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We have traditional leaders not institutions

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th November 2010 03:00 AM

THE New Vision of October 28 published an article by Robert Ssebunya titled ‘Baganda should not believe what Besigye is promising’.

Adam Nsamba

THE New Vision of October 28 published an article by Robert Ssebunya titled ‘Baganda should not believe what Besigye is promising’.

Ssebunya underlines the fact that President Yoweri Museveni returned traditional and cultural institutions, urging Buganda to be grateful.

I want to focus on the issue of returning traditional institutions versus traditional leaders and whether we should have traditional leaders or institutions in Uganda.

Article 264 of the 1995 Constitution stipulates that the institution of cultural leaders may exist anywhere in Uganda in accordance with the culture, customs and traditions and aspirations of the people.

Whereas the Constitution defines a cultural leader it does not define a traditional or cultural institution.

The National Resistance Movement returned cultural, leaders not traditional or cultural institutions. Article 246 stipulates that a person shall not, while remaining a cultural leader, participate in partisan politics.

This clause puts emphasis on the person of the king, not the institutions he/she represents.

We need to be aware that what the colonialists did was to personalise the traditional institutions, so that there was a single culture specific to a particular territory.

In essence, Ssebunya should have told Ugandans that President Museveni returned kings not cultural institutions.

We are not likely to have traditional institutions because even the planned law to operationalise Article 246 of the Constitution puts emphasis on traditional leaders not institutions.

Let no one deceive Ugandans that we have traditional institutions; we have traditional leaders. If we had traditional institutions, we would have functional traditional government institutions, like regional administrative and political centres responsible for social services.

The question would then be how ‘traditional governments’ collaborate with the local governments or districts. If we want traditional institutions, the starting point should be to have a national debate on the issue and streamline the nature of powers and functions that can be accorded to those institutions.

The failure to have a debate on this issue means that the Government focuses on the individual leaders as embodiments of institutions, which personalises cultural institutions.

The proposed Regional Tier may co-opt rather than establish viable traditional institutions. The Regional Government Bill, 2009 fuses traditional and political functions within the office of the regional chairperson.

It is important to create checks and balances as well as political and administrative incentives and disincentives in local governance. If we choose to have traditional leaders as heads of the regional governments, we may have conflicts in different regions.


The writer is a senior research and advocacy officer on decentralisation

We have traditional leaders not institutions

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