Let us control greed of politicians, Museveni told Kabaka in 1993

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President Museveni

His Highness the Kabaka,

Congratulations on your coronation as Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II of Buganda. I also congratulate the Baganda, as well as the Ugandan people in general, for resolving this matter of restoration in a mature, democratic and constitutional manner.

As I have told you in many private meetings, I believe the Traditional leaders can still play a very important role, the changing circumstances notwithstanding. With the revival of democratic governance by the National Resistance Movement in 1986 (a process that is being deepened all the time), we have a very good opportunity to define the relationship between modern democraticand National institutions on the one hand and Traditional institutions which, by the nature of the present evolution of our society, tend to cover only parts of the country, on the other hand.

The National Resistance Movement had no difficulty in supporting cultural revival. We had no difficulty because reviving the cultural institutions will address the following very important points.

First of all, it is a symbolic recognition of the achievements of our ancestors in the struggle to set up centralized administration, a pre-requisite for better organization of production and welfare of society.

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It was of great significance that in the interlacustrine Bantu area, the Kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole and Toro as well as the chiefdoms of Busoga, the Kings and Chiefs had managed to unite scores of Clans under single administrations. In the case of Buganda, 52 Clans had been progressively united. In Ankole 36 Clans had been united. Uniting such a number of Clans meant making them work together; meant stopping them from fighting among themselves; meant regulating relationships between them and among individuals. If there had been no such unity, then all the 52 Units would have been acting independently and most likely against one another. It is, therefore, very important to commemorate the fact that our ancestors had attained this level of development in terms of political integration.

More importantly, it is very pertinent to note that the tasks that faced our ancestors, are the very ones that face us today. In the same way our ancestors in Buganda and other Kingdoms used all creative means to weave unity among the Clans, we should use similar creative measures to unite the different peoples of Uganda and the different Religious groups in order to achieve similar goals (to those of our ancestors) of wider unity that enables us to command (gain access to) greater human and natural resources. This is why I have rejected the contention that there is a difference between genuine nationalists, genuine Pan-Africanists on the one hand and genuine Traditionalists on the other.

genuine traditionalist must be a genuine Pan-Africanist because they are both integrationists.  The only difference is of scale but not of content.

There is no qualitative difference between Semanobe, Mugema, Kasujju, Kalinda and others performing a duty each for the Kabaka of Buganda and the Baganda, the Acholis, the Banyankore, the Banyoro, the Basoga, the Itesot and others performing different duties in the production process for the benefit of Uganda’s economy or declaring loyalty to the President and Parliament of Uganda. Indeed, our quest for unity should not stop at the Uganda level. We should seek for wider unity for the same reasons our ancestors fought for expansion – to muster greaterhuman and Natural resources.

The only difference should be in the methods. Our ancestors mostly, but not always, used warfare to expand territories; we should today use negotiations, trade, free movement of labour and capital to gain much greater prosperity than attained, or even imagined, by our ancestors.

I am, myself, a member of a Clan that is deeply steeped in the traditions of this area. My Clan, the Basiita (Ente in Buganda), were the keepers of the Royal Drums for Omugabe (Kabaka) Wamala around the year 1300 A.D. A Musiita by the name of Karaara was the keeper of those drums.

The other day I witnessed the leader of the Basiita Clan handing the drums to OmukamaKaboyo of Toro. Yesterday but one, I witnessed Katongole giving a cow to KabakaMutebi of Buganda. You find common historical names in the histories of Bunyoro, Buganda, Toro, Ankole, Karagwe, Buhaya, Busoga, parts of Zaire, Acholi, Lango and Bukedi. Mugasha among the Banyankole, Banyoro, Bahaya and others, is Mukasa among the Baganda. The story goes that Mugasha left the Mawogola area and went to Ssesse to become a Fisherman. The names and Mandwas (oracles) of Wamala, Kagoro, Isimbwa, Ndahura, Mulindwa, Mugyenyi and others, are found throughout all these areas. Is this an accident? What does it mean for the traditionalists and for the nationalists? I think it signifies a basic oneness that the nationalists and the Cultural revival movement must both unearth and utilize positively and appropriately. Failure to do so is not to be a traditionalist but to falsify tradition.

There is no doubt that the history of centralized Government predates the dynasties we know today. There was a Batembuzi Kingdom in what is now Bunyoro, Western Buganda (Mubende, Mawogola, etc) and Ankole. This was replaced by the Bachwezi dynasty around the 11th Century. There is now sufficient archeological evidence gathered from Ntuutsi, BigobyaMugyenyi, Munsa as well as Mubende Hill to prove this.

This Bachwezi influence covered a wider area than that covered by the Batembuzi Kingdom or the successor Kingdoms of Bunyoro, Buganda, Nkore and Toro. I have found traditions of Bachwezi in Busoga, Bugweri as well as Acholi. The revived cultural movement must integrate this history of our people.

