At 3:05pm on Monday, May 13, Buganda kingdom Katikkiro (prime minister) JB Walusimbi officially stepped aside to make way for his successor Charles Peter Mayiga.
Walusimbi gave a small speech that carried a word of caution for Mayiga: “It is not easy to serve this kingdom.”
His retirement comes during the year of the 20th coronation anniversary of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. For the handover, Walusimbi arrived at Bulange, the seat of the Buganda government, three minutes to three o’clock on Monday. He was 23 minutes late for his scheduled handover to Mayiga.
Mayiga, hitherto the kingdom’s minister for Information, Cabinet and Lukiiko (Parliament) Affairs, had arrived earlier on, and walked straight into his new office as kingdom staff, Buganda officials and journalists gathered outside. He joked a little with journalists who were jostling to take pictures of a man they had previously known as the kingdom spokesman.
In office, Mayiga took time to look closely at the pictures and plaques pinned up, and read a few papers lying around. He finally settled down in a sofa, and talked more to journalists, before he was joined by Ambassador William Naggaga, the permanent secretary in the katikkiro’s office, and Ambassador William Matovu, the head of the Royal Treasury, for a private chat.
Mayiga was formally appointed katikkiro on May 12, moments after Walusimbi returned the katikkiro’s instrument of power, the Ddamula, to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. The Kabaka himself had returned from a one-week retreat at his Baamunanika palace to attend the handover ceremony, witnessed by no more than 10 people.
Mayiga is the youngest of the five katikkiros to serve Kabaka Mutebi so far, and comes with 22 years of experience in kingdom’s affairs.
His first stint was in 1991 when he was appointed as the Secretary of the Ssabataka Supreme Council (SSC) that coordinated the kingdom’s restoration process, and went on to serve in different capacities. He became a trusted friend to the Kabaka, who appointed him as one of the three attorneys of his estates.
The search for a new katikkiro began in November 2011, a month before Walusimbi’s scheduled retirement. Walusimbi’s tenure was, however, extended for a year to allow the Kabaka, to make the necessary consultations. According to sources, four names were fronted for the Kabaka to choose from, but Mayiga and the kingdom’s Attorney General Apollo Makubuya emerged front runners.
Prior to this, a group of Buganda loyalists had written a petition to the Kabaka, asking him to either appoint former Katikkiro Dan Muliika or Makindye West MP Hussein Kyanjo. This petition, however, did not reach the Kabaka, because the messengers, a group of youth leaders, opted to hold on to it and instead launched a bid for the Mayiga premiership.
Mayiga, according to his friends, had previously turned down requests to run against Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi for the Bukoto Central parliamentary seat during the 2011 general elections. After the elections, he was approached again, this time round, to start laying ground for the Kyaddondo South seat, after the incumbent Issa Kikungwe indicated he would not seek re-election.
To turn them off, Mayiga reportedly said serving the kingdom was more prestigious than becoming an MP. At their insistence, Mayiga, who was standing outside the CBS FM reception at Bulange, jokingly said he was interested in a job above the CBS office.
Since the katikkiro’s office is on the first floor of Bulange House, above the CBS reception, it became clear to his associates that he was eying the katikkiroship. With the Kabaka then expected to announce the new katikkiro during the New Year’s fete Enkuuka, both Mayiga and Makubuya reportedly flew out of the country, wanting to return after the announcement had been made.
But the Kabaka had a different plan; he extended Walusimbi’s tenure officially for two months further extending their wait. The caucusing meanwhile increased, and eventually Mayiga emerged the best candidate.
Mayiga is the second youngest katikkiro in Buganda’s history, after Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi, who was appointed by Sir Edward Mutesa II at 33. Mayiga’s appointment signals a generational change at Mengo and presents a friendlier public face and a tough challenge to the central government.
After his enthronement, the Kabaka dedicated his reign to the youth, and in Mayiga’s appointment, according to palace sources, the Kabaka wanted to reassure and inspire the youths to get more interested in the kingdom affairs.
“His appointment strengthens the youths and assures them that they are in charge. Buganda recognizes that generations come and pass, and the future of the kingdom is in the hands of the young generation,” says Kabuuza Mukasa, the Mengo minister in charge of the Kabaka’s travel.
Whereas the Kabaka had different reasons for choosing Mayiga, we have learnt that Mayiga’s lobbyists had a bigger agenda which may see him running for the presidency in 2021. His strategists are praying he performs well as katikkiro. If he excels and going by the exposure he will have got as katikkiro, they hope that he will be a marketable candidate to run for president in 2021.
Throughout his five-year tenure as Katikkiro JB Walusimbi has ridden a rough terrain, constantly at loggerheads with some youthful Buganda MPs and loyalists. His troubles began just months into his tenure, when the Kabaka was blocked from visiting Bugerere county (Kayunga district), triggering a violent wave of protests across the kingdom, and the eventual closure of the kingdom’s radio CBS FM.
Walusimbi’s moderate, apolitical personality, more often exploited by several central government politicians, also landed him into problems with his master. The most prominent time is when he was convinced by President Museveni into meeting the Ssabanyala and Ssabaluuli. Some kingdom officials and loyalists then accused Walusimbi of advancing Museveni interests.
His latest run-in was with Betty Nambooze, the Mukono municipality MP, over the proposed ebyaffe motion in Parliament. He retires after 23 years of service to the kingdom. He started off in 1990 as a member of the Ssabataka Supreme Council. He then formed part of Kabaka Mutebi’s first cabinet as Finance Minister.
“I was greatly inspired by professionals like him who chose to the serve the king and the kingdom,” Mayiga said of his predecessor. “We have made progress during his time despite the various challenges he faced, but he took them in his stride, and as they continued to come, he didn’t waver. He sets a good example for the old and the young.”