State House described last week’s meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi as a “courtesy call” in which they shared “pleasantries and matters of mutual interest for the development of Buganda and Uganda”. Unfortunately, the meeting came against the subdued and angry tone by Mutebi and his sidekick, Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga over the proposed amendment to the extortionist feudal Mailo land system. It’s sad though not strange, that Mengo leaders are opposing the proposals even before reading the contents.
So, between the lines, the meeting couldn’t have been mere courtesy when Mutebi said in Nkoni, Masaka recently that the Baganda were being hospitable and accommodative to ‘allow’ other Ugandans settle in Buganda. This statement, views Ugandans as aliens or refugees in their own country contrary to established laws that a Ugandan is free to live wherever they choose. While being pragmatic and flexible is good for leadership, President Museveni’s magnanimity is letting the feudalists at Mengo overload other Ugandans which may cause an eruption whose full repercussion may be difficult to foresee.
The Mengo clique and their descendants, alongside Anglican, Catholic and Muslim religious sects, who benefitted when colonialism expropriated to them land from which they have extorted both in cash and kind from tillers, turned serfs and tenants, have been fighting rearguard wars to keep the archaic Mailo system intact. Ugandans have silently observed a sad trend in intransigence from the Mengo elite that falsely passes for a state within Uganda. Often, one concludes un-mistakenly that something is amiss, except, in the mind of the clique, which believes that Ugandans collectively owe them a debt.
Therefore, last Saturday’s subdued, if not angry tone from Mutebi at his 28th anniversary on a diminished throne in Masaka, was a rude reminder that he falsely believes that his group are doing the rest of Uganda a favour in being an integral part. Mengo leaders past and present are of course mistaken and will not bring the rest of Uganda to its knees through arrogance. From a historical perspective, the sooner they understood this fact, however bitter, the better for them.
Without repeating much of what Mutebi uttered, they should be reminded that it was the Mengo clique that collaborated with colonialists to subjugate and expropriate the wealth of other areas, of which Bunyoro, Busoga and Bugisu are examples. To the contrary, Ankole, left the Baganda fleeing earlier succession and religious wars to settle in Isingiro, Kabula, Mawogola, Igara, Kitagwenda and Bunyaruguru.
Mutebi was disingenuous when he questioned why so much focus is on the land system in Buganda. The bitter truth is that in much of Buganda, Mailo land titles have been used mostly by Baganda elites to cheat their own people, family members inclusive, and land is often sold off without due regard to bona fide occupants. Nowhere else is this system abused than in Buganda.
Few Ugandans begrudge Mengo for demanding its so-called ebyaffe, even though we know that much of what is claimed may not be legitimate, often exaggerated, duplicated, and what they receive is taken by the few within the clique around the Kabaka, and doesn’t benefit majority Baganda in whose name they purport to speak. By claiming that Mailo land system is cultural to Buganda, Mutebi is admitting that subjugation, dispossession, and exploitation that was crystalised by the 1900 Buganda Agreement is normal which should be accepted simply because it benefits the clique at Mengo and the few elites.
Mutebi’s mindset is false ingratiation that his so-called kingdom, even in its diminished form is something useful, merely because Ugandans, have been so accommodative to Mengo’s insatiable greed for easy wealth. Clearly, Mutebi and his sidekicks are giving the proverbial kicks of a dying horse because it isn’t possible for them to turn back the wheels of history in their lope-sided favour.
It’s necessary to remind the tribal chauvinists that Buganda is an integral part of an independent Uganda with democratically elected leaders, and many of them aren’t part of that leadership, although they enjoy some recognition on account of an old relic of a tradition. All Ugandans irrespective of status are equal shareholders in Uganda. Every Ugandan who reside, live, work or own property in Buganda does so on the basis of the law and cannot be treated to the favours of the Mengo establishment.
From the religious wars of the 19 Century which toppled Muteesa I Mukabya Walugembe, Kiweewa Nnyonyintono, Kalema Muguluma in quick session and installed Kabaka Mwanga, there has been a consistent pattern in Mengo leadership of not bothering to learn any useful lessons from events that shape their immediate world.
Some of these historical events include the 1899 deportation of Kabaka Mwanga to the Seychelles, Kabaka Freddie Edward Muteesa II to Britain (1953), Uganda’s independence in 1962, attack and abolition of Kabakaship (1966), and Muteesa’s eventual death in exile 1969. And so the disguised sounds of war drums emanating from no less Kabaka Mutebi, Katikiro Mayiga and others are attempts at blackmail which must be repudiated.
The author is the Spokesperson of the government of Uganda
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