Therefore, as a nationalist, I have nothing but encouragement in your cultural revival because your cause serves my cause as mine serves yours. I am an integrationist and our ancestors were integrationists.

Secondly, the traditional leaders will help us to preserve our languages and cultures, which are under serious assault from external forces. Some of our people have already become ‘Black Europeans’. Although we do not have one national language yet, our vernaculars must be preserved because they are rich and unique. There is nobody currently well placed to preserve the languages. Who is looking after numerous customs regarding marriage, etiquette and others? Who is marshalling the rich social philosophy encapsulated in the proverbs of our vernaculars?

Thirdly, we need people with a vested interest that can look after the traditional sites – such as the Palaces, the Burial sites and others. Right now, they are in a disgraceful state having been abused or neglected by the Ministry of culture. These could be very useful tourist as well as pedagogic centres.

Fourthly, the traditional leaders can mobilize communities for development and spearhead community-based development schemes.

Our ancestors faced the challenges before them with imagination. I am always fascinated by the story I was told by my late colleague HarunaSenkubuge of Rwenkongyi, Ssingo, while in the bush. He died in 1984 of natural causes. He told me that following the war between Junju and Semakokiro which resulted in some Baganda fleeing to Ankole and Toro where they became Banyaruguru and Batagwenda (who are now Banyankore culturally), the clan leaders resolved “Not to allow the princes to disturb their peace again on account of power struggle”. They realized that the main causes of trouble were the maternal clans to the princes with each clan wanting their prince to succeed on the throne. They, therefore, decided to “Imprison” the Princes at a certain Amphitheatre known as Olunnya, somewhere in Mpigi.

Kasujju would be guardian of all the Princes; they would have no contact with anybody not vetted by him and when the Kabaka died, Kasujju would be the one to present the princes’ names to the Lukiiko for character analysis and election of a new Kabaka. I do not know how accurate this account was. If it is accurate, you can see how our ancestors in Buganda, imaginatively, blocked power struggles among the princes and preserved peace in Buganda until the Europeans came and shattered social order using religion.

Of course, there were certain weaknesses in the Buganda society as well as in the other Kingdoms that the Europeans used to conquer the country. One of the weaknesses being the conflict between Buganda and Bunyoro which the British used to, first of all, conquer Bunyoro and, then, colonize the whole of Uganda, Baganda included. However, there is nothing but admiration on my part of the Baganda Clan leaders that devised this system in order to preserve peace and constitutionality in Buganda for almost a hundred years between 1800 and 1890.

Let us devise such appropriate systems to control the greed of politicians today so as to preserve peace.

Of course, our ancestors failed to preserve our sovereignty when our continent was invaded by Europeans. As I have said elsewhere, the Phenomenon of colonialism in Africa, more than anything else, showed that our ancestors had done something but not enough. The fact that the whole continent was conquered except Ethiopia, the traditional systems notwithstanding, should not be lost on anybody here. Now that the African people have got sovereignty again, we must ensure that the previous loopholes are plugged. The main weakness was that we did not have enough unity to confront much bigger powers from outside assisted by technology. Although some people think that superior technology was the major factor, it was not the only one.

Ethiopia preserved their sovereignty their low technology notwithstanding. So did Japan and China.

Sometimes the scale of organization can compensate for inferior technology. The Zulu nation almost defeated British colonialism were it not for some persisting internal weaknesses – especially tyranny on the part of Shaka – their King, as well as intrigues within the ruling house.

In order for the African peoples to survive as free men, collectively and as individual groups, Pan-Africanists, nationalists and traditionalists (all of whom I have already declared to have a common interest) must address the present problems of our continent irrespective of the structures of the respective traditional societies (centralized or segmentary). The central problem is that we must transform the present pre-industrial societies of Africa with their low-levels of labour output and unacceptably low-levels of material welfare into modern, industrialized societies that are able to provide adequately for the material needs of our society at the same time as we preserve the preservable elements of our roots.

To build a modern society, you need a big internal market, you need a wide raw-material base (read a wide Natural Resources base), a skilled labour force and a system of free enterprise. In order to have these four especially the first two (big internal market and a wide natural resources base), you must be an integrationist and not “Parochialist”.

If you are a genuine traditionalist, you will have no problem with being an integrationist. Failure to see this, failure to do the needful, will be to betray and imperil Africa again. Failure to draw the necessary and appropriate conclusions from the efforts of our ancestors, which were clearly integrationist, is to weaken Africa in the face of renewed threats to our sovereignty from the outside. In this case “Tradition” will have been falsified to serve Africa’s enemies as happened during the era of colonialism. If, however, we draw the appropriate conclusions that are abundant in our cultures as we saw yesterday-but-one at the Coronation, then real tradition will be a galvanizing factor in banishing Africa’s weaknesses.

Thank you very much.

Statement by H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on the occasion of the Opening of the Lukiiko, Bulange, 2.8.1993

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