Buganda to Ankole: You don’t need State House to crown king

Mr Makubuya speaking at Bulange, Mengo on Thursday. PHOTOS BY STEPHEN OTAGE

By Emmanuel Gyezaho  (email the author)Posted  Sunday, November 6  2011 at  00:00

In Summary

The country’s biggest monarchy has joined the fray over the restoration of Ankole Kingdom. Sunday Monitor’s Emmanuel Gyezaho speaks to Buganda Kingdom Attorney General Apollo Makubuya who says the people of Ankole do not require the blessings of State House or President Museveni, to install their king and revive a kingdom on the verge of extinction.

Blessing the kingdom. The country’s biggest monarchy has joined the fray over the restoration of Ankole Kingdom. Sunday Monitor’s Emmanuel Gyezaho speaks to Buganda Kingdom Attorney General Apollo Makubuya who says the people of Ankole do not require the blessings of State House or President Museveni, to install their king and revive a kingdom on the verge of extinction. Excerpts below;

The recent demise and laying to rest of Prince John Barigye has rekindled debate on the restoration of Ankole Kingdom. What are your thoughts on this?
Prince Barigye, struggled quite a lot through diplomacy, to some extent politics and through some of the people who believe in the monarchy to restore the kingdom. But of course that didn’t work. There is a group which loves and supports Obugabe but also there is another group which doesn’t like the Obugabe and because of this group, the government has said no.

For me as a lawyer and also coming from a kingdom which is friendly to the Obugabe and the late omugabe in particular, there is need to talk about this. Article 246, of the Constitution talks about traditional and cultural institutions and it is very clear. It says the institution of a traditional or cultural leader may exist in any area of Uganda in accordance with the culture, customs, traditions or wishes and aspirations of the people to whom it applies.

So there is no provision in the Constitution that requires government to recognise a traditional leader so long as that traditional leader is recognised by the people in accordance with the culture and tradition. How someone becomes a king is a cultural process. It is not a political process. Therefore to suggest that the President or the district councils must sit and say yes is really to drag cultural matters into the political arena. Now, some people say that Article 246 (2) which states that in any community, like Ankole, where the traditional or cultural leader has not been resolved, the issue shall be resolved by the community concerned using a method prescribed by Parliament. But I argue that this provision doesn’t apply for the case of Ankole.

Have you ever heard anyone claiming the Obugabe apart from the late Barigye or have you heard so far anyone challenging his heir Charles Aryaija Rwebishengye? This provision of Clause 2 applies in the Busoga situation because the issue of the leader hasn’t been resolved.
In Ankole, there is no dispute as far as I am aware as to who the heir in the long line of the monarchy of Ankole is. The problems of the Kyabazingaship in Busoga have resulted from political intermeddling in cultural affairs. The choice of Kyabazinga should be the business of the people and customs of the Basoga and not politicians in Kampala. Some politicians want to see weak and divided kingdoms; hence while they are very ready to pay hospital bills and funeral expenses of a fallen king, they won’t return their expropriated assets or pay for the land and premises.

But there are those who disagree because the old Nkore Kingdom over-run some chiefdoms like Bunyaruguru, Mpororo, Igara and Buhweju.

Every kingdom in the process of expanding of course integrated, over-run, assimilated with other weaker groups. Yes, in Ankole there may be groups which don’t subscribe to the Obugabe and that is okay. Because Article 246 3 (d) provides that no other person shall be compelled to pay allegiance or contribute to the cost of maintaining a traditional or cultural institution. So nobody should compel them to pay allegiance to Mr. Charles Aryaija. The issue of who is a traditional or cultural leader is not a democratic process. It is not about democracy that majority wins.

It’s about culture. So you may be 100 people opposed to 10 but to those 10, this is their culture and they believe in it and the 100 cannot determine their cultural values. Yes they may be opposed and that is okay but what is not okay is for them to use a political process to deny the rights of the people who believe in Obugabe to have their Omugabe.

Why do you think the government has since sided with those opposed to the restoration of the kingdom?
It is purely for political reasons. Because here in Buganda we had a few people who were opposed to the reinstatement of the Kabaka. Some went to court but that didn’t stop the kingdom from being restored.

Well, the political will to restore the Kabaka was there.
Yes, I think it was there. The politics in Ankole maybe the reason why the people are being denied (the restoration of Omugabe) but if the people in Ankole who love the Omugabe want to have their Omugabe, let them ignore the politics.

What should they do?
They should install their Omugabe in accordance to their culture and customs. On the question of recognition; it would be nice if the President attended the coronation; it would be nice if the district leaders are in attendance but it would not be fatal if they are not there. The power to install their Omugabe is in their hands. It is not in the hands of State House.

