Buganda Kingdom Spokesman Charles Peter Mayiga is tipped to replace John Baptist Walusimbi as Katikkiro (prime minister), palace officials have told The Observer.
It is understood that Walusimbi's tenure was extended early last year to allow Kabaka Ronald Mutebi time to find a successor. Walusimbi had bid farewell to the Lukiiko in 2011, but was compelled to stay on until the Kabaka found a successor. However, other palace sources have told us that apart from Mayiga, the kingdom's Attorney General Apollo Makubuya is also thought to have been considered for the position.
"Unless he [Kabaka] gets a change of mind, Mayiga has higher chances of becoming the next Katikkiro," said a Buganda minister, who requested not to be named.
Palace sources say the Kabaka will name Walusimbi's replacement in February.
Sources said Katikkiro Walusimbi has also been occasionally involved in meetings with the Kabaka to discuss possible candidates for his job.
"After the Kabaka extended his term of office [in January 2012], he asked to be retired in December, but there were projects that he had embarked on, like the reconstruction of Kasubi Royal tombs, for which he was asked to stay around for two more months," the Kabaka's Press Secretary, Dick Kasolo, told The Observer denying press reports that Walusimbi had fallen out with his master. Reports spoke of strained relations, after Walusimbi reportedly met with the Ssabanyala, leader of an estranged sub-tribe of Buganda.
The kingdom's minister in charge of the Kabaka's travels, Kabuuza Mukasa, told us that the Ssabanyala and Ssabaluuli meeting is "a small" issue that he doubts could strain the Kabaka's relations with Walusimbi. The meeting, which we have learnt took place sometime last year, had raised some eyebrows at Mengo, since Buganda doesn't recognize the two cultural heads, seen as a creation by the regime to undermine Mengo's influence in Bugerere and Buruuli counties.
Although President Museveni has pushed for Mengo's recognition of the two, the kingdom has stood its ground, and maintained its chiefs in the two counties. In one of his frantic moves to have Mengo recognize both the Ssabanyala and Ssabaluuli, we have learnt, Museveni invited them to State House Entebbe and later hosted Walusimbi to the same meeting without prior notice that they would also be there.
Some kingdom officials had been furious about the meeting, arguing that the Katikkiro had betrayed the kingdom by sitting in a meeting with its enemies without first notifying the Kabaka. Both Walusimbi and Mayiga are yet to comment on the developments.
"The issue of the Katikkiro is in the office of the Kabaka for which I can't speak," Mayiga said.
Walusimbi's tenure as Katikkiro started on January 1, 2008 and has endured its fair share of challenges and triumphs. Seven months into the job, three kingdom officials including Information Minister Mayiga, his deputy Medard Lubega Sseggona and Betty Nambooze Bakireke were arrested over their alleged link with armed groups and attempting to acquire guns.
Two months later, in October 2008, the Kabaka was blocked from accessing Nakasongola district (Buruuli county) headquarters, the venue for the kingdom's annual Bulungi Bwansi celebrations. These events later exploded into mass protests across the kingdom in September 2009, when the Kabaka was blocked from travelling to Bugerere county (Kayunga district) where he was scheduled to preside over the Buganda Youth day celebrations.
At the time the central government argued that the trip had not been approved by a section of Banyala, who recognized Kimeze as their cultural leader. Subsequently, the kingdom's Central Broadcasting Services (CBS FM) radio was taken off air with the Broadcasting Council accusing it of inciting the public to protest.
The following year in March 2010, the Kasubi royal tombs, a World heritage site, were torched, further deepening the rift between the kingdom and the central government.
Walusimbi has also been treated to internal challenges, owing to his emphasis on accountability by kingdom officials. He, however, is credited for his Omumuli initiative, a project that seeks to improve household incomes through agriculture. He is also credited with designing projects meant to improve the kingdom's revenue base, such as Muganzirwazza Commercial plaza at Katwe and the newly launched K2 telecom.