By Paul Ndiho, Washington D.C.
September 1, 2010
The Kingdom of Buganda is situated in the Central region of Uganda. The Baganda are Uganda’s largest ethnic group and were instrumental in President Yoweri Museveni coming to power more than 24 years ago. Mr. Museveni based his five-year military struggle in Luwero triangle the kingdom’s heartland with the support of the Baganda. But relations with the government are now strained because Buganda wants “Federal” status or more political autonomy.
Ugandan kingdoms are ancient institutions which trace their establishment long before the colonial era. Before Independence, Buganda kingdom strategically positioned itself during colonization and collaborated with the British to defeat Bunyoro kingdom which covered vast areas in East Africa. When Uganda became independent, Buganda was given semi-federal status and the 36th Kabaka or King, Sir Edward Mutesa II, became Uganda’s first president. But in 1966, Prime Minister Milton Obote’s army toppled the Kabaka and subsequently abrogated the constitution and abolished all the kingdoms. In 1993, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni restored some Kingdoms as cultural institutions.
Tensions between the kingdom and the Ugandan government continue to be a defining feature of Ugandan politics. In September 2009, some elements alleging to be spokesmen for the Baanyala community, declared that “Bugerere” a small section of Buganda kingdom had seceded from Buganda. His Majesty, the Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II of Buganda wanted to go there and talk to his subjects, but was prohibited by the government to travel, a decision which led to riots and the death of at least 30 innocent people reportedly killed by government security forces. The inspector general of police, Major General Kale Kayihura, said then that the visit would not be allowed.
“As stipulated by article 212 of the constitution, it is decided that it is unwise and a security risk for his Highness the King of Buganda to visit Kayunga district”
Supporters of Buganda’s King protested and riots followed in the Ugandan capital Kampala after the police had blocked the Kabaka who was scheduled to visit the flashpoint town of Kayunga.
The kingdom’s advocates say the kabaka wants more power and control over resources in his kingdom, such as land and taxes, but the government says he is only a cultural figure and must steer clear of politics. Recently, here in Washington D.C supporters of the king echoed his demands.
“We supported president Museveni for many years. In fact, we even helped to put him in power knowing that he was going to bring back the rule of law and constitutionalism and especially the federal system of Government.”
In March 2010, a world heritage site where four Kabakas (kings of Buganda) are buried went up in flames, engulfing the main building housing the mausoleums of the four former Kabakas. The tombs were built in 1860 and their historical and cultural significance is revered by the Baganda.
In 1993, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II assumed his throne as the 37th King of Buganda. In 1999, at his palace in Kampala, the Kabaka treated Guests and well-wishers to the country’s first royal wedding in nearly 50 years. The Kabaka, exchanged vows with Sylvia Nagginda Luswata, in a lavish ceremony which was watched by thousands. This week the Queen of Buganda, “Nnabagereka” is the Key Note speaker at the 2010 Uganda North American Association (UNAA) Convention here in Washington D.C. Perhaps quite appropriately, the theme is “Cultural Diversity, Prosperity and Wellness.”