By William Mbonigaba
Uganda vis a vis Buganda (or is it the other way round?) This question is important because Buganda as a unit existed before Uganda. However, we also know that before Uganda, it was not only Buganda that existed as a political unit: Bunyoro also existed and was actually a lot bigger than Buganda and the path towards the creation of Uganda was littered with demise of Bunyoro and accession to greatness of Buganda.
So, the contradiction of history or specifically, the ‘contradiction in the growth of Buganda’ is the creation of the state of Uganda which has meant the weakening of Buganda as a state.
Like contradiction of fire, ‘in its growth lies its inherent demise’. As the fire burns ferociously, it is also signs its death warrant because it is burning something, yes, but it is burning itself out and will soon leave behind in its wake cold ash. Buganda grew at the expense of Bunyoro, but it was burning itself out because it was creating conditions for the creation of a state called Uganda that would mark its end as a strong unit! That is the irony of life ‘” the process of creating new life is heralded by the demise of another life!
Once we got Uganda as a British Protectorate, the issue was, does it exist as a unit or should it be part of a bigger unit ‘” the East Africa? Was it enough to be Uganda or there was need to further safeguard Uganda by embedding it under a bigger unit called East Africa? So, around 1945-1960 there was talk of East Africa Federation which Buganda fought ‘nail and tooth’.
You may recall that the colonialist made a lot of attempts to deal with the state question first, by ‘œbribing leading families in Buganda’ (to keep them quiet) with land so that they could raise money from rent and thus, control peasants. But also by attempting to embed Uganda into East Africa so that Buganda does not destroy the state of Uganda.
Buganda fought the East African Federation idea (and their Kabaka was exiled because of this) because Uganda under East Africa would be too strong to fight and would mean the end of the idea of Buganda as a state. Had the idea of East Africa succeeded Buganda would be no more. Like the idea of keeping Baganda quiet through ‘bribery’ (mailo land) failed, the East African idea failed.
DP leader Ben Kiwanuka’s way of dealing with the state question was to vehemently reject the idea of a federation and ‘special position for Buganda’. He saw himself as a national leader and wanted every part in Uganda on equal basis. Buganda fought him and employed the most hideous methods to undermine him. Actually in the history of Uganda the most fraudulent elections are not the 1981, 1995, 2001 or 2006 elections, it is 1960 and 1961 elections.
There was massive ground tilting that no elections happened in Buganda even though all political parties had members in the region. All representatives from Buganda were selected by one Ugandan ‘” the Kabaka who was the leader of the KY, a political party just like UPC and DP. So, the millions of members of DP and UPC wwere disenfranchised! They never voted, the Kabaka decided for them! And so Kiwanuka was ‘defeated’.
Obote leant from Kiwanuka’s ‘mistake’ His way of dealing with Buganda was to lay a clever trap. ‘œGo along with the plan by the Kabaka to defeat Kiwanuka first, ally with him in an alliance and then deal a blow to the Kabaka and Buganda by abolishing them’. The 1966/7 events were his way of dealing with the state question. Declaring a Unitary Republic through a unitary constitution, written by a Muganda ‘” Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa. Q.C was his ‘final solution’ to the teething issue. He did not quite succeed.
Amin’s way of dealing with the state question was to terrorise everybody into submission. Nobody could make any demands. He failed because that is not sustainable.
Museveni’s way of dealing with the state question was to pre-empt demand even against the wisdom of all and especially leading Baganda revolutionaries headed by ‘Horse’ Lt. Col. Serwanga Lwanga. Everybody ‘who so wishes’ can create a ‘cultural institution’, he finally pronounced. This is a mirage. There is nothing like this. You cannot solve the statehood question by creating cultural institutions. That was a misdiagnosis ‘” intended and obscurantist. It is either a state or it is not, nothing in between. But, he reasoned that if he was a ‘step ahead’ by keeping us all busy with some hoax, (half a thing), Buganda, Bunyoro et al, would be ‘undercut’ to ask for the ‘real thing’ ‘ the state. We now know that he has failed just like everybody else.
For any other leaders to come, let them not delude themselves, they have to deal with the same question and there are only two options: either grant the wishes of Buganda, Bunyoro et al, and forget about Uganda as a state or completely and absolutely annihilate the idea of statehood by Buganda, Bunyoro et al, and move on with Uganda as a state.
Whether the next leaders are DP, UPC, FDC, Baganda, Acholi, Basoga, there is no escape. The Buganda, Bunyoro statehood question has to be dealt with and there are only two options. Both are very hard but there we are; there is no escape. Delay we may, but ultimately, we have to face the statehood question.
This question is probably at the crux of Uganda’s forward movement as ‘the issue’ to solve. Tanzania is probably way ahead of Uganda because Nyerere effectively dealt with the statehood question of Tanzania. Rwanda (is Rwanda on the way to finding a solution?), Burundi, Kenya, the Sudan etc still have this same debt ‘” dealing with the statehood questions as effectively as Nyerere did with Tanzania.