Your Majesty, Ssaabasajja Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, the reigning King of Buganda,
RE: THREATS TO THE POLITICAL, SOCIOECONOMIC AND CULTURAL HEALTH OF BUGANDA KINGDOM: THE CASE OF HON KYAGULANYI SSENTAMU
So urgent is the matter that compels me, a humble citizen, to take the unusual step to write, as I now do, an open letter to Your Majesty.
If it may please Your Royal Highness, please accept my sincere gratitude to you, the Nabagereka Sylvia Nagginda-Luswata, Owekitiibwa the Right Honourable Prime Minister Charles Peter Mayiga, and the rest of the Royal Court for your deft leadership of the Kingdom and beyond.
As one who comes from Nkore, I am alive to and eternally grateful for the largesse and hospitality that the Kingdom has perennially extended not just to Banyankore but to the Peoples of all other Nations that make up the melting pot called Uganda. It should not be taken for granted.
Indeed, millions of non-Baganda, especially millennials like myself were raised, educated, work, have invested in and have places of abode within the territory of your time-honoured Kingdom.
Even when most post-independence leaders have abused (and continue to abuse) your hospitality, you have never severed the historical cords and socioeconomic bonds that bind us as Ugandans.
This means that as citizens, regardless of our ethnic diversity, we should have an active interest in matters pertaining the health of Buganda Kingdom.
Your Majesty, I believe that the same logic should apply to the rest of our Kingdoms such as Bunyoro, Rwenzururu and Toro, to name a few. And that an attack on any Ugandan cultural entity should be treated as an attack on all cultural entities.
It is in this spirit that I, a Munyankore, feels concerned about a matter pertaining to Buganda specifically but with countrywide implications.
Having laid that background, I feel that I may now table the issue that so compels me to write:
Earlier this morning, Friday, 28 December, 2018, I woke up to a video clip that is circulating on a number of social and mainstream media platforms, featuring two unidentified gentlemen, addressing a media conference regarding Enkuuka, the festival that is annually organized under the auspices of the Kingdom’s mouthpiece, the Central Broadcasting Service (CBS).
The two gentlemen, who, as I now understand, spoke on behalf of the organizers (Luba Events, which was hired by the Kingdom), expressly banned the wearing of red attire or apparel at the Festival because of its connection to the youthful legislator, musician, philanthropist and businessman Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
The duo went ahead and said that they have also banned the colour red because of the reservations that ‘security agencies’ harbour about the aforementioned Hon. Bobi Kyagulanyi—whose annual Boxing Day concert was on Wednesday violently stopped for similarly frivolous, spurious, baseless, superfluous, preposterous and outlandish reasons.
The immediately obvious concern of any right-thinking individual is why security agencies of the state, which are required at law to steer clear of partisan politics and have repeatedly been directed by the Courts of Law to that effect, would be concerned about and actively involve themselves in matters that are ultra vires (outside of their mandate).
From my perspective as a young Ugandan who unapologetically shares a worldview with Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, I am appalled at the lengths to which the incumbent Museveni Administration is willing to go to stifle the inalienable rights of expression, assembly and free-thought that our forefathers (including your venerable father, His Royal Highness King Edward Mutesa II) fought, bled and died for.
Part of building Uganda is recognising and respecting the cultural dignity of each constituent community that makes up Uganda.
I firmly hold the view that the notion of Uganda should not become a problem for the rest of the country. Uganda should be a melting pot, not a sword that divides us. Sadly, the ruling political class has mastered this game.
Yet if we took a long view of history and the future, it would be apparent that this path is counterproductive and there are no winners.
It is bad enough that the 1995 Constitution is treated by the ruling regime as a list of suggestions which it can implement or disregard (or altogether amend) as and when they feel like—it is all the more atrocious that the same degree of effrontery is now being extended to Buganda, a Kingdom that predates the country Uganda by six hundred years, at the very least.
We are now living under an undeclared state-of-emergency that features battle-ready soldiers patrolling the streets and neighborhoods every other day with absolute disregard for the impact that this has on commerce, tourism earnings and general tranquility.
Today the colour red will be banned; who knows what will be banned next? Expressing one’s political views in Luganda? Shall we be shocked if a Bill is tabled before Parliament seeking to outlaw all things red—from cutlery to clothing, vehicles and buildings? Stranger things have happened before. Professional bodies, business associations and now cultural institutions are either captive or labouring under the yoke of impunity and Executive overreach.
It is not possible to predict where or at what point this will stop if it continues unchallenged.
This seemingly benign announcement by the gentlemen who addressed the press conference portends insidious and adverse effects not just for the civil and political gamut of rights that are due to Ugandans by virtue of their humanity but also for the cultural integrity and dignity of Buganda Kingdom and indeed all other kingdoms and cultural entities.
A pedagogical perspective which has been brilliantly narrated by one of Your Majesty’s highly cerebral ministers, Owekitiibwa Apollo Makubuya in his latest book “(B)uganda: Protection, Patronage or Plunder?” supports the conclusion that rights are not taken away overnight but in bits and pieces until we wake up to find our bedrooms being inspected in the name of national security [emphasis mine].
Your Majesty, under your studious, bold, graceful and progressive leadership style, Buganda and Uganda have made some strides towards the kind of country we would like to live and work in for years to come. I am concerned that intrusions into the sociocultural identity of the Kingdom by previous regimes but more notoriously the current regime might gain a foothold if they are allowed free passage.
I have fond memories of one of Your Majesty’s recent addresses in which you underscored the importance of social justice and implored especially we youthful Ugandans to heed the call and collectively work towards shared opportunity and dignity for every Ugandan man, woman and child.
By the same token, I have also never forgotten the fact that the word Buganda connotes bundles which are made up of individual sticks or pieces of wood. This simple description is what our country needs in order to attain the shared progress and culture of tolerance that we all aspire to.
The divide-and-rule tactics that the ruling establishment seeks to use to prolong its overstay are anathema to the very essence of the word “Buganda”.
I immediately and most profusely apologize, Your Majesty, if, in the process of expressing myself, I overshot and used unsavoury language—such however are the circumstances that we everyday Ugandans have to contend with on an increasingly frequent basis.
In sincerity and solidarity,
Human rights lawyer Andrew Karamagi,
Thornton, South Africa.