The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Mengo Warns Sabanyala On Kabaka Visit

To some in Buganda kingdom, the latest challenge to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II's planned tour of Kayunga by Maj Baker Kimeze, the Banyala cultural head, reflects the fault lines in the memorandum of understanding signed last August between President Museveni and Kabaka Ronald Mutebi.

And Buganda MPs last week called for a full debate on the contents of the MOU, which essentially allows the Kabaka to move freely in the kingdom and country. Buganda Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga announced on Christmas day that Mutebi would tour Bugerere county (Kayunga district) in January.

This is a touchy subject. In 2009, the Kabaka was stopped from visiting the same area, which has the Banyala, a want-away subgroup in Buganda. The move sparked deadly riots across the kingdom.

Now, although Kimeze is not on government's official list of recognized cultural leaders, he has hinted at his unwillingness to allow the Kabaka into Kayunga.

"We have not been formally informed of Kabaka's intended visit due early next year [January 2014]," Kimeze is quoted as having told journalists, days after Mayiga's announcement.

For the Kabaka to move to Kayunga, Kimeze is said to have suggested that the kingdom should write to his prime minister and the Banyala officials will then decide to clear or block the Kabaka's visit.

New Year's gift:

As Kimeze made the demands, local people are in high spirits, preparing for the Kabaka's visit.

Ntenjeru South MP Patrick Nsanja said: "I have not formally heard from Mr Kimeze because if he had issues, I would have expected him to call me because he has my contact, and he knows me as a very strong supporter of the Kabaka, he would have told me or any of my colleague MPs from the district," Nsanja said.

"None-the-less, we are moving on with the preparations, we have already set up working committees, enthusiasm is high because to the ordinary people here, it is the perfect New Year's gift that the Kabaka could give them," he added.

No specific date has been fixed but the tentative programme shows that the Kabaka will spend three days in the district on a campaign to promote health, agriculture and environmental conservation. The dates are details of the visit and are due to be confirmed at a meeting at Mengo, today, Monday.

Among issues the Monday meeting will address; is the demand by the local organizing committee in Kayunga to have the Kabaka move to all the eight sub-counties in the district which Mengo sees as practically impossible during the three days.

MOU test:

Although Mengo seems unbothered by Kimeze's new threats, the emerging tensions are a matter of concern among Buganda MPs who view them as a tough test on the August 2, 2013 MOU signed between President Museveni and the Kabaka.

"Kimeze is pursuing a political agenda, designed to keep the Kabaka in conflict and demobilise the kingdom against development," says Mukono municipality MP, also vice chairperson of the Buganda parliamentary caucus, Betty Nambooze-Bakireke.

"It is an NRM strategy; these people in government are better off with a Kabaka who is being contested than one who is focused on developing his kingdom. They just want to make the Kabaka uncomfortable and keep Buganda in confusion," she adds.

For Nambooze, the new threats are an opportunity for the kingdom to allow the public debate the MOU.

"The pursuit of peace with Museveni has failed; I think it is time now for us to discuss the contents of the MOU openly, honestly and frankly. I believe the Katikkiro has now settled in, he is no longer new in office, he should let us discuss it," Nambooze says.

Days after it was signed, the MPs asked for copies but Katikkiro Mayiga declined, saying he could not make it public before presenting to the Buganda Lukiiko (Parliament).

Buganda caucus chairman and Mityana North MP Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi joined Nambooze in demanding disclosure of the MOU: "We may not necessarily discuss it because we know that the Kabaka can't make a bad decision for his kingdom but the Katikkiro should let the kingdom's subjects know the details of the agreement."

Unconstitutional:

Kingdom spokesman Denis Walusimbi Ssengendo, however, said there was nothing to debate about the MOU.

"We made it public when we distributed it to the Lukiiko that is our parliament, if the MPs want copies, they should ask the central government, that MOU was signed in accordance with the Constitution unless they want to discuss the Constitution," Walusimbi said.

Walusimbi also dismissed Kimeze's demands: "Kimeze is an ordinary person like you and me... . He is not listed in the Constitution and the Kabaka is, we did not see him on the official government list that was tabled before Parliament, and besides, in the Constitution, Bugerere is clearly indicated as a part of Buganda kingdom. We can't take his threats seriously," Walusimbi said.

Nambooze said she was mobilizing her constituents to travel with the Kabaka to Kayunga. She said she was planning to challenge Kimeze's claim to Banyala cultural leadership.

"We contend that there is no cultural leader called Ssabanyala because to be a cultural leader, you must have inherited it or under the law, that cultural institution must have been established by a meeting of a council of elders," Nambooze said.

"Under the Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act, it is only Buganda that can convene an elders' council meeting to resolve, and create a kingdom for the Banyala or Baruuli," she said.

Kiwanda added that it was only the country's security machinery that could block the Kabaka's visit - and not Kimeze. Mengo will be keenly awaiting the government's official response to Kimeze's threats.

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