Museveni, Mengo collide on Kooki

You are trying to destroy Buganda, top minister tells president

The already-strained relations between Buganda and the central government will be under renewed pressure when President Museveni travels to Kooki to launch a Shs 8.51bn project for the Kamuswaga, Apollo Ssansa Kabumbuli II, later this month. The Kamuswaga has already threatened to cause the secession of Kooki from Buganda.

A source close to the Kamuswaga has told us that among the projects that President Museveni is expected to launch is an FM radio station he donated to the Kamuswaga to help him entrench the Olukooki dialect, which is threatened by extinction.

The radio station, which is being installed in a building that formerly served as the Rakai district service commission offices, is part of a Shs 2bn pledge the president made to save a dialect currently spoken by just six elderly men. It is expected to be managed by Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).

“It’s mainly for promotion of Kooki programmes, and to teach our people their language. There are only six men who can speak the language, and the president has accepted to facilitate them to compile a book that will be used to teach the language,” an official told The Observer.

Buganda’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Apollo Makubuya told The Observer on Wednesday that the developments were part of Museveni’s ongoing efforts to divide the kingdom and create hatred amongst communities that have previously lived in harmony.

“Museveni is behaving like the colonialists who came with an agenda of dividing the communities and creating hatred. His ultimate goal is to weaken [Buganda] kingdom,” he said.

On May 26, the Kamuswaga told journalists that his chiefdom might break away from Buganda, accusing the Mengo establishment of not honouring the agreement his forefathers signed with the kingdom of Buganda. This was moments before Kabaka Ronald Mutebi arrived in Kooki to launch this year’s edition of the annual Buganda Masaza Cup football tournament.

“I think the people at Mengo should move at a slow pace, Kooki is very sensitive because it also has a cultural leader, who is recognised by the central government,” the Kamuswaga said then.

At the time, the Kamuswaga raised a number of demands on Mengo, one of which was being accorded a special status, higher than that of other ssaza (county) chiefs, and to have this throne inside the Mengo Lukiiko hall.

The agreement

According to the agreement signed on November 18, 1896 between Kabaka Mwanga and Kamuswaga Kezekia Ndahura, a copy of which The Observer has seen, the Kamuswaga surrendered all his authority and privileges to the Kabaka.

“I the Kamuswaga, hitherto King of Kooki, on my free will and choice, surrender my position as an independent king and recognise myself to be a subject of the king of Buganda. I accept to assume the position of a Muganda Ssaza chief of first class. My powers, privileges, rights, duties, obligations and position generally shall be those of other Ssaza chiefs of the same rank,” the agreement reads in part.

This handwritten three-page agreement was signed by Mwanga (then Kabaka), and witnessed by then Katikkiro Apollo Kaggwa, Stanislaus Mugwanya (finance minister) plus Ssaza chiefs, Kago (Kyaddondo), one Poro, Pokino (Buddu), Alex Ssebbowa, Mukwenda (Ssingo), one Yona and Kangawo (Bulemeezi). The Kamuswaga Ndahura used a thumbprint to sign the document and had his katikkiro (prime minister), one Kabandagara, and a chief (Ssabaddu), one Mugara, as his witnesses.

George Wilson, a representative of the colonial government, signed on the agreement on behalf of the Queen of England.

Long history

Prior to the signing of this agreement, a special relationship that dates as far back as 1704 existed between Kooki and Buganda. During that year (1704), two princes from Bunyoro conquered part of Kiziba chiefdom. The elder prince Bwohe sent his young brother to inform the Omukama of Bunyoro about the achievement, but the messenger was killed by an incensed Omukama. Bwohe, who had now established his influence over the area, changed allegiance from Bunyoro to Buganda for protection.

He recruited several Baganda as advisers and military trainers, and eventually created a tributary relationship with Buganda by the 18th century, according to The Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 5. This relationship later turned into complete absorption of Kooki into the Kingdom of Buganda with the signing of the 1896 agreement.

“… and I recognize henceforth the sovereign of Kooki is Mwanga king of [Buganda] and after him his heirs and successors,” the Kamuswaga further committed himself in the agreement.

In return, Mwanga committed to treat the Kamuswaga as a first-class Ssaza chief, who retains his cultural identity, would enjoy all the benefits and privileges of all other Ssaza chiefs in the kingdom.

“The things he is complaining about are not in the agreement … you can’t impose a unilateral measure - compose an anthem, design a flag which is in breach of the agreement. In law, if there is to be a review of an agreement, you don’t act unilaterally without involving the other party. What he needs to do is to seek audience with the Kabaka and agree on the areas that need to be reviewed but not the way he has handled it,” Makubuya said.

The secession threats, according to Makubuya, are politically inspired, and part of President Museveni’s wider plan to cause the disintegration of Buganda kingdom.

“After Kooki, they are targeting Buwekula but we shall watch and see whether he [Museveni] will abrogate the constitution,” Makubuya said.

However, the special presidential assistant on communication, Sarah Kagingo, dismissed Buganda’s fears, saying the president could not be party to such schemes.

“If he was invited by the Kamuswaga, he is going there as a head of state and is not in any way involved in the breakaway plans,” Kagingo told The Observer in a phone interview on Thursday.


© 2016 Observer Media Ltd