It’s time for Uganda’s cultural leaders to stand up for their people

25 Sep

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 ( ). 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?

Will these kings stand up for their people?

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?


Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


4 responses to “It’s time for Uganda’s cultural leaders to stand up for their people

  1. Rev. Jessica Nakawombe

    September 26, 2011 at 04:55

    Twino, Kabaka of Buganda is always speaking for his people through Katikkiro. Always all these years since Katikkiro Daniel Muliika, till now, Kabaka’s thoughts have been conveyed to Museveni’s Govt. I am surprised that you could say this about Kabaka Mutebi alone. Not only Katikkiro, the Minister of Information, Mr. Mayiga has been vocal always. Not only him, Ssabataka, Omutaka Nakirembeka Waliggo has been vocal. And many others.

    First of all you have to know the protocol of Buganda Kingdom and how it operates. Buganda Kingdom is as different from the United Kingdom of Britain ( Scotland, Wales and England). Its protocol is also different. that’s why Speke and Livingstone and others were so amazed at how Buganda Kingdom operated in a continent they called a dark continent.

    Second, when Buganda kingdom is being oppressed, most if not all the others cultural leaders are just jubilating with their people that “Mubaleke batwepankirako”. Most Ugandans think that Museveni oppressing Buganda kingdom is a Buganda issue, a lone issue. Land grabbing started in Buganda and others thought that ‘kati bagudde mu bintu” for they will get free land in Buganda which is more developed and more accomodating.

    Third, all Ugandans should come to a realisation that suppression of cultural leaders is a suppression of inherent rights for living. For our cultures give us identity. Each society or tribe derives its identity, mores and values from its culture. As Baganda, we have a unique infrastructure of our Kingdom that no one will ever understand, for it is more than social or cultural. It is also spiritual in that each Muganda has a personal and direct connection to Kabaka, our King. Buganda is a philosophical word that has a deeper and wider meaning. It is a blood relationship that is interwoven among the different tribes found among Baganda that makes it a Kingdom, thus a nation.

    Kabaka is Buganda, and Buganda is Kabaka therefore, every Muganda can represent Kabaka in good faith. Kabaka is our Trustee. He safekeeps our natural resources and his army protects our people in essence. Many people have confused Kabaka as an individual over Baganda. That is not the case. Kabaka is an Office in the Institution of Obwakabaka, Kingdom. Kabaka is the fulcrum on which the engine runs or the wheels move. Forget about those which you read about. Obwakabaka obwaffe butuli mu musaayi. Kyekoy lwaaki bangi balemeddwa okutusanyaawo, nga Abazungu, Obote, Museveni ne banne. For many of us, the higher we get educated in western education, the more we realise our identity.
    I could detail the United Kingdom, and how different it is but this is not the forum.

    Fourth, when Milton Obote abolished kingdoms and traditional leaders in 1966 or 1967, he sabotaged, dismantled and destroyed the national ethos, our collective identity, that lay in our individual tribes, hence our cultures. when you read the Books of Chronicles and Kings in the Holy Bible, there are so many chapters that record that when there was no king, autocratic leaanointed leader, not elected leader

    Cultural leaders are natural leaders in that they are born into leadership, thus the word or description of aristocracy. Of course they are groomed to horn their skills. Cultural leaders are anointed by God and empowered to lead and guide His people, whether they are Christians or not. They are gifted for that position and office. Not everyone can become a cultural leader however much they may try or self impose themselves, or ursurp power. Their love is priceless, they don’t have to solicit for votes. They don’t have to campaign. They don’t have to convince people to love or believe in them. they are not comparable to anyone else. Of course, some have misbehaved and disappointed people since they are prone to sin and fallen human nature. Some examples, Macbeth, Brutus, Mussolini, Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Bokassa, Mobutu, etc. They don’t have the blessing of God. that’s why you are seeing many self styled modern African dynasties are failing. Those grooming their sons to take over from them. God cannot allow that for a long time, though they may seem to prosper for a time.Look at Mubarak, Ben Ali, the Yemen guy, Gaddaffi, Museveni, Mobutu, Bokassa, etc. They try to cut their suits not according to the material they have.
    There is so much in the Bible to support all this. But how many care to read the word of God or listen to His prophets and messengers, in every generation?

    Elected leaders have to be popular, they have to convince people to elect them by running campaigns. they have to convince people that out of the many, they are the best. They have to do everything human in their power to see that they get the votes and are elected. However, as most of us know, so much goes on in lies, rigging, killing, mud slinging, cut throat competition, that are sometimes called irregularities, but “free and fair”. They can be kicked out of office any time so they don’t have job security. They can be not elected for another term so there is no job security. This is called democracy – the govt. of the people by the will of the people for the people. Does it happen?

    Buli mbuzi eddeyo ku nkondo yaayo. “Every bottle sits on its own bottom.” Every tribe in Uganda should go back to its roots, ethics, mores and values. The saying goes, “Respect yourself first, then you will be able to respect others.” “Love yourself, then you will be able to love others.” The Golden rule, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” If people respect and love who they are as a people, as a tribe, as a specific people, different from others, for specific divine reasons, yet children of the same Father, Almighty God, Elohim (plural), then we will be able to uphold our cultural leaders in their honour and positions. then if we respect our cultural leaders individually, in each tribe,and collectively as different tribes, then those who are elected in a democracy in Federo in Uganda can also respect our collective cultural leaders.

    Respect for one another includes respecting our sovereignity, our natural resources and our culture.

