Amid the euphoria that greeted last year’s agreement – then called a memorandum of understanding – between President Museveni and Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, critical observers warned that the real test lay in implementing it.
And at a closed-door meeting with Buganda MPs on Wednesday, Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga spoke about his frustration with government’s reluctance to translate the ink on paper into reality on the ground.
The agreement returned many ancestral properties to Buganda; but speaking out openly for first time since the agreement was signed on August 1, 2013, Mayiga told the MPs at Bulange, the seat of Buganda kingdom, that he had written several letters to government officials which had been ignored.
And on the other occasions, he said, he has offered to meet with the relevant government officials but has always been tossed around.
“But when issues to do with the [likes of] Mwogeza Butamanya [Buruuli chief] come up, they are quick to invite me and ask me how to go about them,” Mayiga said. “If they are saying that there are contentious issues relating [to the rebellious chiefs], why are they [government] not implementing the other issues that are not shrouded in controversy?” Mayiga wondered.
The closed-door meeting was followed by a one-hour open interaction attended by journalists and other kingdom staff. At least 30 of the 99 caucus MPs attended. The katikkiro’s delegation included kingdom Attorney General and Local Governments Minister Daudi Kisitu Mpanga, Spokesman Denis Ssengendo Walusimbi and Gender and Bulungibwansi Minister Christine Nagawa Kasule.
The MPs, in their memorandum read earlier by the caucus Chairman Godfrey Kiwanda (Mityana North), had urged Mayiga to explain the contents of the agreement.
“When we came here last year, you said you could not give us its [agreement’s] details until you had presented it to the Lukiiko [Buganda Parliament],” Kiwanda said.
“Since then, we have not heard from you. What is in that agreement? What have you achieved? What has failed? Is there a way we can help?” Kiwanda asked.
Mayiga revealed that government had paid an additional Shs 2bn out of the Shs 20.3bn in rental arrears owed to the kingdom.
“There are a lot of issues [in the agreement] that government is still silent about. For example, we gave them [government] our valuation figures for the properties they are supposed to compensate us for but we have not heard from them,” Mayiga said.
He later told the MPs that he was planning to meet President Museveni over the matter. In the past, Mayiga said he feared to speak out openly about the agreement because he didn’t want to be accused by government of breaching the agreement.
According to the agreement, government is supposed to compensate the kingdom for confiscated ancestral properties such as Muteesa House in London that the kingdom has valued separately at £5m (Shs 21.5bn). Other properties include four Rolls-Royce cars that belonged to Sir Edward Muteesa II, Plot 52 Kampala road, in addition to chunks of land in Kampala’s industrial area and major police stations.
“They have remained mum, we don’t know whether they are in agreement with our valuations or not,” Mayiga said.
He said government has up to the end of the current financial year (June 30, 2015) to clear the balance of Shs 16bn of the Shs 20.3bn rental debt.
Unfortunately, Mayiga told the MPs that the agreement spells out no remedies in case government reneged on its obligations.
“I believe you also have a duty to help us demand for these things because we had hoped that within a year, government would have fulfilled what was agreed upon,” Mayiga said.
Kabula MP James Kakooza suggested that the MPs should push government to include the money in its next supplementary budget requests.
The August 2013 agreement stirred a lot of controversy among Buganda loyalists. Last August, some Lukiiko members petitioned the Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, urging him to prevail over Mayiga to let the Lukiiko debate the agreement.
It remains to be seen whether that will happen. Mayiga also asked the MPs to use the current constitutional amendment process to renew Buganda’s agitation for a federal system of governance.
Mayiga told MPs that the kingdom had chosen to ignore the kingdom’s “rebellious chiefs”, notably Ssabanyala Maj Baker Kimeze, Ssabaruuli Mwogeza Butamanya and Kooki’s Kamuswaga Apollo Ssansa Kabumbuli II. He branded them as opportunists who are making outrageous demands to cause unnecessary debate.
“A person like Mwogeza Butamanya has less than 1,000 followers in Buruuli against the Kabaka’s more than 100,000 followers in the same area, that one should not bother us,” Mayiga said.
He made reference to clause 1(IV) of Section B of the agreement that requires the Kabaka to respect the cultural norms of other related ethnic communities in Buganda. He said that clause does not declare anyone king besides the Kabaka.
“We didn’t take this clause as a serious issue because long before the coming of colonialists, Buganda was a collection of tribes, it was a nation state, and no one can teach us how to respect other communities living within Buganda,” he said.
The MPs cautioned the Katikkiro against continuing with his fundraiser (ettoffaali) without the kingdom helping its people to climb out of poverty.
“You should devise means of empowering the people economically; otherwise, they are fed up, in the end, the fundraisings will chase them away from the Kabaka,” Syda Bbumba (Nakaseke) said.
Bbumba was supported by Amos Lugoloobi (Ntenjeru North) who opposed Mayiga’s focus on coffee. He suggested that the kingdom should instead redirect its efforts to replanting bananas.