21 April 2017

Uganda: Mulira, DP's Challenges Are Influenced By Tribe, Religion


Peter Mulira begins his article, "Mao should not use religion, tribe to explain challenges in DP" (Daily Monitor, April 18) by quoting an unnamed British friend who told him that Africa should look for positives in its past instead of dwelling on the negatives to develop.

Mulira then turns to Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao: "Mao's attempt to use religion and tribalism to explain the problem in his party is unfortunate".

On the other hand, I will premise my response to his article on Karl Marx's statement: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past."

The circumstances, which are "directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past", and that are conditioning the present struggles in DP, stem from the February 1892 battle of Mengo.

That battle pitted the Protestants led by Apolo Kagwa, and assisted by Captain Lugard with his maxim guns, against the Catholic forces led by Kabaka Mwanga and Stanislaus Mugwanya. The Protestants won and from that point on a Protestant oligarchy was established in Mengo.

We should point out that before this battle, through the religious wars in Buganda in the late 19th century, religious denominations had assumed the substance of social identities.

The settlement made Protestants, vis-a-vis the Catholics, the dominant identity. The Kabaka had to be a Protestant. A Catholic could not be Katikiro. The highest post in the kingdom a Catholic could aspire to was the Omuwanika.

There had always been 10 Protestant county chiefs, compared to eight Catholics.

In the Kabaka's government, which was formed following the return of Mutesa from exile in 1955, four ministers were Protestants, one a Muslim and another one a Catholic. This was the order, which obtained throughout the colonial period. Much as Catholics were treated as second class subjects and were uneasy about it, there was not much they could do. To make matters worse, in 1955 Matayo Mugwanya, the son of Stanislaus Mugwanya, contested for the post of Katikiro and came within three votes of being elected. Had the Kabaka not replaced several of his representatives in the Lukiiko, he would have won. Leading Catholics felt their man had been unfairly denied being Katikiro.

With the political awakening on the eve of colonialism, the Catholics in Buganda organised themselves in political party--DP--to redress their minority status. Ironically, the first party president was Matayo Mugwanya.

It should be clear that DP was organised to address issues of Buganda. This is what makes some of us argue that DP is essentially a Buganda affair.

Prof Mamdani in his book, "Politics and Class Formation in Uganda", states that outside Buganda, DP is a secondary affair. It is in this context that I believe Mao cannot constitute the embodiment of DP. It is well-known that the Mbale conference, which elected him president was boycotted by a sizable DP membership. And that makes his leadership even more illegitimate.

The treatment of Nambozee when she called a meeting of Buganda DP has even made things worse for him. The Mao group called the police to stop the meeting and, in the process, roughed up Nambooze. It now appears to me the rift between Mao and the Buganda mainstream of DP is irreconcilable.

In my view, the situation in DP today can be likened to that of a dog and its tail. Buganda DP is the main part of the body of DP and analogous to the torso of the dog. On the other hand Mao, by being from outside Buganda, is the tail of the dog. It is totally unnatural for the tail of a dog to wag the dog.

Mr Yoga is a former editor-in-chief of UPC's The People newspapers.


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