the disagreement is at the leadership level, not society level.

You said all this is proof of the NRM’s divide-and-rule method. How does that help the NRM?

It’s because NRM has lost support in Buganda. It’s trying the divide-and-rule to regain the lost support. But of course it will be very counterproductive.

What does the Kabaka’s failure to go to Kayunga mean for his authority as a king of Buganda?

The situation in Kayunga is being incited through Office of the President. But the more Museveni takes these stern actions against the Kabaka the more he consolidates the Baganda behind the Kabaka. I am a Muganda and I feel hurt to hear such statements from Museveni about the Kabaka.

Does the September 11 deployment of soldiers at the Kabaka’s palace in Kireka have any similarities with the 1966 Kabaka crisis or the two are totally different?

In 1966 there was an impression that the late Kabaka Mutesa had amassed guns in Lubiri, which was the main pretext for Obote to send the army to the Lubiri. Here [in the September 11 incident] there was no pretext whatsoever. The Kabaka lives as a free man here. Despite the riots here and there, no Muganda fired a gun. So why send soldiers to the palace? This was an escalation of provocation. May be they hoped for a violent reaction from the Lubiri circles.

Some NRM cadres like Maj. Kahinda Otafiire have said they warned Museveni against restoring kingdoms and he is now paying the price. What’s your view?

That’s nonsense. Let the government stick to the law and whatever else they are talking about would be trash. This situation should not in any way have been created if we had a leadership that cared for harmony in this country.

How do you think the Kayunga saga should have been handled?

I have said this before. Let Museveni resort to politics, not the gun. He is always talking about battles. That means he is talking about guns. There is only politics to be applied here, not roaring of guns. In Kayunga, all that was needed was to ensure security for the Kabaka. The Kabaka was not forcing any person to go to meet him. It was a question of ensuring that the spot where the Kabaka was going to address the youth was secure. I am certain no Munyala was going to cause violence. By the way not all Banyala are against the Kabaka.

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