Why Buganda Kingdom Needs All Its Assets Back?
After weakening almost the multiparty politics in Uganda, the main threat to NRMO ideology and Museveni's life presidency project is the existence of Buganda kingdom and the ''free'' media. The president's 'big eyes' keep rolling over to find various ways to tackle these two problems. When one analyzes Uganda politics critically, it looks like we have got no opposition anymore and I can see a trend of so many opposition leaders crossing to join NRMO in order to look for 'bread and butter' in the next few years. Both DP and UPC are in disarray. For instance, UPC leaders are throwing punches at each other as we recently witnessed in a press conference where Obote's son, Jimmy Akena, attempted to punch at Olara Otunu. Former Obote security minister and UPC die hard, Chris Rwakasisi, has now formerly also joined the Museveni government. FDC, the only party with some little threat, has got a very brilliant leader in Dr.Besigye but his absence in parliament and announcement to retire from party leadership before 2015 has made him more of an office leader and weaker in the eyes of Ugandans.
With Besigye's charisma and strength in character, if he was in parliament, he would have set fire in all parliamentary debates. How we miss his funny voice on radios like monitor online KFM where even the Ugandans in Diaspora used to tune in to listen to his voice before the 2006 elections. I still wonder why we in Diaspora can no longer get those clips the monitor team used to post on the their website after the Andrew Mwenda show. Andrew Mwenda, himself, seems like he has already moved on as he no longer sounds like the man we all admired on KFM shows. He has opened his own news magazine and calls hismelf the 'big dog'( whatever this means).
Nevertheless, Buganda has tried its level best to recreate itself as a 'federal' state despite the efforts from the central government to keep it a 'beggar' by constantly refusing to return all the Buganda properties though the constitution tells them to do so. The government has instead embarked on a policy to use 'elites' in Buganda to weaken the kingdom indirectly. For example Professor Appolo Nsibambi was once the chief negotiator for ''ebyaffe'' and he used to work as a professor of political science at Makerere University and former director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) before becoming prime minister of Uganda in 1998. Men like presidential advisor, Robert Ssebunya, used to be a minister at Mengo but he now puts more of their efforts in serving the Museveni presidency than their Kabaka. Current pressidential spokesperson, Tamare Mirundi, used to be a regular on CBS fm.
Buganda does not have enough money and that is why they need their properties back. Mengo has not done a lot for the Kabaka subjects residing in the kingdom because the treasury is almost empty. Most of the money collected is dedicated to the administrative expenses of Bulange and the ministries. The only major operations mengo has been able to finance outside this budget is that of the Buganda Cultural and Development Foundation (BUCADEF) as of year 2006, and construction of some building in Katwe which is not yet finished.
Nevertheless, Mengo needs to adjust to the current economic situation where even developed nations are struggling, and reduce on unnecessarly expenses if we are to convince Baganda and Ugandans to come on board and fight for kingdoms. There is less spending by the Kingdom that goes to planning and economic development. Mengo needs to use the little money collected from projects such as CBS radio for developmental projects. Expenditure on Kabaka's office should be reduced, for example, 43% of the expenditure in 1998/99 was allocated to the Kabaka's office. The money collected from certificates,donations and other income generating projects should mostly be used to create more income generating projects. That is the only way the kingdom will ultimately empower its subjects economically.
To the kingdom's credit, however, most of its development activities are managed by BUCADEF and funded by external grants, which are not included in the budget. In 1998, for instance, BUCADEF received a USh518.9 m grant from the United States Agency for International Development for a two-year food security project which was renewed in 2000. The UN predicted then that there was going to be a worldwide food shortage but I'm surprised that we don't have enough food in Buganda as well. What was used with that money? BUCADEF was also the lead NGO for Mpigi district for a USh663 m World Bank-financed Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Project. Additional programs sponsored by foreign donors include hygiene, water and sanitation project and a sustainable agriculture project, but we have got a problem of accountability in Mengo and I think this need to be rectified as soon as possible.Despite all the above, the Kabaka of Buganda should be applauded for his efforts through the establishment of the Kabaka Foundation which is another ` parastatal ' development agency registered as an NGO and aims to ` institute, promote, encourage and support cultural, educational, literacy, economic, social and charitable projects for the benefits of the public in Buganda and Uganda'. This foundation was one of the customers that suffered from the closure of Greenland Bank where it held its accounts. The rich Baganda have not done a lot to help this foundation to push its work forward. For example, the foundation had ran only three projects as of end of 2000, the latter two of which were still at the planning stages : the Bukalango Model Village Program near Kakiri, some 20 kilometres outside Kampala; the Street Children Centre, an orphanage in Kampala's southern suburbs; and `Heritage Trails', a project for the development of community tourism begun in 1999 in association with a Ugandan NGO, Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA), and a British NGO, Action for Conservation through Tourism (ACT). Although the model village's 3 acre farm successfully produced matoke (bananas), coffee, groundnuts and vegetables, it attracted only limited interest from local farmers who seem to have expected inflows of cash from the kabaka for their village and may have been disappointed to be taught instead methods of self-reliance. People attend in large numbers at the occasion of the Kabaka's visits but this has not translated into mobilization for farming.
The purpose of the `Heritage Trails' project is to ` assist communities to develop and manage tourism themselves in order to generate income', but its existence sheds another light upon Buganda's development policies. Indeed, its interest in this project may not lie so much in generating income for local communities as in bringing back to life important cultural sites of Ganda culture (restored under the project to serve as tourist attractions), thereby generating cultural awareness and promoting ideological unification among Baganda, while sending the signal to remote villages that the kingdom is back. No wonder the cultural program initiated by Nabagereka Sylivia Naggenda called 'Ekisakate' has generated more interest than anything else in the kingdom.
Through the Kabaka Foundation, Ssabasajja has been able to provide scholarships to a lot of students in Buganda. The kingdom has also got equipment to open up another radio and TV station to supplement CBSfm, but the central government is not ready to give those licenses. Actually, the license to open up the radio station in Bulemezi was reportedly cancelled after the 2009 Buganda riots that saw more than 30 people dead. CBSfm is also under constant security scrutiny since it was opened in 2010.
There are so many developmental ideas and rhetoric posted on the Buganda kingdom website(www.buganda.com) but the kingdom has achieved very little in this area basically because the central government is hell bent on keeping the kingdom's assets to deny them a very good income to implement these projects. If anyone wants to blame why Buganda has not done a lot in terms of economic development, they should mainly blame the Museveni government. The government keeps strategically coming up with ideas of weakening this kingdom basically for selfish reasons, like the creation of chiefdoms within the kingdom.
Now, those who are non-Baganda should know that when Mengo builds a college in any region in Buganda, it benefits them as well. So they should support Mengo's efforts to get what it wants from the central government to get these services on the ground instead of supporting the central government in its endeavors to weaken Buganda. Development can start from Buganda and then spreads to other regions.Anyway, whatever tricks the central government has come up with so far, the good brains at Mengo have done a lot to counteract them, but this will be for another day.
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba