20 December 2012

Uganda: Mistreatment of Buganda Shouldn't Lead to Secession


As usual, I attended the recent Buganda conference, where many discussions and resolutions were made on the way forward for Buganda.

The resolutions were hardly different from the usual. But what raised my concern is the proposal of secession of Buganda from Uganda, an idea that was mooted by MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda.

It inevitably drew a big applause from the audience. Because I am a democrat, I respected his views, albeit with many reservations.

Because this idea has persisted over time, I've opted to abandon sitting on the fence and share some of my own views.

First, I entirely agree that Buganda has some genuine demands to make, for instance, demanding its land, including where the masaza and gombolola headquarters sit. It is also true that Buganda has suffered at the hands of dictators who masquerade as representatives of the entire country.

It is also uncontestable that Buganda is a metropolitan society with a unifying language and a strong and documented history, among others, which can easily make it a separate nation. However, I don't believe that all the brains at the conference, and those that did not attend, could fail to come up with a better solution.

Secondly, the mistreatment of Buganda is not necessarily being perpetuated by the other peoples of Uganda. It was initially instigated by the colonial regimes and inherited by successive post-colonial regimes. It is, therefore, individuals involved in the mistreatment; it is not a conspiracy by all Ugandans.

As we address this matter, therefore, we must bear in mind that the geographical position of Buganda makes it a central player in the socio-economic and political development of our country. In the same way, its development and harmony is also dependent on the rest of Uganda. As we drum for divorce, it is important to stop for a moment and think about the different children this marriage has produced and the likely consequences.

Former presidents Milton Obote and Idi Amin made a very big mistake when they opted to suppress Buganda in order to consolidate their power, just like the colonial masters did before them. Museveni has made it even worse because the hatred that his regime has created is bound to explode into bloodshed. What Buganda has experienced during the NRM regime is unbelievable.

But I believe it is always in bad situations that leaders can be judged through their reactions and how they subdue their emotions. Obote shifted his alliance to Bunyoro during the 1964 lost counties elections, just like Museveni is doing today. But this did not solve the problem; it escalated it.

So, the people of Uganda just need to understand the individual actors and their motives so that we can collectively fight them. On the other hand, Buganda must appreciate and correct the mistakes it has made since colonial times. I believe that it was a grave mistake to deny the people of Buganda the opportunity to participate in national politics at the initial time of fighting for independence.

This left Buganda with few individuals who could politically go across Buganda's borders and therefore, who could aspire to lead this country. The likes of Ben Kiwanuka who dared to open up Buganda to national politics were demonized, leaving the entire region politically impotent.

Similarly, some elements in Buganda opted to glorify those who usually weep while holding the microphone and deliberately led a hate campaign against those who spoke the truth. In the process, these opportunistic politicians have exploited Buganda and used it as a conveyer belt to political ends. For instance, which politician from Buganda has ever tabled a private member's bill in Parliament on Buganda's demands?

Therefore, all said and done, I do believe that the answer to the Buganda question must be provided by all Ugandans. It can neither be through secession nor can it be sorted out by an individual like President Museveni.

Neither can it be answered by reckless statements from Buganda and the central government nor through begging and granting. The ultimate solution is to accept that our history is intertwined through several communities in Uganda and appreciate our diversity so that we can tame our egos and forge a better way of living harmoniously together.

The author is the spokesperson for People's Progressive Party.

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