They have always supported opposition to no avail, critics say
A new Buganda-leaning political mobilisation group, Ssuubi 2011, launched formally last week, has drawn mixed reactions about its prospects of dislodging the NRM regime.
Whereas some people believe that it will woo Baganda voters to the opposition, some dismiss it as being of no consequence, politically. Ssuubi 2011 chiefly comprises Buganda politicians of diverse political persuasions, including those with no political affiliation.
The group is yet to name its leadership, but its current Internal Coordinator is former Buganda Kingdom information minister, Medard Lubega Ssegona, with former Buganda Kingdom Prime Minister, Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere as patron.
In its ranks are MPs Erias Lukwago (Kampala Central), Dr. Lulume Bayiga (Buikwe South), Betty Nambooze (Mukono North) and former Mengo Youth Minister Mathias Mpuuga. Others are former NSSF Corporation Secretary, John Baptist Kakooza, and IPC Spokesperson, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda.
Ssuubi 2011’s launch last Thursday at Christ the King Hall was attended by officials from UPC, JEEMA, FDC, SDP and CP.
The group founders insist it is not a political party, although they hope to partner with all political forces, including IPC, to dislodge the current regime.
They plan to field and support candidates sympathetic to the Buganda cause.
Speaking at the event, Ssegona proclaimed that Ssuubi 2011 is a self-liberation crusade for Buganda and Uganda, whose formation was motivated by “the many evils that have eaten up our society.” He cited corruption, sectarianism, state inspired violence and collapse of state institutions.
Buganda’s unresolved issues with the central government dominated most of the speeches, indicating they will be the group’s core talking points.
Ssegona condemned the burning of the Kasubi Tombs, the continued closure of CBS and the prohibition of the Kabaka’s visit to Kayunga last year.
“In Uganda, it is only the Kabaka who needs a visa to go to another district,” he said.
Nambooze, another core member, noted that Ssuubi 2011 shall support “politicians who love Buganda and Uganda,” while Social Democratic Party President Michael Mabikke was more direct: “We want a president who will respect the Kabaka and Buganda.”
While the group is the first political entity with links to Mengo to formally organise against the ruling NRM, it remains to be seen if its perceived appeal to Baganda voters will translate into electoral defeat for the NRM.
This is because, with the exception of people like Mulwanyamuli, the rest of the members, including Nambooze and Lukwago, have always opposed the NRM, calling for the isolation of politicians opposed to Buganda’s pursuits.
Such calls have always been ignored and yet NRM continued to have a foothold in Buganda. For example, out of the 82 MPs from Buganda in the current Parliament, 64 are NRM-leaning, with only 28 belonging to the opposition.
The numbers notwithstanding, Ssuubi’s members are optimistic. According to Bayiga, Ssuubi will succeed because, “it is full of young, energetic, experienced and schooled people.”
Mpuuga says Suubi is a group of “tested, trusted and predictable” people.
“We have never betrayed our people,” he said.
But critics dismiss Ssuubi’s capacity to deliver Buganda to the opposition on account that the NRM has always recorded victories in Buganda even when the kingdom’s grievances remained unresolved.
For instance, NRM won the 1996 elections barely a year after the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution that rejected a federal system of government that Baganda had sought in the 1993 Odoki Commission report.
The Constitution also never reverted the land management system to the pre-1966 position that placed public land under the administration of the Kabaka as Mengo had requested.
The NRM also won the 2001 elections that were held after the passing of the 1998 Land Act that Mengo, the seat of Buganda Kingdom, opposed vigorously, especially the provision that required tenants to pay Shs 1,000 annual fee (obusuulu) to landlords.
While three of Buganda’s ministers; Joyce Ssebugwawo, Sewava Sserubiri and Kamala Kanamwangi supported the opposition candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye, during those elections, the Buganda vote still went to the NRM.
Mpuuga, however, argues that the previous elections have always been rigged, and are therefore not a credible indicator of NRM’s support in Buganda.
He also doesn’t want to be compared to the three former Mengo ministers who failed to deliver victory for the opposition in Buganda.
“I am none of the three. We have a different approach and are operating at different times,” he says.
Ssuubi 2011 could also face the same challenge opposition parties have been facing - lack of candidates to take on NRM.
However, Nambooze disagrees, saying there is nothing like a known or unknown politician.
“People start from somewhere; you are calling me now but a few years ago you wouldn’t call me for an interview,” she noted. She added that much as they want an immediate regime change, Ssuubi will not end in 2011.
President Museveni’s Advisor on Buganda Affairs, Robert Ssebunya, downplays Ssuubi 2011’s capacity to mobilise Baganda voters against the NRM, saying the ruling party only needs to intensify its mobilisation in Buganda.
“We shall tell them (Baganda) what government has done for them and the role of individuals like Mulwanyamuli in the Regional Tier which he is now opposing. People will be told what he negotiated or said during the talks,” Ssebunya said.
In July 2004, Ssemwogerere led the Mengo team to negotiate with the government and agreed on a regional tier arrangement after federalism was rejected by the central government side.
The regional tier deal had provisions like an elected Katikkiro and two Lukiikos, one for cultural affairs and the other for politics. Buganda later rejected the arrangement.
In his book King on the Throne, Buganda Information Minister, Charles Peter Mayiga, writes that the regional tier was opposed by elements who didn’t want Mulwanyamuli and his team to take credit for solving Buganda’s longstanding issues with the central government.
It is doubtable that such elements would now listen to Ssemwogerere’s regime change message.
Nambooze was uncomfortable discussing the issue, saying the question should be put to Mulwanyamuli. She, however, says people appreciate the difficult situation under which he negotiated for the regional tier “with a President [Museveni] who used to be dressed in military fatigues at night.”
Not every Ssuubi opponent, however, dismisses it. DP’s Kawempe South MP, Ssebuliba Mutumba, says it’s okay for Ssuubi to mobilise people for change, but challenges its promoters to articulate their plans for the country after removing NRM.
“They can go around Buganda arousing peoples’ sentiments; what programmes do they have for people after that?” he asked.
Ssebuliba declined to discuss the group’s prospects.
“I don’t want that debate of who is better than the other. If I am hunting for a buffalo, I don’t go for a small animal that crosses my way.”
Mpuuga, however, says the key issue now is regime change for people to re-possess their country.
“We need to first take this country to its true owners - the Ugandans who will decide its destiny,” he notes.
This is in a way the first major challenge Ssuubi faces - getting accepted by all in the opposition ranks.