You think they don’t know this already?
I don’t know. Maybe they don’t. I know for a fact that there has been some talk about putting this matter before the Constitutional Court. The question of recognition of a traditional leader is beside the point. It is not necessary for one to be recognised and installed. You know the Traditional and Cultural Leaders Bill of 2010; one of the issues that government tried to introduce in that Bill was this issue of recognition which we opposed and was removed in the final draft although the law has never come into force.

If the Banyankole who are interested in Obugabe are interested in the perks that go with the recognition; the Shs5 million, Mercedes Benz and so on, then they can wait. But if they can take a leaf from us, the kingdom and the king can exist without those perks.

There have been past attempts to install a king and the government stepped in and said no we cannot let this happen. Well, the government can say they don’t recognise a leader but the government cannot stop the Banyankole to recognise their man as their Omugabe. Nobody is going to be arrested to say that Charles Aryaija is the Omugabe of Ankole

What did Buganda Kingdom do for which Nkore should?
What the kingdom of Ankole has not done or the people who believe in the Obugabe is just stand on their two feet and maintain a position on this thing. They have believed more in diplomacy and appease the political leadership and not to rattle feathers. But you know where our things are concerned, we don’t care. We have opposed. This lack of principled stand on Obugabe has the net effect of weakening people.

How do you view government’s push to install a king for the Buruli community and yet remains opposed to having a king for Ankole?
This is double standards. In the case of Buruli, the government is prepared to install and support the Ssabaruli. Aren’t there people who are opposed to the Ssabaruli? There are very many and the majority in the case of Buganda. So why is it okay for the Ssabaruli to be installed and supported by the government but is not okay for the Omugabe?

Why is it okay for the government to support the Ssabanyala and give him a regiment of people to protect him when he faces such outright opposition? These all point that this whole thing is a political game and we must not allow our cultures to be subjected to politics. The Constitution is simple and says a traditional leader may exist in any area in Uganda in accordance to the culture or customs or wishes of the people to whom it applies. However few the number, they are entitled.

How do you respond to claims that the supposed ethnic tensions between the Bahima, of whom the President is one, and the Bairu, are responsible for Ankole Kingdom’s current troubles?
Well what I know is that the institution of the Obugabe has been divisive in the past between the Bahima and the Bairu and that there are certain sections of Bairu who are opposed to the idea for historical reasons. Now, times have changed. I know that the Enganzi of Ankole is a Mwiru and I know so many Bairu; some support, others wouldn’t care less.

Actually, based on what we witnessed during the send-off of our friend Barigye, the institution can be a uniting force for Ankore. It is very painful for me, and many others, to see that the government has deliberately refused to return artifacts and regalia such as the royal drum. This is their culture. They are depriving the youth from knowing about their king, their kingdom, history and culture.

President Museveni declared himself the Ssabagabe of Uganda sometime in the early 1990s. Do you think that declaration has anything to do with the kingdom’s current situation?
I think this has been partly part of the problem. The fact that the President declared himself the Ssabagabe partly undermined the restoration of the Obugabe. Actually that claim reminds me of Muammar Gadaffi’s claim of being the “King of Kings”.

Some say the President has failed to recognise the kingdom because he comes from a clan that would be supplicant to the king. That is culture. I don’t think that anyone; powerful leaders in NRM and government would necessarily be shy to partake of their culture and recognise their leader especially also because they tell us all the time that they love their culture. Obugabe is part of their culture.

What would be difficult for the President to pay humble supplication and bow to the king if enthroned?

I don’t think he would have a problem. The President from time to time meets with the Kabaka of Buganda and they have cordial mutual respect. The same thing applies with the young king of Tooro. When the Queen [of England] visited Uganda last time, the President was in position to relate. I don’t think it should be different especially for a man who says he loves his culture very much and is always feeding us with cultural values and saying he is from Ankole.

How prepared is Buganda to support those pushing for the restoration of the Ankole Kingdom?
For us in Buganda we are prepared to support the pro-Obugabe group. And we shall do anything to support the young king.

How best can this issue of the monarchy today be resolved especially when you have some groups agitating for both administrative and cultural power?
This is the case for Buganda. It is an issue of governance. The Constitution is clear and says all power belongs to the people and the people must be governed in accordance with their aspirations. So whatever governance structures we adopt as a country, we must respect the aspirations of the people. So if the people desire to be governed under a federal system; I don’t know about Ankole, but for us in Buganda this is our desire and we have many reasons.

Has Buganda thought about the possibility of cessation?
Our first interest really is to see how to reintroduce federalism in Uganda. Cessation is not the first thing. It is not what we wish to do. If it ever happens, it will be because we are forced to.

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