By Stephen Twinoburyo
Leaders, by virtue of their positions are looked up to by their people and are expected to offer comfort and guidance in difficult times. A lot has been going on in Uganda in the past few years and each year, things get progressively worse. The abuse of Ugandans by the authorities seems to be unprecedented and the hopelessness of the people has never been this profound. The misery of the people is equally matched by the plunder of national resources by the few that control them. President Museveni has often proclaimed that he doesn’t care what the people think.
In all this, I am wondering: where do our cultural leaders stand? When we study history, we learn that cultural leaders used to be protectors of their people. We have read how kings did all in their powers to ensure that their people were cared for. What has happened to our kings? There is almost nowhere in Uganda that blatant abuse by this regime has taken place than in Buganda. What is the Kabaka of Buganda doing about this? Yes, Museveni may have pushed through parliament the cultural leaders’ bill largely to muzzle the Kabaka (https://ugandaspeaks.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/ugandas-cultural-leaders-bill-2010-what-do-you-think/ ). That does not make the bill legitimate or acceptable. The apartheid regime in South Africa passed many laws that people did not accept and in fact rallied to fight. That the cultural leaders’ bill is allowed to stand and actually seem legitimate is a blot on our civil activism.
My main concern however, is the silence of the country’s kings in the face of massive sufferings by their people. A father, for instance cannot see his children go out daily only to return bruised and he keeps quiet. A religious leader cannot give his sermons as normal if his/her congregations get brutalised each time they are going to or from worship. Why are our kings living as if everything in the country and more so in their regions, is normal?
The queen of England can never keep quiet if the British government were to start traumatising the people of England and neither would the Zulu king if the South African government started torturing the Zulu people.
The Kabaka of Buganda in particular has immense influence and a great following. If he stood up for the rights of his people, his words would have a great impact on their emancipation. Much of the comfort Museveni enjoys in the central region, and the arrogance he exudes, is because the Kabaka has granted it to him. Museveni can try and intimidate the Kabaka using his soldiers and military might but in reality there is nothing he can do to the Kabaka, and more so, there is nothing he can do to the people of Buganda. The people of Buganda are far mightier than Museveni and his guns. The Kabaka of Buganda, by virtue of the expectations society have of him as a leader, needs to stand up for the human rights and diginity of not only the Baganda but entire the people of Uganda. So should other kings in Uganda – Bunyoro for instance. Simply waving at people from motorcades and communicating to them through kingdom radios is not going to liberate the people. A king whose people live under trauma of somebody else has little to say about his kingdom.
Ugandans have stood up and said what they want. Many have faced torture and bullets. Many wake up each morning to see guns outside their doors or on the street corners. In all this, our cultural leaders have remained non-existent. What culture are they protecting?
The forefathers of our current kings could never have stood by idly. What will our kings say in future they did to protect their people?