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NRM must recognise Buganda’s value

By Paulo Wangoola

After subduing the rest of Uganda’s historical power centres, Museveni now is frontally taking on Buganda

There is no doubt the coming to power by Yoweri Museveni and NRM in 1986, and remaining popular for 15 years, was directly linked to the unequivocal political support of Buganda Kingdom establishment.  Yet on Buganda, Museveni was like Idi Amin; he too had no intention of reversing Obote’s abolition of kingdoms.  Museveni’s personal fortune of overstaying in power has been his misfortune on Buganda.  Twenty five years in power have been more than ample for his true colours on Buganda to play out.  The core of his game plan has been to destroy Uganda’s historical power centres, namely the kingdom and non-kingdom nationalities who, in 1961–1962, freely came together to form the country called Uganda.  For decades Museveni has worked to exclusively arrogate himself all the power and resources which belong to the people and regions, using the following measures:

  • Systematic impoverishment of the people and regions, side-by-side with the centralisation of public funds, resources and patronage under himself as President.
  • Having a cabinet of one officer (Museveni) and men (the rest), in fact frightened men and women, without a viable and independent base in the population; men and women whose constituency is Museveni himself!  The result is a President who wields more power in the cabinet and Army Council than Obote and Amin combined.
  • The fragmentation and “ethnicisation” of the country (under the guise of decentralisation) into small, weak, unviable, costly and poorly-funded administrative units, which have to look up to the central government for dole grants; which effectively means looking up to a President with absolute power.
  • At a time when the love and thirst for money among the elite has never been greater, the NRM/Museveni have turned the Ugandan economy into a sumptuous buffet economy for the President, his family, relatives and friends while the rest have to compete and pray to catch the President’s attention of favour and generosity translated into cash and material doles, appointment to lucrative jobs and positions or the offer of business opportunities and privileges of impunity.
  • Emboldened by a President who enjoys effective buffet access to the Ugandan public resources, the NRM has highly commercialised elections and made them complex, costly and sterile. Museveni believes in the “we either win or they lose” philosophy. This is how the NRM has been able to help themselves to more than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament and consequently turning Parliament into a ready instrument to do the necessary hatchet job for the NRM regime.  Little wonder that the President is eager to settle key and contentious political issues on the floor of Parliament – even if the Army Council (equivalent of Idd Amin’s Defence Council) always hovers in the background to take political decisions on high-stake issues.
  • Through the agency of the NRM Parliamentary Caucus, the ruling party has virtually replaced Parliamentary democracy with legislation by Presidential decree.  This development enables Gen. Museveni to enjoy the legislative privileges Amin exercised while at the same time pretending to be a democrat.
  • Under NRM-Museveni institutional bypass governance system there is no mechanism for MPs and ministers of state from Buganda to be held accountable to the people they purport to represent.  The same is true for all Uganda’s historical power centres, a development which in effect renders the entire Ugandan population without representation.  The only mechanism for Buganda’s elected leaders to meet on Buganda is when Museveni summons them for instructions on what they are required to do on Buganda. Thus Buganda has become voiceless and leaderless on her collective and common core values, rights and interest.

Museveni started his policy of divide and rule by exaggerating non-antagonistic differences among the people into antagonistic differences; particularly the Southern “Bantu” versus the “Nilotic” North.  Today the main thrust of his mega divide and rule strategy is the intensification of Obote’s policy of dividing the country between Buganda and the rest; and then turning the rest against Buganda “for being arrogant and for seeking special position, rights and privileges”.  This policy is successful only when the rest of Uganda accepts to give up their own demand and right to their own legitimate ebyaffe (traditional institutions’ property). Only then will the rest of Uganda become an effective tool against Buganda’s quest for her legitimate “ebyaffe”!  And that’s where Uganda seems to be today with all Uganda’s historical power centres, except Buganda, subdued, and all NRM MPs reduced to Museveni’s conscripts and hostages, whose only freedom is the freedom to support and rubber-stamp his interests.

After subduing the rest of Uganda’s historical power and interest centres into a shadow of their former self, Museveni now feels extremely confident to frontally take on the Buganda kingdom establishment, assured that there is no credible power centre in the rest of the country that can come to the rescue of Buganda.  In the meantime, NRM has infiltrated Buganda to a level that makes Milton Obote turn in his grave.  But even then, the NRM is unsure of itself.  Consequently a law has been made to criminalise participation of the Kabaka and kingdom  officials in promotion, protection, defence or demand for Buganda’s core values and interest, by claiming that all these fall under “politics”. The proposed law seeks to ring-fence politics as an exclusive right and responsibility of “elected leaders”.  Interestingly, in their Chaka Mchaka education courses the NRM routinely define “politics” as “the science of management of people and resources” and by “resources” meaning each person’s material needs for their sustenance and well being.

At its core, Uganda’s problem arises out of the fact that the centre has sucked far too much power and resources from the regions.  The people who advocate the return to the regions of power and resources are part of the solution to Uganda’s problem while those who push for status quo or for more power and resources centralisation under the President are part of the problem.

While helping to destroy kingdoms in Uganda, the UPC government believed the demise of kingdoms would help it grow into a stronger party.  But 30 years later the party is a lot weaker than the kingdoms.  A similar fate is awaiting the NRM. It is high time we reconsidered using colonial institutions to destroy our organic ones, rooted in our history and culture.

Above all, at any given moment in history, for security and other reasons, a people centralise and concentrate their knowledge, and entrust that knowledge with a particular nationality.  In the last one thousand years, the millennial knowledge of Africans in the Great Lakes Region, including classic knowledge from Ancient Egypt (Kemet) came to settle in the kingdom of Buganda.  Buganda therefore is the Africa’s Fort Knox, the trustee and citadel of African self-determined awareness, spirituality, philosophy and politics in this region.  That is why, where Obukama of Bunyoro-Kitara and Tooro, the Obugabe of Ankole and Obwa Kyabazinga of Busoga cave in to NRM manipulations, Buganda stands firm.

Under the circumstances, the characterisation of the struggle for Africa’s heritage around Buganda as the business of Mutebi or “Mengo needs to be exposed for what it is: a ploy to continue the conquest and re-conquest of our land and people In fact, if the NRM regime was not neo-colonial, it would merge Buganda and Bunyoro’s demands for ebyaffe and in the process be part of the transformative force to liberate Africa.  Then the regime would readily accept to be duty bound to support Bunyoro-Kitara’s claim for reparations from the British Government, instead of frustrating Bunyoro’s legitimate claims, including the suggestion that the Ugandan taxpayer should take responsibility for Britain’s war crimes, crimes against humanity in Bunyoro-Kitara, and pay compensation.

Africa can only free herself with her own knowledge, ideas and institutions. We do not know of any people, nationality or nation who lost or abandoned their own knowledge, God and indigenous governance who are not slaves of the people whose knowledge, language, God and governance they adopted. It means therefore that Africans can only redeem themselves when they organise around ideas, concepts, practices, institutions and languages they developed as a free and self-determined people such as governance around the Kabaka, clans and African Spirituality.

These institutions are well-developed, well articulated and well-preserved in Buganda.

The author was a member of the National Consultative Council and Chair of the Public Appointments Committee after the overthrow of Idi Amin. He moved the motion of no confidence in President Yusuf Lule.

He is the founder and president of Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity.

[email protected];

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