It is difficult to pronounce with certainty,whose contribution to the resurrection of Buganda kingdom was greatest,but without doubt,John Katende’s was exceptional and among the most valuable,”
To mark 50 years of Uganda’s independence, New Vision will, until October 9, 2012, be publishing highlights of events and profi ling personalities who have shaped the history of this country.
Today, ELVIS BASUDDE AND SEBIDDE KIRYOWA bring you the story of the people who were behind the scenes lobbying for the return of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi from the UK and restoration of Buganda Kingdom
The story of the restoration of the Kingdom of Buganda cannot be complete without looking at the personalities that played important roles.
“It is difficult to pronounce with certainty, whose contribution to the resurrection of the kingdom of Buganda was greatest, but without doubt, John Katende’s was exceptional and among the most valuable,” writes Charles Peter Mayiga, in his book, King of the Throne.
Mayiga writes that Katende was singled out as having made significant contributions within the fi rst 12 years of the Kabaka’s return from exile, a period considered as the most critical stage of the restoration process.
He writes: “The restoration of the kingdom had the support of the majority of the people of Buganda and perhaps of Ugandans, but the main architect for the entire process was John Katende.”
true“There hardly exists a strategy that was adopted for the re-birth of the monarchy, which was not the brainchild of Katende or, at least, one which was without his input.”
For all that time up to the appointment of Katikkiro Joseph Mulwanyammuli Ssemwogerere, Katende was the Katikkiro for all intents and purposes because, hardly anything was effected without seeking his counsel.
The threesome of former Ssabalangira Besweri Mulondo, Rev. Dan Kajumba and Katende effectively ran the office of the Katikkiro when the de jure Katikkiro, Mayanja Nkangi, got himself busy with responsibilities as minister in the central government.
Of the trio, Katende was the chief strategist; Mulondo acted as the mild voice that transmitted the trio’s decisions to the broader fold; and Kajumba was the crusader, charged with implementing decisions, which he would do without fear of reprisal.
John Katende (above)
The abolition of kingdoms
The political crisis of 1966 led to the storming of the Kabaka’s palace at Mengo, sending the Kabaka, Sir Edward Mutesa II into exile in the UK, where he eventually died.
In September 1967, the Milton Obote regime imposed a Republican Constitution that formally abolished all kingdoms in Uganda.
Until the National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power in 1986, Uganda operated without monarchies.
Eventually, the monarchies were restored by an Act of Parliament in 1993 and institutionalised in the 1995 Constitution.
The beginning Katende’s love affair with Buganda began when he was a child. He was born next to the Lubiri (Kabaka’s palace) in Mengo.
As a child, he used to play in the Lubiri. His first encounter with the exiled prince Ronald Muwenda Mutebi was in the 1970s, while the young prince was in London.
Katende, who often travelled to London on business, used to meet him on several occasions.
Even in those days, Katende was madly in love with his young prince. “There was something irresistible about him. I couldn’t help but love him,” Katende is quoted as saying.
That was the beginning of a journey that would later see the return of Mutebi to Uganda in a blaze of glory.
When the NRM took over power and the political situation stabilised, Katende initiated talks about Mutebi’s return.
The initial discussions took place with President Yoweri Museveni at State House.
The meeting was also attended by the late Professor Yakobo Gwayambadde and Grace Ssemakula.
The President reportedly wanted several clarifications before Mutebi’s return, chief among which were the question of whether his return would not destabilise the nation and the capacity in which he was to return.
While the President agreed in principle that Mutebi should return, he disagreed with Baganda loyalists, who pressed him for Mutebi to return as Kabaka.
Reportedly, his main reservation was that, principally, this had the potential of creating divided loyalties among the Baganda towards the central government and a clash in the roles of Mengo and central government.
Besides, he reportedly feared that non-Baganda landowners in Buganda would be demonised and possibly forcefully evicted by kingdom radicals.
Katende’s team tactfully decided to tow the middle line, convincing the President to let Mutebi instead return at least as the Ssabataka.
The Ssabataka is the head of the 52 bataka (clan heads) in Buganda.
By default, the Kabaka is their head. After consultation with Prince Badru Kakungulu, Museveni agreed.
But Katende’s team was, however, demonised by loyalists for selling the kingdom out. For these people, nothing short of a Kabaka would do.
Return of the Ssabataka
One of the most immediate challenges for the organisers of Mutebi’s return was the issue of his accommodation.
The palaces were dilapidated. Bulange, the kingdom’s administrative headquarters, was occupied by the Ministry of Defence.
It was, therefore, businessman Patrick Kiwanuka, chairman of Express Football Club, who initially accommodated Mutebi in his home.
Katende quickly offered his own law chambers on Dustar Street to be used as the kingdom’s administrative office.
He recruited Peter Mayiga, the current minister of information at Mengo, then a young man committed to Buganda affairs, as a volunteer to help in the administration of the office. Mayiga has since worked for Mengo.
Later on, businessman Gordon Wavamunno offered an office at Spear House, while Rabai Ezekiel Mulondo also offered his office at Eagen House for occasional meetings when the administrative council expanded.
As amendments to the constitution went on, so did the pressure to crown the Ssabataka, a Kabaka.
Katende and his colleagues had another task at hand – to convince Museveni that Mutebi’s crowning into a Kabaka was not going to shift the balance of power in anyway.
After consultations, the President eventually agreed. This was what led to the coronation ceremony at Naggalabi, Buddo in 1993, where Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II started his official duties as the king of Buganda.
All the preparatory meetings of the coronation took place at Katende’s residence in Rubaga.
It was Katende who designed the Kabaka’s gown and crown, although the cost was met by Manu Kamani, the Asian proprietor of Camera Centre, with whom Katende travelled to India to have the royal robe made.
As Buganda’s minister of justice and attorney general at the time in 1993, Katende presided over the actual swearing in of Ssabataka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi as the Kabaka of Buganda at Naggalabi.
Taking the reigns of power
It was Katende who donated the chairs that were used when Bulange was returned.
The chairs are still in Bulange.
He also jointly designed the statue of the Kabaka at Bulange with Prof. Nagenda of the then Margret Trowell School of Fine Art at Makerere University. Nagenda made the statute.
Katende was Buganda’s attorney general and justice minister, but also as minister for strategic planning, which was in practice chief adviser.
Quest for the return of ebyaffe
After settling in, Katende and team started negotiations for the kingdom to get back ebyaffe (kingdom property that had been taken over by government establishments).
Katende led the legal team from Buganda that worked with the National Resistance Council (NRC) to rid the constitution of all sub-sections that outlawed traditional institutions in Uganda.
At the same time, he helped shape laws that returned all the properties that had been forcefully confiscated from Buganda by former political regimes.
Katende, the architect behind the restoration of Buganda Kingdom