By Milton Olupot
and Cyprian Musoke
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has blamed the opposition for the violent riots which rocked Kampala city and some Buganda towns last week.
Addressing a special sitting of Parliament yesterday, Museveni said the chaos was orchestrated by â€œreactionaries who had learnt nothing from Ugandaâ€™s tragic historyâ€.
He said the opposition was trying to use Mengo, the seat of the Buganda Kingdom, to attain what he called selfish interests.
The riots erupted on Thursday after the Government refused to allow the Kabaka to visit Kayunga, citing security reasons. The President said: â€œThis is the third time these elements are causing chaos and killing Ugandans.â€
He noted that in 2006, Dr. Kizza Besigye, who lost the presidential elections, caused chaos in which property was destroyed.
The other riots, he said, were led by Betty Anywar (FDC) over plans to give away part of Mabira Forest for a sugar project.
Museveni said the same â€œopportunistic elements were responsible for last weekâ€™s mayhem in which he said 15 people were killed, property destroyed and peace and business disrupted.
â€œThose who think Uganda is a banana republic where they can change leadership unlawfully, by rioting are wasting their time.â€
He wondered why Besigye would promote riots and not lawful ways of handling grievances.
While preparing for CHOGM in 2007, the President said, the opposition tried to blackmail the Government. â€œThey trampled on us then, but we are now here for ourselves. We do not have international obligations.â€
Museveni appealed to the Judiciary to try the riot suspects quickly and suggested they should not get bail. He sent condolences to the bereaved families, to the injured and those who lost property.
Accordingly, the House observed a moment of silence for the victims.
Museveni promised to compensate people who lost motorvehicles at Nateete Police Station, which was burnt down in the rioting.
He said Kampala security was now guaranteed.
The President said rioters who attack civilians and security officers will be shot on the spot, to disable, not to kill them, which he said was allowed under the Police Act.
Museveni explained that this was necessary for the security people to defend themselves and protect civilians.
Elaborating the current standoff with Mengo, Museveni said the issue was not just about Kayunga, but whether Uganda should have political kings.
â€œThis concept is totally rejected by the NRM,â€ he said. â€œThe king is not elected and if he wields political power, how will he account if he makes mistakes? Political leaders can be voted out, what about the king?â€
He said the Government would from now involve elected leaders from Buganda to quickly resolve disputes as opposed to the unelected traditional leaders.
When the riots broke out, he said, he tried to reach the Kabaka on phone in vain. â€œThe key for all these issues is with him and we are determined to ensure that the Constitution is observed by all, kings inclusive.â€
The President said traditional leaders should play roles like preventing kith and kin from inter-marrying, protecting the youth from drug abuse and homosexuality.
He said it was the reason he revived kingdoms so as to retain culture which was compatible with the modern times, â€œbut not to revive ancient undemocratic governance.â€
He said kings failed to protect the sovereignty of Africa.
â€œColonisation was a vote of no confidence on them. Modern Africa must transcend tribal organisation and mentality.â€
The President also said peopleâ€™s legitimate interests should not be interfered with and that oneâ€™s rights must not be at the expense of other peopleâ€™s and condemned intimidation and manipulation.
Museveni added that the Government would soon bring a law to guard against the use of kingdoms by agencies with illegitimate motives.
Accordingly, traditional leaders will be required to declare certain gifts in order to guard Ugandaâ€™s sovereignty from foreign interests that fund them. â€œFailure to do so will attract a penalty,â€ he said.
Museveni also gave the background on his work with the Kabaka. He said he first met Ronald Mutebi at Prof. Yusuf Luleâ€™s house in London in 1981. They agreed to restore traditional leaders to help Africans rediscover their ancestral values, â€œnot chauvinismâ€.
â€œThis is the culture I was hoping for, not self-glorification and running around. Help people of Africa know each other more,â€ he said.
The Constitution, he added, allows all people to work towards national unity while safeguarding cultural diversity. â€œWe want value addition â€” what value are you? If you are not, then what are you for? Just recycling prejudices?â€
He also said the Government would implement the regional tier next financial year.
He said the current councillors would elect the regional leaders, to serve for the remaining one year before the general election. â€œWe have waited for too long on that issue, we shall wait no longer.â€
Museveni also explained why Buganda kingdomâ€™s CBS radio was closed. He said it meddled in politics, spread sectarianism, lawlessness and violence with impunity, yet it is owned by a traditional institution.
He said the radio had tried to intimidate Bugandaâ€™s political class â€œnot to think freelyâ€ by branding anyone with a different view as anti-Mengo or anti-Kabaka, yet they â€œclaim that one cannot answer the Kabaka or the Kabaka does not errâ€.
This attitude, he added, led the Kabaka to take certain â€œanti-peopleâ€ positions like opposing the Land Bill. This situation, he said, led to the 1961 problem with catastrophic results, yet there was no radio. â€œWith radio, it could be worse.â€
The President recalled that when he hosted radio station managers, he told them: â€œYou have been weighed and found wanting.â€
He said equally important matters such as unemployment, land issues, corruption and poverty needed to be addressed.
Accordingly, the President said he had appointed a special adviser on employment for the youth, and that he would secure sh30b to support the cottage industry. He said he had also called for cheap electricity, the creation of industrial estates and for food processing.
Museveni warned corrupt officials that their time had run out. â€œWhile a lot of government money has been stolen by corrupt officials, I have identified the thieves and soon you will hear of the casualties.â€
When the MPs shouted Temangalo, Museveni said he defended security minister Amama Mbabazi because he believed he was not guilty.
Mbabazi, the NRM secretary general, had been accused of using his position to sell his land in Temangalo to NSSF at an inflated price.
Explaining the war on corruption, Museveni said he had appointed a judicial commission of inquiry into the education sector, and a drug theft inspection unit and would soon set up another one for the road sector.
He also directed the minister for the presidency to buy bicycles for LC1 chairpersons, adding that LC3s and gombolola chiefs were equipped with motorcycles for development.
The President appealed to Parliament to pass the Land Bill, which he said would end the tenant-landlord friction.
He also said some landlords had accepted compensation so that tenants get titles.
He called on other mailo land owners who want compensation to approach the Government.
Museveni received a standing ovation from the NRM MPs as he ended his address, while the opposition remained seated.
Speaker Edward Ssekandi had warned the MPs there would be no questions or comments at the end although the members would debate the address later.