After years of acrimony, former Prime Minister Apolo Robin Nsibambi, in his new book, offers ideas on how Buganda’s unresolved demands can be met, without a fight.
In the book, National Integration in Uganda 1962-2013, Nsibambi suggests that democratising Buganda kingdom and yielding to its federalism demands could settle the stalemate.
“Why is the demand for federalism persistent in Buganda? It must be noted that although the kabaka’s government has a lot of influence...it lacks entrenched and significant sources of revenue which it had acquired under the quasi-independence constitution,” he says, adding that the demand for federalism is one of the unsettled issues in independent Uganda.
Although Nsibambi was initially not supportive of a special federal status for Buganda, since it could impede national integration, he has since changed his view after the demand for federalism has been ‘de-Bugandised’.
“This means that the proposed federal formula embraces other areas of Uganda,” he writes.
Nsibambi’s new book, launched last Friday at Sheraton hotel, expands the boundaries of knowledge on Uganda’s quest for national integration. He explores how national integration has been handled in the three regions of Buganda, Karamoja and the northern region.
But before delving into the integration narrative, Nsibambi defines what national integration presupposes. He defines it as a broad process which entails three major dimensions: (1) trans-ethnic integration, which refers to the problem of bringing together different ethnic and religious groups to form one territorial nationality; (2) territorial integration, which is concerned with the problem of establishing national central authority over subordinate units, and (3) social integration, which refers to the bridging of the elite-mass gap on the vertical plane.
In his view, Nsibambi, a political scientist, claims that failure of the state to provide adequate security and welfare and the unequal distribution of modernisation among the different ethnic groups, are the major causes of ethnicity in Africa. Nsibambi, who uses the case of Nigeria to explain his point, writes that when the state fails to provide adequate security and welfare to individuals, it forces them to rely on traditional and ethnic constituencies for support.
“For instance, the anti-Ibo sentiments which led thousands of Ibo to be killed in Nigeria created so much insecurity among them that they sought to secede from Nigeria,” Nsibambi writes. Surprisingly, Nsibambi does not relate this point to Uganda.
In chapter three, Nsibambi discusses the process of integrating Buganda into Uganda. He shows attempts and emerging problems that have been encountered with respect to integration of an ethnicity he considers to be “a nation” in an independent Uganda. In his assessment, Nsibambi, after examining how different regimes since independence to date have dealt with the question of integrating Buganda in Uganda, thinks that Museveni scores highly. This is marked by the restoration of the kingdom in 1993.
Although Nsibambi acknowledges that the restoration of Buganda kingdom brought challenges like the return of the kingdom’s property among others, he says President Museveni has been magnanimous to sort out the problems which were causing major disagreements between kabaka’s government and the central government.
“As a result of those negotiations, on August 2, 2013, President Museveni agreed to make the following concessions to the kingdom of Buganda...return of administrative properties from county to sub-county, compensate the kingdom for Muteesa House in Britain,” he writes.
However, Nsibambi writes that Museveni’s efforts to integrate Buganda are frustrated by some opposition sympathisers.
“Some members of the opposition parties were not happy when the central government and the kabaka’s government restored a harmonious relationship between themselves,” he writes, mentioning the likes of Busiro East MP Medard Sseggona.
“Hon Medard Sseggona, a member of the Democratic Party, told a political rally at Masaka...that nobody in Buganda should be excited by President Museveni’s recent signing of the agreement to return Buganda’s property and to pay the money government owes to the kingdom in rent arrears for its properties,” he writes, but credits the current leadership at Mengo for not falling prey to opposition sentiments.
“The current Buganda team has set a reconciliatory tone with the central government,” he writes.
In chapters four and five, Nsibambi says the integration of Karamoja and northern Uganda into Uganda is crucial for the country’s harmony, unity and stability. He explores the different attempts that have been made to achieve that. Nsibambi also writes that a national language is important if Uganda is to achieve national integration.
“The absence of a national language in Uganda has meant that ethnic groups which cannot communicate with each other continue to harbour prejudices and entrenched stereotypes which they hold against each other,” he writes.
But the book has received mixed reviews. Some academics criticise the book for not exploring issues like nepotism and tribalism, which, if practised by politicians, can impede national integration.
“We needed to read from the Ugandan context how issues like inclusive politics and national development are being done. How many people in cabinet are from the west or north,” said Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a history lecturer at Makerere University.
Last Friday, Ndeebesa said that one could not discuss national integration without exploring how national resources and political power were shared.
“The East has never had a president, there are religions that feel discriminated, we have the Asian question; all these needed to be explored,” Ndebesa said.