Some members are toying with the idea of kicking non-Baganda out in the proposed caucus
A proposal to change the name of Buganda parliamentary caucus has stirred controversy among its members.
Outgoing caucus chairperson Godfrey Kiwanda told New Vision that some members were toying with the idea of kicking non-Baganda out in the proposed Baganda parliamentary caucus.
However, Kiwanda, who is also tourism state minister and Mityana North MP, did not mention names. Buganda caucus members are the ones from the 18 counties of Buganda. These counties are Buddu, Bugerere, Buluuli, Buweekula, Busiro, Mawogola, Mawokota, Ssese, Bulemeezi, Gomba, Buvuma, Busujju, Ssingo, Butambala, Kabula, Kyadondo, Kkooki and Kyaggwe.
The caucus was formed in 1996 to enable members speak with a unified voice on Buganda kingdom issues regardless of their political affiliations.
New Vision also learnt on Thursday that there were proposed guidelines for the over 100-member caucus before fresh elections are held.
A section of caucus members led by Kira Municipality MP, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, want qualifications for candidates who want to vie for caucus positions set, term of office and responsibilities of officeholders stated and determine who and who doesn't become a member.
"All those things are not defined. As long as you represent the geographical territory in Buganda, you are a member of caucus and you can become the chairperson whether you have been abusing the Kabaka. I think we are now trying to reconstitute ourselves properly. When we elect you chairman what do we expect from you?" Ssemujju told New Vision.
Kiwanda welcomed the proposed guidelines but strongly opposed the idea of changing the name, saying it would promote tribalism and chase away some members.
"The idea of having guidelines is good but we can't afford to have a tribal caucus. Ours is a regional caucus and anyone who is elected from one of the constituencies of Buganda belongs to the caucus," he stressed.
An interim committee that was set up last Monday by the caucus to organise fresh elections within one month is doing consultations on the guidelines and the constitution, said Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality MP), who is leading the committee.
"We are now trying to come up with a Constitution and we need to replace guidelines that were not gazetted," Mpuuga said.
The Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker added that they were yet to set the date for elections of new leaders.
"We are still going through the preliminary issues raised by members during the meeting and also doing consultations on the nature of binding legal documents that we shall present to members," he explained.
He stated that since Parliament has the power to make laws it remains their duty as Buganda MPs to make sure that whatever policies or legislations that go through parliament Buganda is properly and adequately represented.
"So it remains the duty of the caucus to make sure that there is no misrepresentation of the social, economic and political wishes of the people of Buganda and indeed the Kingdom. The Kingdom has the moral authority over the people of Buganda and this moral authority must be reflected in the actions of members of the caucus," Mpuuga said.
This follows a frenzied meeting they had at parliament last Monday that saw them shelve the plan to hold elections after members questioned the legitimacy of Kiwanda.
Members accused Kiwanda, who was recently appointed tourism state minister, of overstaying his mandate and questioned why he had assumed powers to call an election and even constitute an electoral commission.
Kiwanda had reportedly convened the meeting to have the members elect new leaders and also introduce the caucus to the new members.
However, some of the new members led by Rubaga North legislator (independent) Moses Kasibante protested Kiwanda's move, demanding to know what the caucus stands for.
Ssemujju, who is also the Opposition chief whip and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) spokesperson, said what their caucus stands for must be defined before elections could be held.
"The difference between us and other geographical areas is that when you go to Acholi parliamentary group it is going to be a group of Acholis either with one Langi or none. If you go to Lango it's going to be a Lango parliamentray group made up of Langis either with one Acholi or with none.
Ours is so cosmopolitan but as I speak to you now I think 20%-30% MPs from Buganda are not Baganda," he said.
Battle for chairmanship
About six MPs are said to be interested in the chairmanship and some observers say caucus members may prefer a candidate of experience and good working relationship with Mengo, the seat of Buganda Kingdom.
Ssemujju said they need to elect leaders who will know their responsibilities and work towards implementing the caucus objectives and not serve their own interests.
"I understand many of them (leaders) have ended up making it look like an appendage of the NRM caucus, a platform for them to aspire for ministerial appointments and that can't continue because sometimes when you are a caucus your objectives may actually conflict with objectives of political parties and government but once you are a leader whose unstated objective is to be seen to be appointed a minister then you are in trouble," he warned.
The aspirants include Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM), David Kalwanga (Busujju County, Independent), John Bosco Lubyayi (Mawokota South, NRM) and Democratic Party's Mukono Municipality MP, Betty Nambooze.
However, Nambooze, who is now the caucus deputy chairman, is yet to announce that she will stand.
Analysts say Buganda caucus is the influential regional grouping in the House and the position of chairperson is highly sought after because history has shown the bearer always winds up in cabinet.
Former Kyamuswa MP Tim Lwanga (Kyamuswa), Lwanga, who chaired the Buganda caucus in the 7th Parliament, became minister, as did Dr Alfred Mubanda (Busiro South), Rose Namayanja (Nakaseke Woman),and most recently, Kiwanda.
The Associate Professor of public administration at Uganda Management Institute, Gerald Karyeija said Buganda caucus could not be easily ignored because Buganda is in the capital and it has one of the wealthiest districts in the country.
"They also have a strongest kingdom and the cultural institutions have a very big influence on the political dispensation in this country. And Buganda caucus is more cosmopolitan and has a national character which makes it strong; it has Baganda and non-Baganda MPs compared to many other regional groupings," Karyeija opined.
Relevance of caucuses
Karyeija said that given our levels of development and ethnic diversity caucuses can be potentially helpful for aggregating interests of particular regions and also minimizing conflicts and tensions between regions and the governments.
But at the same time, he stressed, caucuses have a potential of being promoters of primordial and sectarian issues. "So they are good but how they are used is very critical.