By John Kakande
THE recent developments at Mengo, the seat of the Kingdom of Buganda, have far reaching political implications. The long-serving Katikkiro, Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere, resigned together with his entire Cabinet.
And days later, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II appointed Daniel Muliika as the new Katikkiro and Godfrey Lule as Attorney General to what was described as an â€˜interimâ€™ Cabinet.
Lule has replaced his learned friend John W. Katende who for the past two decades has been considered the kingdomâ€™s legal guru. There must have been very fundamental reasons for the Kabaka to drop Katende.
Ssemwogerereâ€™s resignation was inevitable in view of the serious split in Mengo over the proposed regional government and particularly the provisions for a directly elected Katikkiro.
It ought to be noted that only one member of the Mengo team which negotiated with President Museveni has been retained in the new Cabinet. The team, led by Ssemwogerere, included John Katende, Peter Mayiga and Apollo Makubuya. Only Makubuya has bounced back. Is it a mere coincidence that three long-serving Mengo officials â€“ Ssemwogerere, Katende and Mayiga have been excluded from the new Cabinet?
The major reason Ssemwogerere gave for his resignation was that he had served for a long time (10 years) as Katikkiro. He also stated that a number of Mengo officials were considering contesting for seats in Parliament and local councils, and thus had requested to be relieved of their responsibilities. The former Katikkiro indicated that he would not vie for any elective post. The reasons given are not so convincing, particularly in view of the fact that many members of the Lukiiko are politicians holding leadership positions in the political parties.
The fact is that for several months there has been a serious split within Mengo leadership over electing the Katikkiro on the basis of universal adult suffrage, as it has been provided for under the Constitutional Amendment Bill.
Ssemwogerere has been in very precarious position, walking a very tight rope. As head the Mengo team that held negotiations with the President, he could not turn around and denounce whatever his team agreed on with the government. It is obvious that the deal that negotiated with the President has collapsed.
Although what now appears to be at issue is the election of the Katikkiro, I believe the problem is deeper. A section of Mengo leadership wonâ€™t settle for anything less than a fully fledged federal status for Buganda. The proposed regional government has been viewed as a much diluted federo.
Peter Mulira argued in an article published in New Vision in September titled, â€œCan Buganda have an elected Katikkiro?â€ that â€œthe proposed regional tier is a central government structure in the form of LC6, which cannot embrace a local cultural norm and to suggest that the Kabaka will hand-over Ddamula to an LC6 chairman will simply represent an empty act. It is a sham the Kabaka should not get involved in.â€
The significance Muliika as Katikkiro and Lule as Attorney General can be assessed against this background.
Muliika was a member of the Lukiiko until 1996. He is renowned for his firm stand on federalism. Muliika was among the members of the Lukiiko who vehemently denounced decentralisation and the charter system that had been provided under the 1995 Constitution under which the districts of Buganda were â€œdeemedâ€ to have agreed to cooperate.â€
The Kabaka in 1996, amidst the presidential election campaigns, dissolved the Lukiiko as some of its members openly campaigned for Paul Ssemogerere.
Since then Muliika has not featured prominently in Mengo affairs. On his part, advocate Lule has consistently advocated full fledged federalism for Buganda.
The appointment of Muliika and Lule, therefore, is a clear message to the government that Buganda Kingdom wonâ€™t compromise on its quest for a federal status. The exit of Ssemwogerere and Katende means that moderates have lost leadership and the hard-line faction has taken charge at Mengo.