    I have read and heard so much abuse and insult that non Baganda throw at our Buganda Kabakas (Kings), and they gloat, only a handful non Baganda have come out to rebuke them. When it is Buganda’s loss, then cultural leaders, are not welcome especially Kabaka, by non Baganda. When it is everybody’s loss, then non Baganda look up to Kabaka to save them. Double standards will not solve anything.

    As I usually say, the enemies of Buganda are also Uganda’s enemies. It is “Divide and Conquer” and so many are gullible. Our enemies pit us against another. They instill fear in others against Baganda. And likewise. As Ugandans, we need self examination, change what we can, leave alone what cannot be changed,and pray to God to give us wisdom to distinguish that.

  2. Godfrey

    September 26, 2011 at 09:11

    Rev Jessica Nakawombe,

    I thank you for your response to Stephen Twinoburyo’s blog article. And I largely agree with you.

    The protocol of Buganda dictates that the Katikiro speaks out on behalf of the Kabaka. And we know that the various Katikiro’s have been speaking out on various issues including governance and management.

    I am of the general opinion that the governance model that should have been in the constitution should have been federalist, since that would be closer to the governance model that was in Uganda, pre-independence. Central Governance was a colonial imposition and we see how it is not working as should have been.

    If Uganda has a federalist government, we would not have an issue of cultural institutions playing a positive role in politics. In fact, it is foolhardy to expect a cultural leader not to have a say in politics, as the present constitution and its various amendments suggest. One can only conclude that the motive behind the restoration of kingdoms and the gagging of kingdoms is to ensure that the ultimate power resides in the central government. That is where many of the problems of Uganda come from.

    I am having certain challenges with the adoption of religious inferences in support of the argument. And while cultural leaders are clearly referring to tribal leaders, one needs to be clear when they say that these leaders are gifted and ordained to be in place by God. That sounds, well, a bit fatalistic.

    Back to the central theme of Stephen Twinoburyo’s blog, I think it is an expression of frustration levelled at traditional leaders who shut up. When the traditional leaders submitted to receiving ‘alms’ from government per month, they were submitting to the authority and oversight of government. That is the problem. The Kings of Bunyoro, Busoga, Toro and the rest all receive ‘alms’ from the Central Government. It is remarkable that they accepted this, but it is also understandable that this had to be done because they did not have any revenue. Buganda, on the other hand is a remarkable example of self reliance, with its CBS and other income generating projects which other kingdoms should have emulated. Alas, the other kingdoms were more comfortable getting the donations from Central Government.

    On the note of other Kingdoms rejoicing when the Buganda Kingdom is being attacked by Central Government, this is true and to deny it is to deny reality. And there is no justification for it. There is a historical desire to see Buganda suffer, because of the assumption (whether right or wrong) that Buganda got a good deal when Uganda was being set up after negotiations with the colonial master. I think this is wrong, since Buganda also suffered loss and paid for their place at the table, as the Kabaka was exiled due to his supposed intransigence towards the British. The Banyoro also suffered and paid a price for their refusal to accept the terms of colonialism.

    Today, Uganda is going to have to go back to the pre-1962 thinking and reshape the future. The ills of former arrangements have to be dealt with in a bid to secure the best future for the country. I have, over the years, been persuaded that federalism is one of the ways to correct these ills and enable equitable distribution of resources, and local management of same resources. And interestingly, the federalist arrangement should be based on tribal borders drawn by the colonialists, but with the caveat of referendums of those disputed areas.

    Thanks for the great note.

  3. martin

    September 26, 2011 at 13:24

    Twino, this one is provocative posting for the traditionists. Two good response from Jessica and Godfrey already but allow me to add following:

    Our traditional leaders are not political leaders at moment. Hence, they can only engage in active politics by proxy. Although some people believe that this is not good, I am one of the people supporting the status quo. Nonetheless, not being political leaders does not make the traditional leaders apolitical. It just constrains the means through which they participate in politics. After all, there is a thin line between politics and everything else.

    Active participation in active politics has a potential to undermines the sanctity of the traditional institutions. The trade offs of a traditional leader’s active participation in politics versus being the custodian of his/her people’s identity, value system, and sense of direction/purpose/existence can be very high and not worth it in my opinion. Politics changes, so does the economy and many other variables in life. Who we are and our value system more static and for good reasons. Traditional leaders are the custodians of these virtues for any particular people or tribe. This what I consider to be the ultimate role of My Kabaka. Influencing political dynamics is the role of us “Abaddu na bazaana” and for the kingdom’s prime minister and government. Something they have tried to do with some of success and with many failures of course.

    Buganda in particular learnt the hard way consequences of mixing the roles (political and traditional) of its Kabaka. And we are not willing to make the same mistake. Nonetheless, this does not mean that traditional leaders should become prisoners of politics and politicians as some people are trying to do.

    We the subject of our respective traditional leaders should take comfort that we have some institutions that have not crumbled in the wake of political persecution. That the centre for these traditional institutions is still holding and holding tightly at least for the case of Buganda. Our King has demonstrated ‘Godly wisdom’ in navigating his kingdom through turbulent times for him and his subjects. He is aware and doing something within the space and channels available to him for the good of his people. Remember in Buganda “Kabaka bwa silika, aba ayogede” (the Kabaka communicate even through silence).

  4. wanyana sylvia

    November 20, 2012 at 12:14

    i also support this realy we hope so much in our cultural leaders since these people love their people and every leader has to work for his region


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